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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 11:30 am:   

During the book event in Manchester yesterday, our esteemed host (thanks for coming Ramsey and Jenny!)quite rightly pulled me up about a glib comment I'd made in an interview recently about my increasing discomfort at being labelel a horror writer.

My answer was a bit garbled, so I thought I'd blog about the topic today even if it's just to try and formulate my own thoughts. If anyone's interested, or would like to continue the discussion, here's the post:

http://darkcentralstation.com/?p=1737
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 11:46 am:   

Definitions of words change all the time. They're always up for grabs. So if we want horror to mean what we want it to mean - worthy, literate, ambitious, etc - it behoves good writers who represent these qualities to stand behind the term "horror" and try help other people see that the field isn't just "hockey masks and blood".

The one way in which the "hockey masks and blood" brigade will claim dominion over the term is if these good writers abandon it and say they're doing something else. And the only reason I can think of to account for this abandonment is a fear of guilt by association, which is really an issue of ego and self-importance.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 11:54 am:   

I would say the task is considerable, too. Here's an extract from a review in Starburst magazine of my shitty little chapbook:

"There is a psychological weight to the horror here, that sense that while the story is a genre piece, on one hand, it is also a grim metaphor for the treacherous path of choice, desire, mistake."

And that, presumably, is someone who's committed to the worthiness of our field!
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Des (Des)
Username: Des

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 81.155.107.43
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 12:28 pm:   

I am proud to call it Horror when I write Horror or produce a book called 'The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies'. But, equally, when I don't write Horror, I'm proud and contented not to call it Horror.
Do some writers always write Horror and some other writers never write Horror?
As for myself, I think I always write Horror, but it is not always in the pure Horror genre.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 12:41 pm:   

Don't get me wrong; I'm proud to say that I write horror. Of course I am. I'm just very wary of pidgeon-holing. It's a marketing thing, and can lead to ghettoisation (sp?).

I want my work to be read by as wide an audience as possible, not just the horror crowd, but there's that nasty little perception problem to get past, isn't there?

I also mentioned in the Q&A that I feel there's a distinction betwen someone saying they're a horror writer and they write horror. When Ramsey says "I write horror" he stating that he's a writer first and foremost, and that he writes horror. I see a lot of people stating "I'm a horror writer", which, to me, is an entirely different statement. Or am I wrong in thinking this? Maybe I am. I honestly don't know. Perhaps it's just a personal niggle I have, or a silly way of looking at it.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 12:48 pm:   

All good points, these, btw. This is an issue I'm very confused about.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 12:50 pm:   

Just to clarify: This postcomes from my own genuine confusion regarding the issue, not some kind of arrogant sense of self-importance.

Just so you know, like.
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Paul_finch (Paul_finch)
Username: Paul_finch

Registered: 11-2009
Posted From: 92.5.63.48
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 12:51 pm:   

I don't personally have a problem with calling something I've written 'horror' if I think it is horror. Likewise, I don't mind having something else I may have written defined as a 'thriller' or as 'science-fiction' if I believe it fulfills those criteria.

We all have our own definitions of horror, but mine is such that I think I can still proudly admit to writing horror even if I don't particularly want to be labelled purely as a 'horror writer'. Of course such a classification of who we are and what we do may not necessarily be within our power to alter anyway - it's all to do with marketing. It's also in the eye of the readership - I would always pick up a Michael Marshall Smith book because, despite what his publishers may say, I know that he writes damn good horror. I'd imagine that this also applies very widely indeed to someone like Stephen King.

One thing I would advise folk to avoid is being lured into believing that 'horror' as a free-standing genre is dead. I can assure everyone that it isn't. Despite what certain mass-market publishers in the UK may believe, there is still a big interest in horror among the wider public, and this is indicated by the enmorous popularity of horror movies. There are hundreds in production, pre-production and development at any one time, all over the world - and the reason for this is because they sell. We've had almost no trouble selling international rights to The Devil's Rock.

