Fanfic Genres

Word count: 21,024

I have a thousand words to go before I sleep, but for my thousand-word break, I thought I’d reflect a bit on Seema’s lovely interview with Kelly Chambliss. The title says it all: Hurting the Ones We Love. Kelly is highly qualified in two genres I don’t care for at all: smut and angst. That’s not to say I haven’t read her fic and appreciated it, but when I like angst I like it despite its being angst, and not because of it.

When, on the other hand, I read science fiction, I like it because it’s science fiction, and not despite the technobabble. It’s an issue of genre. In the interview, Kelly talks quite a bit about the genre of smut. Smut is queen in fanfiction largely because, as Kelly mentions, there isn’t much smut outside of fanfic. It’s popular as an up and coming new genre. Fanfic makes smut easy with its short-story format - you can’t, in general, base an entire commercial novel on sex acts - and pre-fab characters. The same goes for slash.

None of the above is meant as a critique of smut or slash - I don’t have time for that because it’s getting late. I’m only concerned with them as genres, and why different people like different genres. It’s a simpler mystery than why different people like different books within the same genre - that is, it’s easier to understand someone disliking all fantasy novels than someone not caring for The Lord of the Rings.

Sometimes it comes down to personality - science fiction is the province of the geeky type (or N’s, for the Myers-Briggs fans). Fantasy is related, but doesn’t quite cover the same fanbase, as it were. Angst, on the other hand, is never fantastic. Angst is only angst if it’s on the human level of flaws. Tragic flaws are a bit too much for angst; they end too splendidly. Romance is the opposite; romance must be about the virtue of the beloved and can, if not weighed down with too much smut, be fairly idealistic.

Smut, like angst, has to be at the nitty-gritty human level. There is nothing fantastic to part A and slot B; it is realism, impure and simple. Realism never interests me as such, though I can admire the plotting skill or the lovely language. Other people feel the same way about idealism. It’s nothing personal; it’s just genre.

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