In Bob Neihart’s 2007 interview with Stephen King’s son and best-selling horror writer, Joe Hill, Ben Neihart said, “Hill writes in two traditions that he would argue are artificially walled off from each other: genre fiction, with its emphasis on breakneck, often outrageous, plot and metaphor; and literary realism, which values detailed characterization, psychological depth and subtle epiphanies.”
What an excellent description! And what a description that completely escaped me as a child, a young reader who wasn’t aware of these traditions at all, who knew only to categorize stories as either “good” or “boring”. Back then, all I wanted was to get from Point A to Point B–and to get to Point B fast. Who cares about lovely turns of phrases and language and words, who cares about character development? I only cared about one thing: what’s the plot? Is someone going to end up dead? Is there a lot of gore? Is there a twist? Is there a monster in it? During those early years of my life as a reader, nobody told me what to read. Nobody served as a guide, so I read whatever I found amusing, and I read blindly. Reading then was like walking around a dark house during a thunderstorm, and I believed, in my heart of hearts, that I’d be more excited if I reached out a hand and touched a large, slimy creature, than if I came upon a room within which a young woman sat in silence and mourned the sudden end of her youth. (Unless the sudden end of her youth turned her into a large, slimy creature. Then that would be seriously awesome.)
And so I gravitated toward the plot-driven stories, which turned out to belong to the genre fiction tradition.
Part 2 to follow.