I appreciate that getting people to read and getting them to watch movies are two very different things, but I feel this is a problem generally rather than something that solely affects genre fiction.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 01:19 pm:   

Paul - you're right, horror cinema is alive and kicking. Unfortunately, that doesn't bleed over into sales of horror fiction. But, yes, thsi is a problem in general - but I honestly think it's also a perception problem.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 01:22 pm:   

Mark Chadbourn makes a fascinating point on the original blog posting...
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 03:33 pm:   

>>>but there's that nasty little perception problem to get past, isn't there?

Of course you're right. But it seems to me that to be concerned about this problem is to do with either a) sales potential; b) reputation. Both of which, in my opinion, are of secondary consideration when writing good material. The key thing is to do the best work you can. Worrying about a label is more to do with issues of marketability and status.

Btw, Zed, I can see how this is more of a concern for you at the moment, with your career just starting out and wanting that to continue. So fair play to you.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 03:50 pm:   

That's exactly it, Gary - my concerns are purely from a sales/marketing point of view. I want more people to read my work, and believe it's accessible enough for that to happen. That's the bottom line.

Regarding the writing itself, I just write what I write and will continue to do so - namely, horror. I'd write the same stuff even if it didn't sell...but while it is, I want it to reach as wide an audience as possible.

(I've just muddied the waters even more, haven't I?)
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 03:54 pm:   

Just to say, btw, that I was really pleased that Ramsey brought this subject up yesterday.

It's something that's been on my mind for about a year now, and I find I'm wrestling with it constantly.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 04:03 pm:   

No, it just operates on two registers, each with different considerations. You were operating in one, and Ramsey in the other.

You're horror through and through, man. Like "Brighton Rock". If some folk won't accept that, by all means pretend to be someone else . . . well, at least until they're hooked. And then reveal the truth.

Just never convince yourself that that ain't the truth.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 04:10 pm:   

No, mate, you're missing my point. It isn't about "pretending to be someone else"; it's about shucking off restrictive descriptors.

God, yes, I'm horror through and through...but I want to broaden my audience not sing to the choir. I also want everyone else's great work to be read outside the genre clique - not just me, me, me.

I picture a world in which all the imaginative genres are shelved together in what few remaining bookstores we have. One big section of horror, fanasty, SF, and even crime fiction.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 04:20 pm:   

Seperated from "mainstream" novels?
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 04:31 pm:   

If necessary...let's call it a compromise. In an ideal world: no. But who the hell lives in an ideal world? Except maybe Stevie.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 04:39 pm:   

There's only one way to sort this debate out: a list!

Come on, Stevie, help us out here.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 04:58 pm:   

Hahahaha!
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 05:10 pm:   

I just want to clarify something, because I'm being misundersttod elsewhere: it's labels I have a problem with, not the genre itself.

I hope that's clear. I love horror; I write horror. I fucking bleed horror.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 05:30 pm:   

I can confirm that that is clear from your blog, old son.
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Barbara Roden (Nebuly)
Username: Nebuly

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 142.179.28.58
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 05:33 pm:   

Fighting against labels - whether that's in horror writing, or anything else - is always going to be an uphill battle. Humans love to label things (people, places) - it's something hardwired into us, possibly as a defence mechanism to help us sort out the myriad complexities of life. When I lived in England, I was quietly amused by the way people constantly tried to place me by my accent. I worked in retail in Chester, so met a lot of people, and some folk were seemingly a wee bit on the disturbed and confused side because they couldn't slap a label on me - via my accent - within seconds of me opening my mouth. If they could identify me immediately as, say, a Scouser, or Geordie, or from the Black Country, or Essex, they could label me accordingly and file me neatly away based on what they knew (or imagined) about people from that area. I'm guessing that if I had, say, sounded like a Scouser (and as I worked with a lot of Liverpudlians I could do a passable Scouse accent after a while), I'd have been mentally labelled as being a certain type of person, and it would've been up to me to prove otherwise.

Same goes with the label horror. Thanks in large part to horror films, a lot of people have an idea of what horror fiction is like, or should be like, and a writer who identifies herself as being a horror writer is going to have to work with that. I don't say accept it; I mean work to demonstrate that horror isn't all (or even mostly) axe-wielding psychopaths and torture porn. And in my opinion, the best way to do that is to embrace the horror label, write to the best of your ability, use whatever means available to you to talk about your work and what it's about, and let the writing speak for itself. Regardless of where it's shelved in a bookstore, good writing will find an audience.

