Friday, May 2, 2014

The Baker Literary Taxonomy (BLT): An answer to multi-genre classification problems

I am becoming one of those authors. You know, one of those guys who, upon being asked at a party what genre they write in, they swirl their gluten free beer in their glass and start hemming and hawing about how “it’s a little like urban fantasy, but could be considered horror, with lots of historical mystery and romantic elements and even scientific and  literary aspirations.”   Yaddayaddablablabla kill me now before he opens his mouth again.
Aaaaagh! The questioner silently seethes. Get over yourself! Is it scifi or not? All your self-overanalysis makes you sound like an Olympic Class Wanker!
            But books and movies are coming to a point where classic genre classifications don’t work. Not how we need them to. To address the issue, a dizzying number of sub-genres have bubbled up from the literary cauldron of Goodreads that can leave even veteran readers confused. Space opera, urban fantasy, high fantasy, historical fantasy, magical realism, erotic vampire, paranormal romance, supernatural thriller, post-apocalypse zombie dystopia, steampunk, cyberpunk… That’s just a smattering of what’s out there. Go on Goodreads and try taking a stroll through all the genre clubs out there. An hombre can get lost in that jungle.
            I have a solution. We need the BLT. The Baker Literary Taxonomy, as my first supporter, author Rob Gregson from Goodreads, ingeniously hailed it. The BLT is a Greek/Latin/Finnish/Esperanto genre taxonomy system. Readers and literary establishment types alike hate the application of /’s in the genre subheading of a book. It’s kind of like the legal fine print disclaimer jargon attached to Viagra and Happy Fun Balls (DO NOT TAUNT HAPPY FUN BALL!!!). People want to see something adequately, succinctly labeled. Slashes make many of us uneasy. They make us think something’s not right with that Happy Fun Ball. Something sinister and corrupt.
So let’s eschew those slashes for a cool taxonomy, as for chemical compounds or dinosaurs, plants and animals.
            Is your book a horror/mystery/fantasy tale? Not anymore. Under the Baker Literary Taxonomy, the work would be (according to Google Latin translate):
            Exemplum Mysterium Phantasiam.
           Cool, right? How about an erotic vampire adventure?
            Venerae felis adventum.
            And that military science fiction time travel detective novel you’ve been marketing? Try:
            Tempus spatium bellum sacramentum.
            Ooh, and that magical dinosaur adventure comedy you’ve been banging your head over?
            Dinosaurum magicae adventum comoediam.
            Oh, and a murder mystery detective urban fantasy romance?
            Homicidium sacramentum inquisitor urbana luctus felis.
            I’d buy those without looking at the back cover over the reviews.
            The BLT addreses a long-standing problem. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Thomas Pynchon, Anne Rice, Phillip K. Dick, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, Jonathan Lethem, to name an infinitesimal few, have elucidated the real world through the prism of the fantastical. Traditional SciFi gained a foothold with mainstream readership by promising philosophical solutions to long-standing cultural questions via wild and wooly scientific theories; indeed, classic SciFi authors like George Orwell and Aldous Huxley have been looked upon as literary Cassandras for how their made-up worlds predicted where our world is heading. They did that in spite of the innate snobbery involved when someone describes a work as fantasy or science fiction “but it’s really so much more!” Like, because it’s not a meditation on the plight of transgender Libertarian coal miners in West Virginia in 1994, it’s not important.
            I think the efforts of great genre-authors deserves a BLT. Don’t you?



  1. Sounds like a plan to me, Eliot. Now, I need a BLT--Time-travel sci fi w/gender-bending alien, motor racing, songwriting, and knitting. Not too erudite, if you please.

    1. Nikki, I am currently scouring my literarefrigerator for the right ingredients for that BLT. It sounds scrumptious. I will come up with something accordingly delicious for you as soon as possible, although my chef raised his eyebrow at me when I placed your order.