Sunday, 15 May 2011

C is for Crime

Regardless of what genre you write in I think it's important to learn from other genres, what they do right and what they do well.

Crime is a genre I don't read so much of, but I think setting up a mystery, setting up the evidence and the suspects and the false leads takes a crafty mind. They're elements I would like to weave into my own longer fiction.

A lot of popular crime nowadays itself borrows from the horror genre. Gore and autopsy, corpses and psychopathy. What's more interesting to me though, is the whodunnit. It's almost outdated, a classic whodunnit is more often considered the realm of grannies* and kids. On our stock system at work they are classified as 'cosy crime', which is a great name, but somewhat damning at the same time.

It's a hole in my own reading, I want to read some Agatha Christie shorts, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Carver... those are the classics I want to learn from... not Bronte and Tolstoy. Not all traditional whodunnits perhaps, but the emphasis was not on the shock, the gruesome.

Not that blood and gore don't have their place, but they should be tools, in my opinion, not a genre in and of themselves.

Take The Great Gatsby for example (not crime, I know), there is one utterly visceral moment in the entire book, and it stands out all the more, has all the more impact, for being such a contrast to the rest.

So science fiction is my thing, if you will. Whodunnits exist there, were a staple of the genre. Asimov's robot stories are often whodunnits, very cleverly constructed to explore the ramifications of his three laws. Brin's Kil'n People was a mystery, and I remember there being a mystery central to the plot of Sundiver, too. I could go on...

Science Fiction is a rich vibrant setting full of possibilities in which crime and romance and politics and horror and humanity take place. I've long held that, for me, the best science fiction is the one that focuses on the people, not the SF. And after that on the story, not the SF. And then the SF. But the SF still has to be really good... the other two just have to be even better, even more important to the writer.

A compelling whodunnit, affecting realistic lives and relationships, on a starship... awesome. ;)

The Renegade A to Z. #RenegadeAtoZ on Twitter.

*a generalisation of course... I still remember the first time an elderly lady asked me about the Tess Gerritsen/ Karen Rose etc. end of the crime spectrum... "I do like a good murder," she said...

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