Will there be people who would like your work, but who'll miss it in the bookstore because (sniff) they don't read 'horror', and won't go near the horror shelves? Certainly. On the other hand, by actually being shelved in the horror section at all, you have (as a writer) won a considerable battle, and will be exposed to readers who otherwise might never have heard of you. I believe the Brits call this 'swings and roundabouts'.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 05:40 pm:   

Yep.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 05:53 pm:   

Regardless of where it's shelved in a bookstore, good writing will find an audience.

Alas, that audience might be one man and his lame dog. That's the point: we need to strive to reach a wider audience. Surely? Or else what's the point of getting published.

I'm sick of hearing that my some of my favourite writers don't sell well because they write horror or have been given the horror label. It's depressing, it's bad for the genre as a whole, and it's plain wrong. Talent, not spin, should do well. Unfortunately, that simply isn't the case.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 05:56 pm:   

It's not just horror, though, is it? Eg, Jade Goody outsells Martin Amis tenfold.

Why fucking bother? It all stinks.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 05:59 pm:   

Yep, it isn't just horror - that's just the particular genre that interests me most, because I write within it.

Why bother? Because there isn't really a choice, is there? And telly's shit these days.
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Des (Des)
Username: Des

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 81.155.107.43
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 05:59 pm:   

Jade Goody outsells Martin Amis tenfold.
=============


Dead people writing...
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 05:59 pm:   

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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 06:06 pm:   

Ye what?
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Barbara Roden (Nebuly)
Username: Nebuly

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 142.179.28.58
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 06:17 pm:   

The point I'm trying to make, Gary, is that if, as a writer, you manage to get your work shelved in the horror section of Waterstone's or Barnes & Noble or Chapters or wherever, you have - by that one act - managed to achieve more than most writers in the horror field. How many horror writers - many of them very good horror writers - spend most, if not all, of their career publishing within the small press and/or online only, with perhaps the odd story in a mainstream anthology? So rather than complain that your work being shelved in the horror section means that you're only preaching to the choir, and you're not reaching the readers you really want to reach (and speaking personally, I'm happy that my work is out there reaching anyone at all), look at it another way. How many of those choir members (by which I mean readers who like and appreciate horror fiction), picking your book up in Waterstone's, would never have heard of you if your work was confined to the small press and Smashwords? Rather than regret all those people rushing past the horror section as they head to general fiction, be proud of what you've achieved. And as I said before, continue to write to the best of your ability, in the knowledge that people who enjoy and appreciate horror will enjoy and appreciate your work. Don't waste time agonising over things you can't control.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 06:25 pm:   

I don't like to rest on my laurels, Barbra. I have bigger dreams...being driven is often a bit of a curse.

And I'm not complaining about my work being shelved in the horror section - of course I'm proud of what I've achieved. Very proud. I'm complaining that it's shelved only in the horror section... And not just my work.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 06:26 pm:   

To be clear: my desire here is simply to expose more readers to horror, to broaden the readership, to sell more books. To broaden and not to narrow.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 06:26 pm:   

Yeah, stop whining, you miserable fucker.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 06:27 pm:   

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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 06:29 pm:   

I'm having t-shirts printed:

"Reach Beyond the Niche".
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 06:30 pm:   

If you won the lottery, you'd moan about having to wait five working days before the cheque cleared.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 06:32 pm:   

You know me, mate: never satisfied.
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Des (Des)
Username: Des

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 81.155.107.43
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 06:34 pm:   

"Reach Beyond the Niche".

======

I can never reach it to scratch it.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 06:34 pm:   

The serial killer psychology: each new book/kill gives you a little intrapersonal freedom, but it's not long before you're plotting your next high . . .
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Barbara Roden (Nebuly)
Username: Nebuly

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 142.179.28.58
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 06:44 pm:   

Well, I don't see continuing to write to the best of your ability in a given field 'resting on your laurels'. And if you have a bigger dream, which is seeing your work shelved somewhere other than horror, then it's simple: you'll have to write something other than horror. Fair? Probably not. But face it: as long as bookstores continue to shelve books more or less by overriding theme - mystery, fantasy, SF, horror, romance, western, fiction - works are going to be put on the shelf that they most closely fit into.

