Monday musings on Australian literature: GenreCon

I returned from seven weeks of gallivanting abroad to several emails* about something called GenreCon, which will take place next week from October 11 to 13 at the State Library of Queensland. I hadn’t heard of this before, which is probably not surprising as it seems to be a new event. As you’ve probably guessed from the title, GenreCon is, as the website puts it:

… a three-day convention for Australian fans and professionals working within the fields of romance, mystery, science fiction, crime, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and more. One part party, one part celebration, one part professional development: GenreCon is the place to be if you’re an aspiring or established writer with a penchant for the types of fiction that get relegated to their own corner of the bookstore.

Readers here know that genre fiction is not my speciality, but that doesn’t mean I never read it, or that I’m not interested in keeping an eye on what’s happening to it, particularly in Australia. In fact, I’ve become far more aware and (generally) knowledgeable about genre fiction since my involvement with the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge – and that, I think, is a good thing. I have read and reviewed a few books this year that would fall under the genre hat, such as Anita Heiss‘s Paris dreaming (my review), Krissy Kneen‘s Steeplechase (my review), and Courtney Collins’ The burial (my review), and I’ve enjoyed each one, for different reasons.

As is usual at these sorts of events, there will be a number of international and national guests, some “author” and some “industry” as they put it. Australian author guests include she-who-needs-no-introduction-here Anita Heiss (my, she’s a hard-working woman), thriller writer Kathryn Fox, jack-of-all-trades writer John Birmingham, and romance writer Anne Gracie. Industry guests include reviewers, editors, and publishers. And again, like many conferences, there will be program streams: “the craft of genre writing, business and industry awareness, and researching for fiction”.

In the run-up to the conference, AustLit (about which I wrote a few months ago) has been sending out regular emails suggesting how its scholarly database reflects, or can be used to research, Australian genre fiction. For example:

  • AustLit has developed, since 2009, the Australian Popular Medievalism dataset, which lists Australian-written works (published between 1995-2010) featuring medieval ideas/settings. It’s currently a research project, but let’s hope the time-period is extended to cover all-time so that it can become a useful resource.
  • you can search on such topics as fairytales appearing in Australian genre fiction, or norse and germanic myths, or, presumably, a wide range of other topics, but these are the examples AustLit gives because they relate to conference topics.
  • media tie-in fiction (that is, fiction inspired by other media such as films, television, games) is an active segment of the genre world, but has attracted somewhat uneven scholarly attention to date.

In other words, while genre fiction may be at the lighter more fun end of the reading spectrum, it is nonetheless worthy of serious analysis and research. After all, if you want to know how people lived, what they thought, what influenced them, in a particular time, popular culture is a critical place to start. It’s important therefore that data be collected now … and so I’ve enjoyed AustLit’s taking up the gauntlet and demonstrating its contribution to the genre discussion.

I hope the convention goes well, and look forward to reading some reports of it after the event.

* Yes, I know I can read emails while I’m away but life was pretty busy on the road, and so I limited my reading to emails from family and friends. Consequently, I returned to a gazillion emails in my inbox waiting my rapt attention. Ha!

12 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: GenreCon

  1. Sounds interesting and I agree genre writing has really come to the fore – especially with the ebook age unleashing a new world of publishing possibilities for writers, and a new depth-of-field for readers. While my heart lies with literary fiction, I also surprised myself by crossing over into another genre, and I think this is something that authors are now ‘allowed’ to do. Although it means you triple your promotion work as your followers won’t always change camp! Very curious to read Anita Heiss’ book.

    • Thanks Catherine. From what I’ve been reading over the years it seems like there are more cross-over writers than is immediately obvious. So many write different genres under different names I think. Good for you, good for them, but I take your point about the promotion work.

  2. Best wishes for what sounds like a very interesting event. My ignorance is total on Australian genre fiction but I wonder if UK publishers are missing out – there really must be some cracking Australian crime/SF/historicals out there so it will be very interesting to read your posts.

  3. How lovely of you to spread the word on this! Since we’re grateful and we are a subscription service, we’d like to offer temporary guest access to anyone who read this and was curious about our database. Please, come and rummage around! We have a wealth of information on all manner of Australian writers and works.

    Username: guestaccess
    Password: guest123

    • It’s always a pleasure to spread the word about Aussie lit, AustLit. Thanks for the guest access link. It’s a great database so I hope a few people here take the opportuntiy to, as you say, have a rummage.

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