It’s just not Realism

I am finding it increasingly difficult to tag the kind of work that I like to write, read and publish. While some genres are quite clearly defined and easy to google, I have found that experimental writing tends to attract a number of different labels, all of which have different baggage.

Which isn’t such a bad thing if you hate labels and categories. However, labels and categories have their uses. Notably in helping you to identify like-minded works and interesting authors or zines to follow.

Experimental writing is kind of cool, but it seems to put an expectation on the work to be at the vanguard of something, of redefining things. Avant-garde art has been around for a long time now, and I think there are a lot of interesting non-realist works which are part of a long tradition of non-realist works, such that it’s hard to dub them genuinely experimental.

Surrealist and Absurdist are both terms I come back to a lot, but it’s hard to see past the ties that both have to a particular time and place. I’m more inclined to lean toward surrealist, because Absurdist seems to imply a certain world-view, whereas surrealist is a little more open (which is not to say the original surrealists didn’t have a firm world-view, but it seems less directly tied to the name). There is already a New Absurdist movement, but I wasn’t really taken by its manifesto, in terms of my own focus. I know there is a New Surrealist art movement, but I’m not sure about literature.

Magic realism always feels to me to be realism with magic, which isn’t what I’m looking for either. Bizarro is a more recent descendant of all the above, and I am fond of elements of that movement. However, there seems to be a focus on violence and the scatalogical as dominant aspects of Bizarro work, and while I’m not necessarily opposed to that in places, it means the term has a fairly narrow focus, and I don’t find it really epitomises what I want to read or do. (Bizarro is also, whether for this reason or not, a pretty male-dominated genre, as far as I can tell).

Slipstream? Nah. Irreal? Too closely identified with a particular philosophy for my tastes.

Does all this matter? Am I thinking too much about genre labels? Maybe I am. Perhaps noting that labels are limiting is like noting that the sky is red. Obvious.

But at the same time, I wish there was a more ready-made way to identify the works of authors I might like.

I have been looking through lists of prefixes. Extra-realist is good, although some people might think it means even more realist. I like the sound of counter-realist but it is not the right meaning, really. Anti-realism is too attached to a particular philosophy which I don’t necessarily identify with.

Perhaps I should abandon the realist tag altogether and go for something more impressionistic? Quacking duck fiction? The genre of the thousand floating Santas?

Maybe I will simply go with Unrealism.


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2 Responses to It’s just not Realism

  1. Maree Kimberley says:

    quacking duck fiction has more of a ring to it. or what about ‘vonnegutesque’? a bit literal, I know, but whenever I read fiction I really, absolutely love I always see a little bit of the great Kurt V in there somewhere

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