Perhaps I'm just not ambitious enough, but if I could continue writing good horror for the rest of my life I'd be well pleased. Doesn't matter to me where it gets shelved, and if people who'd like it don't read it just because it's shelved in the horror section, that's their problem, not mine. I can't control that, and I'm not going to waste time bemoaning that fact; all I can do is write to the best of my ability, in the field I enjoy.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 06:51 pm:   

Well, if people aren't buying my books, it kind of is my problem. It means that it's very unlikely I'll be published again.

My point is broader than what shelf books are put on; it's about genre labels, and if they are indeed sometimes counterproductive. I'm interested in what people think about this.

I want as many people as possible to read my books. If I didn't, I'd not bother getting them published and just leave them on the hard drive.

Well, I don't see continuing to write to the best of your ability in a given field 'resting on your laurels'.

No, that isn't what I said.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 06:53 pm:   

And if you have a bigger dream, which is seeing your work shelved somewhere other than horror

The bigger dream I speak of is having my books read by a lot more people - readers outside the usual horror fraternity. General Reader, to put a name to that group.

Another bigger dream of mine involves Monica Bellucci and a tub of vaseline, but this isn't really the place to go into that one...
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 07:06 pm:   

I think the existence of genre labels probably help hinder a horror writer from breaking out of the 'ghetto', but I don't think achieving this broad commercial appeal is restricted only by these labels. It also involves an X-factor (eg, Stephen King), 'pump priming' by clever marketing (Jade Goody), or tapping into some zeitgeist-y thing (Dan Brown), etc.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 07:18 pm:   

Barbara, I don't take from Zed's comment what you appear to be taking from them: he's not saying that he wants to write anything other than horror, only that he want more readers for what he writes (which is horror).
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 07:24 pm:   

Aye.

But more importantly, Sunderland finished 10th in the league.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 07:29 pm:   

And Newcastle were leading 3-0 and ended up drawing the game. Hahaha.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 07:38 pm:   

Aye, the silly sods. So we finished 10th and they finished 12th.

ż10 Sunderland 47
11 West Brom 47
12 Newcastle 46

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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 07:40 pm:   

Given the terrible second half of the season you had, I can't believe that.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 07:43 pm:   

Ditto, man. Injuries crippled our season, so I count 10th place as a positive.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 07:57 pm:   

If it hadn't been for those genre labels, they could have been champions! :-)
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 07:59 pm:   

Whe-hey!
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John Forth (John)
Username: John

Registered: 05-2008
Posted From: 82.24.1.217
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 12:21 am:   

I wonder if the problem is not just the label, but the way its treated in our (increasingly dwindling set of) bookshops. More often than not, the horror section is a tiny little corner - often behind a wider, more prominent sci-fi and fantasy section. Placing it in a ghetto like that does tend to (a) prevent casual browsers from finding something they might like, and (b) send out a signal that horror is at best a specialist area, and at worst an embarrassment.
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Allybird (Allybird)
Username: Allybird

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 27.252.255.198
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 07:57 am:   

Horror is all around us. You don't have to look far (many of us experience it) to write about it. Unfortunately some (and I've seen writers do this, too) narrowly define it..
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.29.254
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 09:18 am:   

If writers define horror in a narrow way, that's fine as long as they do that for themselves and it makes their work unique. Machen's definition ("when the roses sing") informs a special kind of weird fiction. I really don't think of 'horror fction' as anything other than weird fiction, i.e. fiction of supernatural terror. There are many other kinds of 'horror' but they fill other types (all types) of literature. I don't think we need to say that any writing concerned with fear, or mortality, or violence, or pain is horror. That waters down the proposition too much. You'd have to say every writer except Beatrix Potter is a horror writer. And I'm not even sure about that exception.
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Stephen Theaker (Stephen_theaker)
Username: Stephen_theaker

Registered: 12-2009
Posted From: 92.232.184.206
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 09:34 am:   

The problem with saying you don't want to be labelled horror is that it's hard to avoid sounding a bit like Margaret Atwood and her talking squid.

