This is a culmination of my too many interests. It's is an in-between place. It's more focused than my Myspace blog, but less so than my author blog. Here you can find artwork, photography, writing, poetry, book covers, manga and pointless videos. All of these things mesh together to become a reflection of their creator in an in-between place colored like shadows and flavored like frappuccinos and chocolate. It's one heck of a world.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Genre Shame & a Video

(I’m not going to lie, a version of this exists on the wordpress blog already, but since I did mention I was going to write it I have dusted it up and am posting it here too.)

So, HIM, a rock/pop band from Finland, fronted by Ville Valo, has recently released their newest album, Screamworks. You’re probably wonder what this has to do with genre writing, it’s because I find a parallel between the two occurrences, and it’s made me do some pondering. 

One thing I’ve been pondering about is that there seems to be an element of “shame” associated with some genres, such as Romance or Vampire/paranormal (And watch out if you put those together!). It’s as if you should be embarrassed to write them because they aren’t “real” enough. In fact, one friend of mine said “Let me know when you write something real, and I’ll buy that.”

Because of this shameful stigma, I think a lot of would be genre writers try their hardest to stay away from the genres that they’re really the happiest writing, or they try to package their genre book as something else. They manipulate the description to turn it into anything but what it really is or they might even edit it to inject bits of something else between the paragraphs, to try to fool their readers. But, no one’s fooled at all. It’s a zoo out there, but painting a zebra won’t really disguise its stripes.

This makes me think of the band HIM because out of the many, many interviews and videos I’ve enjoyed, one thing always stands out. Poor Ville wants nothing more than to be the front man in a metal band. He’s even tried to call their brand of music Love Metal, and many of their songs have an almost metal edge. But, no matter what he does, no matter how he packages it, it all goes back to a catchy synthpop with lyrics about love, death, graves and tombs because, deep down, this is what Ville is good at. This is how his mind works, and it’s probably the thing that really appeals to him, especially considering he cites Poe and Baudelaire as some of his favorite works. But, like many writing genres, there’s definitely a stigma attached to a man in his thirties who is writing synthpop about broken hearts and tombstones.

Or is there?

HIM is the first Finish band to have a gold album in the United States. In it’ first week, their new album debuted at number 25 on the Billboard 200 and the album before debuted at number 12 – and that’s in just America. My point? For being a “genre” band with “nothing to say” they seem to have a lot of fans, and not just any fans, either. HIM fans seem to me to be some of the most obsessive, intensely loyal, nearly fanatical fans I’ve ever come in contact with.  That says to me that they must be doing something right.

And it’s not just HIM fans.  Look at genre book fans; Twilight, anyone? Whether you’re a fan or not, you’ve surely noticed the thousands of fan groups, email signatures, icon graphics and more that are plastered on every corner of the internet. They sure don’t think that genre fiction is anything to be ashamed of, so why do genre writers let other people tell us that it is?  Why do some of us try so hard to be something – anything – else, like Owen Wilson’s character in Marley and Me who was a natural columnist, and yet spent the entire movie trying to land a front page byline just because “a columnist isn’t a ‘real’ journalist”.

Well, who decides what’s real? This funny group of writers who are someone sitting on a stack of dusty literary, socially relevant books that people buy just to look good in their bookcase? Or the people who are actually buying books to enjoy, even if they have to label them a “guilty pleasure”? Though, the question does arise, why must they be a “guilty” pleasure? Is it because the reader has also been shamed by our literary minded society, so that they’re embarrassed to admit what they like? 

Back to the new HIM album. I’ve read a few reviews on it, and they all say the same thing: that this album is “like their other albums” and that they are like several other bands out there (I beg to differ on this one, but then I’m looking only at the lyrics, not the whole package). All of the reviewers say this as if it’s a BAD thing, and as a consumer we tend to draw the same conclusion:

“Oh dear, more of the same old, same old.”

But, you know what? When they mixed it up in Venus Doom, most of the HIM fans were crying in their heartagram hoodies because it wasn’t what they wanted. The critics, who spend every day buried under stacks and stacks of CD’s, want something different, but what do their fans want? They want more of the same old, same old, because that same old is what they liked about the band in the first place!

The same goes with genre books. It’s as if every vampire or romance or mystery book that is written is expected to “rewrite the genre” and if it doesn’t, it’s chalked up as “same old, same old”. Let’s completely overlook the fact that everything that can be done has been done (Even that amazing movie Avatar that everyone is so rightly praising as original and amazing has the same old, same old storyline if you think about it!) and go straight to this question: If you’ve rewritten the genre, then does that mean it’s even a part of that genre anymore? Doesn’t that make it its own genre then?

Maybe I’m just too literal. I’ve been accused of that before, but I don’t think so. I know if I go looking for a romance novel there are several things I expect to see, and if I don’t then I’m disappointed. The same goes for vampires. I don’t want the author to try to be clever and make her vampires sparkle in daylight (sorry, I just cannot embrace that), I want a good old vampire that turns to ashes in sunlight. I want some blood, I want some gore, I want some sex, and I want some good old fashioned fighting and, if they can work it in, I’d like to see some emo winging. Maybe I’m just paranormally-old-fashioned?

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to see new characters, or new ideas, or even some of the weird “issues” addressed. (If they’re sucking blood out of animals then this means they have animal hair IN their mouths! Why does no one ever think about that?) But it does mean that I don’t want to see the genre completely “rewritten”. The same goes for romance, thrillers, mysteries, you name it. Maybe I’m all alone here, but I can’t help but think “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

And now for the segment I like to call “Random Things from my Hard Drives”, it’s time for a…


While out and about the other day, hubby and I found this very cool, old cemetery in the middle of nowhere. I truthfully don’t know if we could ever find it again.  There are some photos of this place, but I haven’t gotten to them yet. Hoping to soon though.

Fav song of the moment – “Acoustic Funneral” – HIM


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