Friday 1 May 2015

IAF15 : Genre Bender

By Rohan Quine

The genre labels assigned to a novel reflect its content, but they are also perpetrations of marketing. Behind that front cover, complexity can be a rich asset; but in marketing, it is more of a liability, because this is a realm of clear, simple categories. Which must explain why I took the cunning step of writing what is best categorised as “Literary Fiction with a touch of Magical Realism and a dusting of Horror”. A smooth move, marketing-wise, I think you’ll agree…

The three categories in that phrase are intrinsic to the five tales of mine that are published so far, but their basic DNA is Literary Fiction. These categories were applied only after the books were completed, however: the writing of them was guided only from within, where they felt simply unified in themselves, sitting in the middle of their own coherent world. Each story just grew into itself, dragging me along, with overpowering visuals as well as powerful verbal rhythms throughout; then once it was written, it jumped into the brand-new business of being its finished self, and remained there. I once overheard someone ask “What is that plant there – or is it a weed?” as they peered at an unidentified green thing, and I imagined the plant piping up in reply, “What are you talking about? I’m just me, growing here happily, thank you!”

So what are they doing, then, these five little monsters? The only reply I can give is that I’m aiming to push imagination towards its extremes, as best I can, in order to explore and illuminate the beauty, horror and mirth of this predicament called life, where we seem to have been dropped without sufficient consultation ahead of time. All five were written as a celebration of the darkest and brightest possibilities of human personality and language, as far as I’m able to see down those avenues. They are often humorous, in the context of a lot of fucked-up darkness and complexity, because to me these ingredients taste like salient flavours in the dubious-looking cocktail that life will keep on pushing towards us across this cosmic cocktail-bar, whatever different drink we actually placed an order for. Though often focused on the darker aspects of our existence, all five also seek ways of our transcending those aspects with emotional and aesthetic honesty, love, and a healthy dose of mirth along the way.

I respect the reader’s sophisticated ability to take on the most subtle and complex fireworks this rich English language of ours wants to explode at us; but I’ve aimed to make all five as accessible and entertaining as possible too, provided they’re read with a degree of focus. And if they are read with that, I guarantee this investment by the reader will be repaid with double-digit interest, even in a tough economy.

Within the wider commercial marketplace I’m aware that a cross-genre LitFic endeavour like the above is a strangely non-commercial one for anybody to embark on; but those of us who are nonetheless barmy enough to embark seriously on such a thing are doing so, of course, out of a very deep love and respect for the endeavour. If the content or voice in those five tales had been guided by genre/marketing expectations, then I reckon the process would have felt wrong. For me there was a lot more joy to be found in being steered and challenged from within the tales themselves. After all, writing may as well be as joyful as possible, we hope! Otherwise, let’s face it, there are plenty more sensible things to be doing instead.

As an added extra, here's Rohan and Dan on protecting artistic diversity.

Rohan Quine is an author of literary fiction with a touch of magical realism and a dusting of horror, celebrating the darkest and brightest possibilities of human imagination and personality: The Imagination Thief, The Platinum Raven, The Host in the Attic, Apricot Eyes and Hallucination in Hong Kong. @RohanQuine

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