If I were writing horror I'd want it to be as easy as possible for people who like horror to find me. I don't go looking in the A-Z section for science fiction books - I go to the sf section.

But that's not to say I don't get the issue: I've noticed recently in a couple of places that horror isn't even included in the list of genres - e.g. on Netgalleys and in the Amazon Kindle sales.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.166.117.210
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 09:41 am:   

Just to repat, the problem I have is with genre labels in general, as marketing tools. I'm proud to write horror. I just want more than the usual horror crowd to read my books.

(I kind of wish I'd never started this now.)
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.166.117.210
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 09:44 am:   

repeat, I mean... (fucking typos!)
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.58.66
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 10:07 am:   

More often than not, the horror section is a tiny little corner

Even those are dwindling and disappearing fast. Best decade was the seventies, I'd say. There was another boom in the late eighties, but now horror seems to have evaporated from a great many shelves.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 10:20 am:   

>>>The problem with saying you don't want to be labelled horror is that it's hard to avoid sounding a bit like Margaret Atwood and her talking squid.

Sorry, Stephen, where does Zed say that?

The closest he comes is this:

>>>I was growing increasingly uncomfortable with being labelled a horror writer.

But then he writes:

>>>I love horror. I am proud to write horror.

So how do you get to what you're saying here?
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Stephen Theaker (Stephen_theaker)
Username: Stephen_theaker

Registered: 12-2009
Posted From: 92.232.184.206
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 12:42 pm:   

Okay, so Gary said "uncomfortable with" rather than "didn't want". A more strictly accurate version, then:

The problem with saying you're uncomfortable with being labelled a horror writer is that it's hard to avoid sounding a bit like Margaret Atwood and her talking squid.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.166.117.210
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 12:47 pm:   

I didn't say that, either...I said I was growing increasingly uncomfortable with being labelled a horror writer.

But that's not the point - as I keep saying, it's genre labels in general that are beginning to concern me.

Hello? (taps microphone) Is this thing on?
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Stephen Theaker (Stephen_theaker)
Username: Stephen_theaker

Registered: 12-2009
Posted From: 92.232.184.206
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 12:50 pm:   

Eh - which part didn't you say?
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.166.117.210
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 12:55 pm:   

If anyone's interested, here's the original interview where I started to mention this: http://blackabyss.co.uk/2011/03/gary-mcmahon-the-inquisition/

My quote, when asked which genre label I preferred, Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?:


Dark Fiction. Itís just a personal preference, but Iíve always been fond of this genre definition. I used to cling to the term ďHorrorĒ, but lately Iíve begun to shy away from it for my own personal reasons. Iím not a big fan of genre labels anyway: letís just call it all imaginative fiction.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.166.117.210
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 12:56 pm:   

Stephen, re-read what I said...I've quoted it again for ease. All the words, not just some of them.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.166.117.210
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 12:59 pm:   

But this is getting away from the point. The real question, for me, is: are genre labels in fact counterproductive?
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 01:05 pm:   

>>>The problem with saying you're uncomfortable with being labelled a horror writer is that it's hard to avoid sounding a bit like Margaret Atwood and her talking squid.

Which makes him nothing like Atwood, who, as far as I'm aware, categorically denies writing science fiction.

Zed writes: "I love horror. I bleed horror."

Atwood writes: "[science fiction is] just robots and spaceships."

Difference?

Zed defends horror against accusations of just "hockey masks and blood".

Atwood doesn't defend science fiction.

Difference?
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Stephen Theaker (Stephen_theaker)
Username: Stephen_theaker

Registered: 12-2009
Posted From: 92.232.184.206
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 01:13 pm:   

Still puzzled (Gary M.) - which part didn't you say?

