John Gardner used this music analogy. He said that a composer doesn’t sit down to write “music,” he sits down to write a ballad, or a rock song, or a symphony, or a bagatelle, or a tone poem, or a children’s song. I suppose you could say a trumpeter doing free jazz is making it up out of nothing, but I don’t think so. He has a history of hearing and playing jazz that informs the second to second choices he makes as he plays.
Paul Di Filippo
As a promulgator of critical terms, I was always dismayed that my coinage “cosplay fiction” failed to catch on. I used the term when reviewing a recent CJ Cherryh novel, whose painfully protracted and plot-dominating descriptive passages seemed to offer to the reader nothing more nor less than the simple pleasures of dressing up in outre costumes, with undertones of furry fetishism. Narrative took a backseat to vicarious convention costume show fun.
Gary: There is at least one way you can move it back that doesn’t involve a dream. And that’s if you are writing as a believing Christian, for example, or as a believer of some other faith with supernatural elements, and you want your fiction to honestly reflect that belief — which for you is not at all fantastic but rather the purest realism. Another way is along the lines of what John Crowley does in Little, Big, and in the Aegypt books, too — which is not so much to cross back over the line from fantasy into mimetic realism as to shoulder the fantastic across another line, from which the mimetic world is now excluded.
Genre is the kind of word that has to be defined really precisely or it has no meaning (that is, it’s an abstraction). As for genre as the basis for writing, I think most people start with a story. For me, anyway, the hardest part of any new thing is to batter through the thickets of expectations and received ideas to the naked part. Those thickets, to me, are genre.
Gary K. Wolfe
Genre as shrubbery! Someone needs to do something with that.
“Sensible and comprehensive”! How boring is that?
Paul Graham Raven
Gary: Didn’t Python beat us to it years ago? 😉