Faber Academy Week 6: Of Genre and Malaise

I should note that a) my malaise is in no way related to Faber, which is still lovely and b) is not the kind the preludes some sort of horrible disease or stroke (I hope) but more a general feeling of out of sortsness. Wiki tells me that people with malaise ‘experience non specific feelings of unease’. Right then, on with the blog.

It’s funny how things always seem to tie in, but this week has a nice symmetry to it. Tonight’s theme at Faber was genre, a nice parallel to a talk I’m giving tomorrow for a Penguin PD at the Wheeler Centre. It’s called “From Fantasy to Dystopia: using genre books in the classroom”. I’ll be talking about the pros and cons of genre, why people are afraid of recommending it alongside ‘real’ fiction, why they should use it and some specific titles. I’ll be talking non stop for forty minutes, although I have a horrible fear of speeding through my meticulously planned (and extensive) notes, looking at the clock and realising that I’ve only taken up ten minutes. There’s going to be videos too though. That should take some time.

The shortlist for the Aurealis Awards was announced today. These awards are pretty big news in the world of genre fiction and cover everything from fantasy to horror, from short stories to full length novels. There are some pretty great titles on the list, and it’s a great way to be find some good new genre fiction if you don’t know where to start. Sally suggested that most of children’s literature (with the exception of stories that are strictly real life) would be considered fantasy, because it often has a twist of magic, even if it’s only the imagined kind.

Genre fiction can be underrated. People argue that it is a publisher driven concept, or that the books are so focussed on convention and plot that they neglect character or subtext. The bottom line is that faults can be found with any sub-standard book, and the fact that genres are grouped together by certain conventions doesn’t mean that authors aren’t constantly coming up with new ways to explore or challenge them. Genre fiction is like a hot chocolate with a twist. You know it’s chocolate, you know you’re going to like it, but you don’t know what flavour you’re going to get. (I know, I know it reeks of Forest Gump, but my imagination isn’t up to scratch today).

This is going to be a short(ish) post, because I’m not going to post any writing. This is partly because the exercise we did in class today was oral, partly because I’ve been too busy dreaming of another life, with high ceilings, echoing rooms and late nights walking through puddles in empty cities to think of anything else and partly because I’m tired and scatty. So sorry about the short, random post. I didn’t want to neglect the blog, and most of the books I’ve been reading recently have been for print review so I’ve got nothing to report there either. Our second full day of Faber is on Saturday and I’m going to be on the radio with Sally and Sophie Cunninham on Monday to talk Faber so there will be something more substantial for you to read then.

For now though, adieu!

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