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Mount Orégano
Sue Burke
The crap you don’t mind 
18th-Sep-2019 09:48 am
Let me see..
ddb 373-06-scanMy late friend Suzanne Allés Blom, author of the novel Inca among other works, had a theory about why books are categorized as science fiction, romance, thriller, Western, literary, etc.

As you know, Sturgeon’s Law says that 90% of everything is crap; that is, most science fiction, romance, thrillers, Westerns, and literary fiction, etc. (along with movies, poetry, comics, you name it) simply isn’t great stuff.

But 10% of it is great. Sue thought that pretty much all of us would like the best of anything. I agree. I prefer speculative fiction, but now and then I read the best in Westerns, romance, thrillers, literary fiction, etc., and I enjoy it.

I also read a lot of speculative fiction that’s not in the top 10%, and I enjoy that, too. I can tolerate speculative crap, although romantic or literary crap sets my teeth on edge.

Sue believed that’s why there are categories. They help lead us to the shelves where we will probably enjoy most of what we pick up. Categories don’t exist just to help marketers know how to sell a book and to tell booksellers where to put it. Categories exist to protect us readers from the wrong kind of crap.

— Sue Burke

Photo of Sue Blom by David Dyer-Bennet at the 1976 Midamerican Convention.
18th-Sep-2019 05:49 pm (UTC)
She's definitely got a point. I dunno, though - what counts as 'crap' is so subjective, and also, I'll read literally anything - shampoo bottles, evangelical tracts - if there's nothing else to read. I once read an entire shelf of Harlequin romances as wide as a queen-size bed, just because I was sleeping in that bed one summer. I read the entire Darkover series because my housemate of the time kept them in the bathroom bookcase. I read more than 100 of the Destroyer series just because my husband of the time had them. I read a ton of Faulkner, who for my money is pretty-much full of crap, because it was what was there to read on break at one job. (Don't get me started about Faulkner; in The Bear he has one paragraph that goes on for two and a half pages. I really wish Mark Twain had done a bit on his Literary Sins, like he did on Fenimore Cooper's.)

I guess it's like food: "there's only one day between what you won't eat, and what you will." Nothing cures one of picky eating like a period of food insecurity, and before the Internet, one couldn't just have All The Books, All The Time. It's funny, though; fantasy/sf has always been my favored genre, and yet I find I'm less and less tolerant of crap in that genre, especially fantasy. Perhaps it's that my expectations for other genres aren't so high.
19th-Sep-2019 07:37 pm (UTC)
When Beverly's Bookie's Books had their huge blowout sale at the end of June, they did something interesting. They shelved every single "genre" book - sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, horror, romance, thriller - they shelved them all together and sorted them by writer's last name. While it was a bit disconcerting, I found that it forced me to notice books I otherwise would have never spotted. I even bought one of them. So while there is something to be said for sorting books by genre to make it easier to find books you are interested in, there is something to be said for mixing it up as well.
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