The Two Kinds of Fiction

Posted: December 2, 2005 by Emma Bull in art

As a reader, I recognize two categories of fiction: good and, let’s say, disappointing. The good fiction has style that doesn’t make me wince, characters I can accept as potentially real, and plot that doesn’t prompt me to think, “I read two hundred pages to get here?” Disappointing fiction has, um, the opposite of those. Or has one or two of the above characteristics, but fails drastically on one or more of the others.

Regardless of the sticker on the spine or the sign over the shelf, those are my two reader-defined categories. They’re not intended for use by booksellers or publishers or scholars in the field. But they’re the categories relevant to me as a reader, and ultimately, as a writer.

Great fiction? That’s a sub-category of “good.”

  1. Grey says:


    And I do pretty much the same with so-called children’s, YA and adult fic. I’ve discovered that books I liked as a kid, I still like. Good writing is good writing.

    Granted, some “adult” books will be incomprehensible to some kids (and vice versa), but that’s a very individual thing.

  2. Hamadryad says:

    My two categories (aside from ‘not even interested in reading anything by this author, ever again’) are ‘I will only buy at a used bookstore’ and ‘worth buying new’.

  3. Emma Bull says:

    Hee hee–the “vote with your bucks” technique! It gets way more confusing, though, when you have lots of credit at the used bookstore, and when you factor in the library. I embrace confusion.

  4. hamadryad says:

    I recently re-discovered my local library. It is a wonderous place. And the DVD collection – all kinds of great BBC movies and such. I’ve been seduced by Inspector Lynley and Richard Sharpe!

    I love my used bookstores. They have so much character. Not like those big chain stores that all look the same, no matter which name is on the outside. And even the authors that are ‘worth buying new’ will get snapped up in the used bookstore if I’m lucky enough to find them there. SF readers seem much more likely to hang onto their books than, oh say… romance readers or western readers. I used to buy more books new, but they’re getting expensive. 😦

  5. Emma Bull says:

    Yeah, I’m worried about that. I used to buy the same Christmas present for my mom and my sister every year: a big pile of all the best books I’d read since the previous Christmas. And I mean, a big pile. Can’t really do that anymore. (Of course, that’s not entirely because of the cost of books, grin.)

    Today’s verification word is the name of a splatterpunk subcategory: Axgenre.

  6. Kitlat says:

    Yeah! Someone who gets it!

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