Monday, July 27, 2015

Is it time to dump 'chick-lit'?

Feels like nearly everybody knows chick-lit is a terrible term.

Many readers don't seem to like it much, most writers REALLY don't like it at all.

And I'm not talking about the content here, I'm just talking about the label. Why would you name a genre based on the supposed age and gender of its readers? Or is it named after the writers?

Either way, it's condescending, inaccurate, outdated, restrictive, patronising.

But here's the thing -- it's catchy. It broadly gets the idea across. It fits on the description tag on a real or virtual bookstore shelf. 

And what are the alternatives out there? Women's commercial fiction? No better, just wordier. Rom-com? The book aren't necessarily primarily funny. Romance? Still not wide enough, and has its own identity issues.

But in another creative field there's a genre...

It's a genre where the subject matter is dominated by the themes of relationships. Love starting, love breaking down, making relationships work. But there's a lot more to it than that. It can cover other subjects too, from internal struggles and working out who you are, to global politics, to just having fun.

It can be funny. It can be heartbreaking. But whatever the subject matter it's generally handled with a lightness of touch that cuts through the seriousness and emotion of the material.

It's commercial. Very occasionally it rises up to the levels of art. Often it bumps along the levels of novelty.

Some of its creators can take themselves a bit too seriously, considering what they're doing...

It's created by women and men, enjoyed by women and men (although *maybe* with a bias towards the gals).

It's a genre that often doesn't mean much, but there are times when it means everything.

It's pop music.

But hey, you're bright people. You'll have picked up several paragraphs ago where I was going with this: that description pretty much all applies to what gets called chick-lit too.

That's what we're reading and writing, pop fiction.

Yes, pop still has some negative connotations. But let's face it, people who don't like at least some kind of pop are joyless bastards. Who needs 'em?

Chick-lit today has its own Taylor Swifts and Madonnas, Pharrells and Girls Aloud. God help us, it probably has its Ed Sheerans too.  And I suggest that we embrace that. We can be pop stars too.

So next time someone asks about your interests, say you're a pop fiction writer, a pop fiction fan.

If we all do it, it can become an actual thing.

And if someone says, 'what's Pop Fiction?' You tell them it's commercial writing about the glories of everyday life and the dreams of ordinary people. And if they say 'oh, like chick-lit?' you give them the same look you give people who use terms for race or sexuality that were once considered polite, but are now recognised as unacceptable because of the controlling and superior attitudes that spawned them.

We don't use that word anymore...

So whaddaya think? Who's in?

I'm going to look stupid if it's just me doing it on my own.

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