Genre #1: The Cocktail
“Whether it’s a sign of the declining quality of film or illustration in general, these days most movie posters just don’t inspire the same artistic awe.”
“Today, a lot of posters are put together on computers, but back in the day when posters were completely handmade, illustrators worked in a variety of mediums including acrylic, oil, colored pencil and watercolor.”
I’m beginning to switch off whenever someone starts talking about ‘the death of’ things.
Like, the death of genre, the death of the short story, the death of oral story telling, the death of traditional movie poster art. To me, change isn’t death, & expansion/contraction are natural results of time. Maybe I’m lucky. Maybe I’m naive. Maybe I’m untouched, so far, by the kind of grief & loss being voiced by people who talk about the death of things.
Or, hey, maybe none of those things is really dying.
Maybe it’s true that we don’t sit around a fire wearing animal furs & listening to the Magic Man make up tales of spirits and demons, but have you ever listened to two people chat over lunch? Have you ever had a conversation in a workplace where you apply narrative to the events & people around you?
“Did you see him pull out the daggers in that meeting?”
“Oh, yeah. They wheel him out whenever they need someone to implement the old ‘slash & burn’, if you know what I mean.”
Have you ever gossiped? Have you stood beside the figurative water cooler discussing last night’s episode of Law & Order? We’re not wearing furs, but we’re not mute, either. Death of the oral tradition? I don’t buy it.
And genre’s dying, right, uh-huh, it’s been dying since I began reading articles on it ten years ago. A slow death, then. But to my mind the guts of genre — the awe & inspiration of it, the elements of the fantastical, the imaginative might and the taste for the surreal, the weird, the unwholesome, the irreverant, the barely-possible — these things don’t die. We’d have to wipe out every scrap of humanity on the planet to get rid of these things. They grow like weeds, you pull off one bud here, it springs up under a paver over there. You pour weedkiller over your driveway, the weeds will grow in the walls. Just give ’em enough time & they will find themselves a new place. That’s what ‘fantasy’ (in its broadest sense) does; that’s what humans do. We are survival _machines_. We cannot stop making stuff, or making stuff up.
So, genre, eh? Mainstream writing’s gone & chopped its head off & now it’s dead, *waaaah*? Hardly. Cut off one head, three will grow. Then we give those new heads different names to baffle the people who think they don’t like genre. We call ’em Slipstream, Dark Fantasy, Speculative Literature. Whatever. Or we do some surgery, snip off bits of the beast’s intestines, transplant those pieces into bodies that appear wholesome. The perfect hosts: even the writers don’t realise they’re carriers. Atwood doesn’t write SF, of course she doesn’t & I’m not gonna say otherwise because she is useful to us & I don’t want her realising that stories set in the future (A Handmaid’s Tale) & stories about mythical beings (The Robber Bride) & strange, surreal tales (The Edible Woman) might — just *might*, I’m saying — be considered SF by some of us. No. Because Atwood proves you can sell all those kinds of stories & people will _read_ them. Provided you don’t call them SF. And Isabelle Allende. She’s popular. She writes slipstream, yes? And no, I’m not going to say slipstream is SF, because provided I don’t say that, people are willing to read ghost stories & not complain. Which is how I like it.
And Henry James & Mary Shelley … no, no, they’re *literature*, darling, don’t start freaking people out by saying they’re S-fucking-F. Now, don’t bother me, I need to suture this giant gaping hole in this otherwise ‘mainstream’ novel. There. Perfect.
Thing is, I know how non-SF fans feel. I, too, cringe at labels like ‘horror’ & ‘fantasy’ & ‘sci-fi’, instinctively associating them with bad reading experiences in my past in the same way I associate food poisoning with vanilla milkshakes & one particular bout of late-night vomiting with Midori. I, too, have made myself sick on bad examples of genre & seek, instead, for something that doesn’t carry the reminders of those dark times.
“You’ll like this cocktail, I promise,” says my friend.
“All right, but tell me I won’t be able to taste the Midori.”
Why not? Sell it to me without the hint of green & I’ll be fine with it. I’ll take mine without a hint of Heinlein, thanks.
That’s not the death of genre. That’s just dealing with changes in taste.
So apparently the ‘traditional’ movie poster is dying because — sorry, why, again? Because it’s being done on computer instead of canvas? Why is that the *death* of the movie poster? Why isn’t that the re-birth?
There. I think I’ve thrown every metaphor I can at this thing for the time being.
If most people were to be born twice they’d probably call it dying – you and I are not snobs.
We can never be born enough.
— e.e. cummings