Genre as Walled Gardens?

Good post on Genji Press on the problems that happen when SF authors and their readers don’t read nearly enough outside their own genre.

Most SF&F’s understanding of human nature seems to be derived not from life, or even from area outside SF&F, but from other works of SF&F, and that’s far too self-limiting.

I think that one of the big reasons Iain Banks was one of the greatest SF writers of his generation was that he didn’t just read outside the genre, he wrote outside it as well.

It’s not just confined to fiction, of course, it’s a problem in music. How many indie or metal bands are there out there who don’t listen to anything outside their own genre? And is it any surprise that their music ends up sounding like a derivative pasiche of other, better bands?

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9 Responses to Genre as Walled Gardens?

  1. Serdar says:

    One of the reasons I got into jazz was because many of its greatest luminaries also seemed to be musical omnivores. They were willing to try most anything once, and the most protean of the bunch (e.g., Miles Davis) barely produced the same things twice. A lot of people hated him for it because he wasn’t giving them “Kind of Blue II, III, and IV”.

  2. Tim Hall says:

    That’s one of the reasons I love Panic Room’s music. The band listen to such an eclectic variety of music, and it all goes into their musical melting pot.

  3. That’s a really important point and I wish people who want to create would devour more widely. You can usually tell the more omnivorous listeners & readers but the quality, or at least diversity, of their own work.

    Also, it must get very boring listening to the same old things over and over again!

  4. Serdar says:

    This is probably worth its own post, but one of the things I’ve seen with people who just consume the same stuff again and again is that they think *getting out of that bubble is boring.* In other words, they’re more interested in being comfortable than in having their curiosity stimulated. They want the same things again and again, or in only different enough a form that it’s not too jarring, because they have a different use for these things than more adventurous folks.

  5. Tim Hall says:

    “I don’t know much about music/art/fiction/whatever but I like what I know”. These people exist, and there are whole corporate entertainment industries ready and willing to pander to that attitude.

  6. Oh, I don’t mind that there people who just listen to/read one genre. I just think it’s bad for if you produce some form of art and expect it to be other than boring and derivative if you haven’t been outside your comfort zone once or twice.

  7. Serdar says:

    I agree. I just find it frustrating that I run into people who have the nerve to call themselves creative and still have such a provincial attitude towards the very world they’re supposed to be giving something back to.

  8. Tim Hall says:

    @Chrissie: Misread you slightly there, I think. I was thinking about the “Not proper prog” brigade who moan when confronted with anything that isn’t a rehash of the stuff they were listening to 20-30 years ago. You must have encountered some of them.

  9. Oh yes, I have encountered a *lot* of them!

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