You can't be increasingly uncomfortable without being uncomfortable!
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.166.117.210
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 01:16 pm:   

If you can't understand what it is I'm saying from the material in this thread and in the interviews, Stephen, then no amount of me explaining it will help.
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Stephen Theaker (Stephen_theaker)
Username: Stephen_theaker

Registered: 12-2009
Posted From: 92.232.184.206
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 01:39 pm:   

I get what you're saying in general, Gary. What I don't get is why you're saying this is inaccurate -

"The problem with saying you're uncomfortable with being labelled a horror writer..."

- when this doesn't seem to contradict it at all:

"I said I was growing increasingly uncomfortable with being labelled a horror writer."
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Stephen Theaker (Stephen_theaker)
Username: Stephen_theaker

Registered: 12-2009
Posted From: 92.232.184.206
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 01:41 pm:   

Gary F - I didn't say Gary *was* Margaret Atwood, just that it's hard to complain about being given a genre label without sounding a bit like her. I don't think that's a controversial thing to say.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.54
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 01:42 pm:   

Actually, after Oryx and Crake Margaret Atwood finally admitted to writing SF. She even agreed that Handmaids Tale fell under the category IIRC.

She did deny it for many years though.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.166.117.210
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 01:57 pm:   

Wow, this started off as an interesting discussion and has now transformed into perhaps the most prosaic thread the RCMB has ever seen...
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.166.117.210
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 01:58 pm:   

All we need now is one of Stevie's lists.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 01:59 pm:   

>>> I didn't say Gary *was* Margaret Atwood, just that it's hard to complain about being given a genre label without sounding a bit like her. I don't think that's a controversial thing to say.

As I suggest above, I think the two cases are only similar at a superficial level. Not even that, really.

If you think that's good enough to make a comparative allusion, far be it from me to criticise.
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Des (Des)
Username: Des

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 81.155.107.43
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 02:00 pm:   

I think saying something like "I am growing increasingly Christian in my old age" does not mean to say that I am a Christian, until I've seem myself crystallised as a full-fledged out-of-the-closet Christian.

An interesting point, though.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.47
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 02:12 pm:   

Top ten genre deniers please stevie!!!
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 02:14 pm:   

Haha, good one, Weber!
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.47
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 02:33 pm:   

Failing that, top ten deniers for ladies stockings...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 04:00 pm:   

I must admit I enjoy the process of applying genre definitions to Literature and don't think it lessens any work's literary merit.

On the "Favourite Novels" thread I've come up with these genres:

HORROR
SCIENCE FICTION
FANTASY
CRIME
WHODUNNIT
ESPIONAGE
ADVENTURE
WAR
INJUSTICE/PRISON
SURVIVAL
PURSUIT
CHARACTER DRAMA
FAMILY SAGA
ROMANTIC DRAMA
COMING OF AGE DRAMA
HISTORICAL
POLITICAL
RELIGIOUS
PHILOSOPHICAL
MYSTICAL
AVANT-GARDE
SATIRICAL
COMEDY
COMIC HORROR
COMIC SCI-FI
COMIC FANTASY
COMIC CRIME
CHILDRENS
GRAPHIC

It's when you start applying definers, such as THRILLER or PSYCHOLOGICAL or SUPERNATURAL or PICARESQUE, and getting into sub-genres and cross-genre works that things get really fun, providing room for endless debate.

The one novel of Zed's I have read to date, 'Rain Dogs', was categorically a SUPERNATURAL HORROR novel. The novels of Ramsey Campbell tend to be either SUPERNATURAL HORROR ('The Influence') or PSYCHOLOGICAL HORROR THRILLERS ('The Face That Must Die') with occasional forays into HORROR/FANTASY ('Midnight Sun') or CRIME ('The One Safe Place') or the AVANT-GARDE ('Needing Ghosts').

I do not consider Literature itself or the term Classics to be genres. I like the terms Weird Fiction and Speculative Fiction and consider them useful catch-alls for works of fiction that deal with the impossible or the yet to happen.

