I don’t intend to argue (or even give) definitions in this post, but as I look at the world of fiction, there are 11 genres. Yes, if you include sub-genres and genre-mixings you can get that number an awful lot higher, but I’m just looking at the broad buckets here.
And I’m going to express preferences. Remembering that your preferences are not mine, you should disagree as much as you like. Those preferences and favourites, both for reading and writing, will become apparent in the short comments that follow. I will say in advance that I have a strong preference for speculative genres and frequently only read in most of the others if they’re mixed in.
I present the 11 genres in alphabetical order.
- Adventure (or you could say Thriller if you like).
- Crime (includes things like Detective, Police Procedurals, Noir).
- Science Fiction.
For reading preferences, Science Fiction is where I live most of the time. SF offers endless possibilities for exploring ideas, concepts, possibilities, and what it means to be human. In any given year, SF makes up at least 75% of my fiction reading.
Fantasy is where I spend the second largest amount of time. The SF/F split used to be a lot closer to 50/50 and I know that there’s plenty of awesome and creative stuff being done, but too much of it seems to be just exploring this neat world/magic system/character the author has created. I say ‘just’ like that’s a bad thing, but it isn’t. These can be great stories, they’re just mostly not what I want anymore. I want stuff to make me think, stuff to make me consider big questions. For me, the best Fantasy does that, but most of it doesn’t look in that direction. And that’s entirely fine. It’s just not for me right now.
Third most popular genre for ready for me would probably be historical. I have general preferences for ancient Greeks and Romans, Medieval, and Napoleonic Wars, though it feels like I haven’t read a lot of any of these for a long time. Long enough that I feel like I should go and have a look for what’s published in the last few years.
I think I’ve read exactly one Crime novel, two Mysteries, and three Thrillers in my life. Any literary fiction was for an English class. Romance, Suspense, and Westerns don’t hit the reading list on their own. Any and all of these genres are fine as elements in a story in one of my preferred genres, but I’ve never developed a taste for any of them as genres in their own right. I do sometimes wonder if it’s been a mistake not to try. Whole multiverses full of stories that I just never consider. Something to think about.
You’ll notice the absence of Horror in everything I’ve written so far in this post. I don’t really do Horror. I tend to express that as finding aspects of reality disturbing enough and I’m not really looking for that in my entertainment. I have tried. As part of my ongoing quest to read all of the books, I keep encountering Horror novels in the World Fantasy Award group. Every one of these I’ve tried has been a DNF (Did Not Finish). More have been DNR (Did Not Read). I’ve never really understood the desire to get in touch with the dark side of things, the fear, the things that cost you sleep at night. I understand that some people do like that in their fiction, but I don’t share it.
Horror aside, other things that I hate in fiction for the same reason:
- Pointless gore and violence.
- Killing/torturing/abusing children as a plot device. I abandon TV shows for that, why would I read it? There are authors whose work I’ve never gone back to because of this.
- Torture/sexual violence. I leave the room when that happens on TV. I’ve shut off movies because of it. Not high on the list of things I want to see in fiction.
- The bad guy winning. Happens too often in the real world, thanks.
Am I squeamish? Over-sensitive? A wimp? Pick the word you like. I prefer to think of it as knowing myself well and being able to empathize with the character on the receiving end. And really, I get enough of these things while consuming media about reality.
Writing preferences match up fairly well with my reading preferences at the genre level, which shouldn’t surprise anyone too much. But if I get Excel to do the work for me, I come up with the following basic percentages:
- Science Fiction 47%
- Fantasy 39%
- Horror 10%
- Historical 1%
- Contemporary 3%
Most of the Horror is probably more like Dark Fantasy, but most of then were also written with either specific anthology calls in mind or to see if I could write to a specific theme. And not one of them is particularly horrific.
Most of the ‘Contemporary’ probably should go in the Adventure bucket. The super short stuff that doesn’t, well, I guess I’d have to mark them down as Literary, even though that feels weird.
If I only look at what I’ve written since the beginning of 2019, the numbers turn out very different, with SF being almost 75% of all the stories in that time, counting only first drafts. One Historical Fiction novel, one short that has to be called Literary, and the rest Fantasy. Comes much closer to the reading mix, doesn’t it?
So, reading and writing both, I’m a speculative fiction guy. Broadly speaking, just about everything I write is either Science Fiction or Fantasy, but I have some plans to branch out a little more over the next year or so.
Stay safe and be well, everyone.by