Genre Shaming and the Tragedy of Kendra Kemp

During my undergraduate studies, I applied for a writing internship with Blizzard Entertainment. While I didn’t end up getting an offer, this was a critical moment in my life because it introduced me to the 9 to 5 Adventurer Project. What started out as a couple of abandoned D&D character sheets turned into a massive literary undertaking and the “Aha!” moment where I finally understood what I wanted to do for my Honors Thesis. I was so proud of my ambitious, highly calculated plans for a four-part web-based novella collection that would converge, Avengers-style, into a longer novel. I began to develop and fall in love with the characters of Kendra, Britney, Marcellus, Oscar, Lana, and Lucian. This project had the potential to be my greatest work.

Unfortunately, I was never able to move forward with it as a thesis piece because I was a victim of genre shaming.

Due to its fictional medieval setting, the 9 to 5 (man, it took me way too long to realize what a stupid name that was) was labeled “fantasy” by the public, despite the absence of magic and mystical creatures. Every professor I asked to sponsor the project deferred me to the creative writing thesis class, which sounded like a great idea at the time. But when I submitted my application, I was denied on the grounds that the professor’s “interest in genre fiction is limited to mystery and crime novels.” Because my story was regarded as “fantasy” it was considered inferior.

I continued writing the collection on my own, but I lost the steam for it a little over halfway through completion. On my own, I didn’t have the time, motivation, or support to finish it. So it’s sitting in the reject drawer for now, but I imagine it will come back out some day (with a much better title).

Anyway, the point here is that my hopes were crushed because of genre shaming. And while that professor had no interest in genre fiction, I have no real interest in writing literary fiction. I find genre fiction too intriguing, since it’s laden with creative opportunities and cool stuff that I don’t get to see (and don’t have to deal with) in my boring normal life.

The whole point of this blog is that I want to go to grad school and get into a creative writing MFA program, but I still worry that if I send in a genre piece I’ll get rejected simply because my tastes are different than those of the professors. At the same time, I don’t want to write literary fiction and try to do my thesis on fantasy, since I imagine that wouldn’t go over too well. In the end, I figure the best plan is to be true to myself and write in the style that I want, but to be smart and original about how I write. I can totally do that.

And if they reject my application because of their genre snobbery, then I probably shouldn’t be going to that school anyway.

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