Re: RARA-AVIS: Private Eyes. What else?

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 02 Mar 2001

Juri asked,

"And can the genre and the story be separated in that way? The genre is manifested in the works."

Of course they can be separated. For instance, can't we all think of plenty of books which are undeniably part of the genre which are awful stories? There are genre conventions which show up in both good and bad books, but each can be just as much part of the genre. As a matter of fact, some of the worst books are bad because they so slavishly adhere to the genre conventions without anything at all added, essentially becoming unwitting parodies of the genre. So quality can be totally independent of its place in the genre.

It also depends where a story falls within the evolution of the genre. Cain, maybe Goodis and maybe Thomspon, though the genre had become more self-conscious by the time of the latter two, were inventing the genre rules which they and others later worked within. But by the time traits have become rules, there is a certain expectation on the part of the reader as to the world they are entering and the rules of behavior in that world -- for instance, attractive women are not to be trusted, they will lead to your downfall. That is what I believe is "reassuring" to the reader, entering a world they know and understand. This knowledge makes them comfortable in the world even if they find their comfort in discomfort -- violence that makes the reader cringe, shouting to the hero, no, don't do that, all the time knowing he will. It's like shouting "Don't go in the basement" in a horror film -- it is comforting to know she will, would be disappointing if she didn't, even though the expectation is that something is going to happen in that basement which better make you uncomfortable, hence, comfort in discomfort -- the genre conventions have been met by making you uncomfortable, as on a rollercoaster ride.

Sometimes the thrill comes from expecting the unexpected, which is why Disneyworld's Space Mountain, which would be a kinda rinky dink rollercoaster if it were outside, is so thrilling, because it is in the dark and you can't see the drops and turns ahead. You expect them, but don't know exactly when they will come. So the rider is reassured that it meets all the expectations, but pleasantly surprised by the way the expected thrills actually play themselves out, just like the best genre fiction.


# To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
#  This will not work for the digest version.
# The web pages for the list are at .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 02 Mar 2001 EST