I can understand
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 04:06 pm:   

some writers getting upset because of where their books end up on Waterstones shelves but that doesn't mean we should ditch the use of genres.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 04:08 pm:   

Now is the time to kill myself.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.166.117.210
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 04:09 pm:   

Kill me first, would you?
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 195.166.117.210
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 04:14 pm:   

Then rape my corpse.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 04:16 pm:   

OK, I'll rape your corpse before I kill you, if you like. You can watch. Where do you keep it?
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Frank (Frank)
Username: Frank

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 82.210.134.81
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 05:46 pm:   

I remember when I first started subbing to 'horror' magazines, they kept telling me I'd subbed them speculative fiction, not horror...and I kept saying, no, it's horror.
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Barbara Roden (Nebuly)
Username: Nebuly

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 142.179.28.58
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 05:46 pm:   

Gary M wrote: "Just to repeat, the problem I have is with genre labels in general, as marketing tools. I'm proud to write horror. I just want more than the usual horror crowd to read my books."

I get what you're saying, Gary: that slapping the label 'horror' on works is ultimately limiting, constricting, and does little or nothing to take the book outside the orbit of people who are naturally inclined to walk into a bookstore and check out the horror section, and into the orbit of other readers, who will - for whatever reason - shy away from anything bluntly labelled 'horror' but would appreciate a gripping, well-told, strongly characterised work that just happens to have elements of horror in it. Because dollars to doughnuts these people have read 'horror', it just wasn't called that, and was shelved in general fiction.

I don't think the label 'horror' is even entirely accurate in a lot of cases. All horror books aren't created equal, just as all mysteries aren't. Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Minette Walters, and Elizabeth George are all shelved in mystery, and the only thing that they have in common is that at some point in all their works a crime is committed which needs to be solved. Put another way: anyone picking up works by one of those authors who looks to the others for more of the same is going to be disappointed or confused (or shocked, if you go from Christie to Walters).

So what's the answer? Well, you could shelve all the mysteries in with general fiction, which would perhaps allow a few people who wouldn't otherwise see or consider it to pick a mystery up. On the other hand, it would be frustrating to readers looking specifically for mysteries, because where do you start? Or you could further subdivide the mystery section, with micro-sections labelled 'cosy', 'hard-boiled', 'police procedural', etc., which only serves to fragment the market even more, and make it less likely that someone who's convinced she only likes police procedurals will pick up a Christie novel.

Horror's in the same position. We all know that there's a huge range of books that are, or can be, broadly labelled as horror. There's psychological horror, supernatural horror, Gothic horror, pulp horror, even something called 'dark horror' (as opposed to what? light horror? does 'dark' horror mean people die, as opposed to just getting injured?). And while horror purists sniff at paranormal romance, it has a place at the horror table too.

So what's a bookstore to do? Say 'To hell with it, we're going to let people discover new horizons and do away with restrictive genre descriptions everywhere and just shelve everything together in one huge fiction section?' Not going to happen. Yes, labels are restrictive, but they are, at a basic level, helpful in at least providing a starting point. And as I said in an earlier post, we all label things and people, every day. How many times have you referred to someone as 'the klutzy one' or 'the funny one' or 'the anal retentive one'? That label certainly doesn't do justice to that person as a whole (well, maybe it does with the anal retentive one), but it's a useful bit of shorthand. We're never going to stop ourselves doing it.

Which is a very roundabout way of saying, Gary, that I understand your frustration at genre labels, but there's very little you can do about it, unless you're very lucky, and happen to write something that just happens to be horror but which catches hold in some way and forces itself into the wider reading world. Alexander McCall Smith's 'No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency' novels are a case in point. If I remember correctly, the first few were shelved in the mystery section, because they are mysteries, or contain elements of mystery: Mma Ramotswe runs a detective agency, and solves crimes and mysteries and puzzles that clients bring to her, or which come to her notice. She (via Smith) references Agatha Christie a good deal, so the books would naturally seem to belong in the cosy tradition of the mystery field. But for whatever reason, the books reached far beyond mystery readers, probably spurred on in equal parts by good reviews in mainstream papers, an exotic and interesting setting (Botswana), a non-traditional lead character, and (crucially) word of mouth. I can imagine a lot of mystery readers who read the first two or three books in the series passed them on to non-mystery-reading friends with the words 'I know you don't usually read mysteries, but I think you'll really enjoy these books.' The result is that it's been a long time since the Mma Ramotswe novels were shelved in 'mystery'. What alchemy is needed to transcend a restrictive genre label to achieve this kind of readership; the kind of readership I suspect you're looking for, Gary? I haven't got a bloody clue. Luck probably plays a big role. If you find out anything more definite, then you can either keep it to yourself and break out of the horror section, or sell it to other writers and make scads of money.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 05:58 pm:   

