Back in the days when we had three channels on TV, we had three reading genres: fiction, non-fiction, science fiction. Yep, that was pretty much it. Fiction covered serious, well-written adult novels that ranged from the classics to contemporaries like Shirley Grau’s The Keepers of the House and even HG Wells War of the Worlds because that was a classic and classic literature was fiction that you read for educational and/or appreciation/snobbishness purposes because we all knew what a classic was without having to have some professor define it. RoT: if it was published before WW1, it was a classic, regardless of the content.
Science fiction was silly, not for the serious minded; it appealed more to teenage boys than anyone. Just take a look at the offerings back then: Have Space Suit, Will Travel; Marooned on Mars; The Caves of Steel, the kinds of things nerdy, social outcast 13-year-old boys with taped-together horn rims read because they’d never be on the football team or own a jalopy. That didn’t mean it was kids literature. That was a separate category of mostly fiction designed to teach kids moral and civilized manners of behavior, like The Happy Hollisters or the Nancy Drew series. BEMs, FTL drive, humbug humans struggling against the forces of the universe, that was just too far out for a real adult to read. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, there were many adult scifi fans and scifi writers back then. I’m just giving you the general zeitgeist, from memory. Sue me.
So, how many reading genres are there today?
A lot. A whole lot.
And I’m not going to list them because I don’t think I have enough characters left but, randomly, there‘s Genetic Engineering Science Fiction, First Contact Science Fiction, Contemporary Christian Romance, Western and Frontier Christian Romance, Dystopian Fiction, Friendship Fiction, Women’s Friendship Fiction, on and on, world without end, amen.
What the deuce?
It looks very much like we want to read very specific things these days. We’ve got a wheelhouse and we are staying in it. If I only want to read Women’s Friendship Dystopian Christan Fiction, then by God, that’s all I’m looking for. And, believe it or not, if you put that category into the Amazon search box, you will get suggestions.
Is this a bad thing? Well, dunno. At least people are reading, which is always an encouragement because, good Lord, have you seen what’s on TV or at the movies these days? But I’m wondering if we are specifying ourselves out of some dang good books.
See, in the days BA (Before Amazon), you went to the library, the bookstore, or the bookmobile to scratch your reading itch. And fiction was all one section, listed alphabetically, and it held everything from Blatty to Michener. If you wanted the new stuff, you went to the McNaughton’s shelf. So how did we know if a book was worth it?
Simple. You pulled it off the shelf, looked at the cover, read the blurb, read a few pages, and if the story appealed to you, checked it out. We selected books based on their content.
Not their category.