Watch for patterns

For some reason, I’ve always seen post-modernism, slipstream and metafiction as different facets of a single premise. There’s also a distinct Dadaist/collage thing going on there, too. An echo of the “modernism” bit, perhaps?

Warren Ellis once described Iain banks as being a man “who writes across genre boundaries as if they did not exist.” (Letters column for Transmetropolitan, issue #10 – in a response to my letter.)

To be honest, at a certain point they don’t, really. The thing about genre is that it shares a root word with generic. Which is appropriate, because genre fiction is about the generic elements that we would expect to find in a given… well, genre. And once you start picking and choosing your generic elements from all over the place, you get something that is appropriately patchwork.

I compare and contrast two concepts when I’m not feeling particularly challenged. First, the idea that you can only break the rules after you has mastered the rules. Second, the idea that there is such a thing as outsider art – produced entirely without regard for whether rules exist, never mind what they are.

Now, I don’t believe that it is entirely possible to learn to just be a brilliant crazy obsessive artist who pays no attention to commercial concerns whatsoever but be simultaneously perfectly marketable. I think that it’s just one of those things that happens. Either you are or you aren’t. And if you are, you already are. If you aren’t, you are probably not going to get there from here.

Still, there is a lesson to learn there – that it is entirely possible to make up your own rules. I hate to say it, but rules are important. Rules create structure – and any creation that wants to stand entirely on its own needs a structure. Even something extremely rudimentary. The nice thing is that the rules (and thus, the structure) don’t have to be generic unless you want them to be.