>>>What alchemy is needed to transcend a restrictive genre label to achieve this kind of readership

It's a very fortuitious collision of many factors, some within the author's power (eg, King's narrative genius) and most not (catching the zeitgeist just at the right time). Few are chosen. As F R Leavis used to say: Tough titty.
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Des (Des)
Username: Des

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 81.155.107.43
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 06:01 pm:   

As F R Leavis used to say: Tough titty.
===============
Source?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 06:04 pm:   

I'm forever urging people I meet, who enjoy a good popular novel, to try Stephen King, as I know they'd love his narrative style (even the later stuff). But invariably they reply that they're just not into horror. This is especially true of women for some reason.
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Des (Des)
Username: Des

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 81.155.107.43
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 06:07 pm:   

THE DARK TOWER, Stevie, is a masterpiece of literature, imo. Even though it's Horror - hmm - it's fantasy - hmm - it's SF .... or it's something that's not yet been defined.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 06:14 pm:   

Des, it was in THE MODERN MARKET: IT'S PANTS, F R Leavis, 1964.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 07:51 pm:   

I've recommended straight thrillers like 'Misery' or 'Dolores Claiborne' or 'Blaze', stressing the fact that they are not horror, but still their eyes mist over and they go back to their crime potboilers or chick-lit.

Yet being labelled a horror writer in the popular consciousness hasn't done King any harm as a bestselling author so I wouldn't get too worked up about being pigeon holed. If the writing is of a high enough standard it will draw the readers it deserves. Wanting to appeal to absolutely everyone smacks of self-defeating arrogance imho.

Horror writers be proud!
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Barbara Roden (Nebuly)
Username: Nebuly

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 142.179.28.58
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 08:12 pm:   

Stevie wrote: 'I've recommended straight thrillers like 'Misery' or 'Dolores Claiborne' or 'Blaze', stressing the fact that they are not horror, but still their eyes mist over and they go back to their crime potboilers or chick-lit.'

Sigh. And there you have it. We - or some of us - get offended when the term 'horror' is used as a pejorative label, then turn around and speak dismissively of 'crime potboilers' or 'chick-lit'. All genres have their highs and lows when it comes to quality of product. And in my mind there's no difference between someone who refuses to read horror because of their preconceived notions of what horror is, and someone who refuses to read mystery stories or 'chick-lit' (what an awful term, by the way; would men put up, or go along, with any type of work aimed at them being labelled 'lad-lit' or 'chap-lit'?) because of THEIR preconceived notions of what those genres are. It's like the people who dismiss SF as 'space opera' or fantasy as 'all about elves and quests'.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 08:18 pm:   

If the writing is of a high enough standard it will draw the readers it deserves.

Oh, how naive you are, Stevie. I know writers verging on genius whose books sell scant copies.

And, what Barbara says above - yep. You're being a tad hypocritical there, Stevie-boy.

And who's trying to appeal to "absolutely everyone"? Not me. I just want to reach as broad an audience as possible. Any writer who doesn't is pretty foolish, if you ask me.

Horror writers be proud!

You're missing the point I'm trying to make.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 82.4.19.77
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 08:54 pm:   

The women I know who read chick-lit have no problem with the term and use it themselves to describe the types of book they read.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chick_lit#Origins_of_the_term

I was only talking about readers of popular fiction above. The people who tend to only read what is currently in the shops and make books into bestsellers. I don't consider myself one of them but they do make up the largest percentage, by far, of the reading public.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.31.10.14
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 09:14 pm:   

>>>I know writers verging on genius whose books sell scant copies.


Thanks, Zed. But I can fight my own battles. :-)
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 - 09:42 pm:   

Whe-hey!

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