Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Does your genre have a nickname to call its own?

Nicknames have been around as long as there's been people. At some stage or other we've all known a Woody, or a Sunny, or a Shorty, a Big Al, an Aggro, a Red, a Bluey.

Some famous people have had some very famous nicknames. Elvis was The King, John Wayne was The Duke, Russell Crowe is 'Rusty," the Spice Girls all had one of their own - Scary, Sporty, Baby, Ginger, Posh, and the Seven Dwarfs were well known for their monickers.

The movie world has long since had "labels," that are effectively a kind of nickname. There's film noir, and the Summer Blockbuster, the chick flick, the teen flick.

When it comes to genre fiction, ever wondered why science fiction is referred to as "sci-fi", but mystery fiction isn't called "mi-fi," thriller fiction isn't "thri-fi," romantic fiction isn't labelled "ro-fi," historical fiction isn't "hi-fi" - okay, that one's already taken by the sound industry, but why not "his-fic" (too much like hissy fit?) or...nowhere else to go with that, but I gather you get my drift.

If you haven't wondered about the above, then I guess you are now.

I'm wondering what I might have stumbled on to here? Is this a literary form of bias against one of our greatest fiction genres? If there's racism in our world (sadly, there is), if there's sexism in our world (tick that as well), if there's ageism in our society (yep, been on the receiving end), then is there in fact yet another, hidden evil that lurks among them...fictionalism?

What about women's fiction that's referred to as "chick-lit", you ask? Okay, but that one's deserved (no bias here.)

I admit labels can be fun - and for those poor, impoverished souls who visit bookstores and video libraries and ask the staff what would be good, or can they recommend so and so - then possibly labeling could be very useful.

What works?

Some random suggestions:

For fictional showbiz biography-type sagas - "sho-bi-fi."

For spy fiction - "spi-fi" (with my little eye.)

For supernatural fiction - 'su-fi."

The more I write about this idea, the less I like it, and the less sense it makes.

But labeling is everywhere and doesn't appear to be going away any time soon.

When s/f breakaway fiction featuring futuristic urban angst took off, it soon garnered the nickname "cyberpunk." (Now we're talking.)

With the rapid multiplying of fiction genres - Scandinavian crime fiction; time travel romance; vampire romance (to name just a few) I wonder if we won't see more of these evolving their very own individual "labels" or "nicknames."

Maybe the real reason science fiction was long ago the first to get its own special branding ("sci-fi" and/or "s/f"), is because it was a mark of reverence for a genre that stood apart, and alone, for many decades until it was embraced and interwoven with other genres and with the mainstream. It's blazed its own trail, a homage to its pioneers - Verne, Wells, Rice Burroughs and others - and to its leading lights - Asimov, Clarke, Wyndham et al - pushing boundaries, and illuminating the infinite possibilities not just of the universe around us but of the ingenuity within us.

And that seems like a good enough reason to me to have a nickname to call your own.

(An earlier version of this post originally posted on my 'Take It As Read' blog