Junk or Genre Fiction
Junk Fiction Definition
Junk fiction or Genre fiction is also known as (popular fiction, vernacular fiction, category fiction, paperback fiction, etc.). Generally Genre is known as the category of literature like mystery, suspense or horror. Each genre has its own conventions. Romance, for instance, deals with romantic love between two people and often ends positively. Generally, genre fiction gives value on entertainment and resultantly becomes more popular with mass audiences.
It stands “for fictional works (novels, short stories) written with the intent of fitting into a specific literary genre in order to appeal to readers and fans already familiar with that genre.”
Genre fiction is also used interchangeably with the term popular fiction. People also consider it a light fiction as it does not deal with the themes as seriously or intellectually as other types of fiction usually deal.
Robert McKee who is an American Screenwriting teacher, defines genre conventions as the “specific settings, roles, events, and values that define individual genres and their subgenres.” Such are implicit usually. But sometimes they are made into explicit requirements by publishers of fiction as a guide to authors seeking publication.
Webster’s Dictionary defines “genre” as “a kind; sort; type: said of works of literature, art, etc.” So in this context we can say in general, “genre fiction is all nonliterary work of fiction that includes the categories of mystery, science fiction, fantasy, romance, western, and horror.”
Purpose of Junk Fiction
The primary purpose of Junk fiction is entertainment. However, as David Mamet points out in his essay, “Many works now considered great literature were originally genre novels.” A work of genre or junk fiction can also be literary and serious. Jane Austen, for example, wrote literary romances, like Pride and Prejudice. Mamet goes so far as to open his essay with the line, “For the past thirty years the greatest novelists writing in English have been genre writers.” Popular fiction is focused more on accessibility to a wide audience and so is ‘driven more by humor, exciting storylines and colorful characters.
Famous modern examples of popular Junk fiction would be the Harry Potter series, thriller novels of James Hadley Chase and the books of Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum.
The purpose of popular Junk fiction is to appeal to the general public. Such books are ‘marketed toward the interests of the public. The content of such fiction changes with the interests and desires of the public.
“Writers of popular/Junk fiction who are serious about being published might have to make sure that their writing conforms to the guidelines of publishers who develop their guidelines based on what the general public will buy.”
Like junk food, the Junk fiction is succulent and temporarily entertaining. In the paucity of authoritative seriousness the impressions of junk fiction are not sublime and long.
Development of Junk Fiction
Popular or Junk commercial fiction came to light in the nineteenth century, with serialized novels which were also called sensational penny dreadfuls or Penny Bloods in Britain, or Dime Novels in America. Presently Such Junk fiction or popular fiction is a multi-million dollar industry giving pleasure to many. It is also a field of growing interest for scholars and students of literature. Few scholars believe that Science fiction began with Jules Verne and then H. G. Wells. Horror stories and mystery stories can both be traced in large measure to Edgar Allan Poe and a few others.
The Pulp fiction was also known as Junk fiction later. Such fictional works were called as pulps ‘because they were printed on cheap, highly acidic paper, grew out of the dime novel industry of the nineteenth century.’ Marilyn Michaud says, “The introduction of mass elementary education in the 1870s greatly increased literacy rates resulting in a desire for literary works that would appeal to all ages and classes. As literacy and consumerism grew, books and magazines became
commodities accessible to all income levels. It was out of these significant cultural changes that popular or “pulp fiction emerged.” In those days pulp fiction was available at five to twenty-five cents per issue and often sold at newsstands and drugstores. Until the mid-1950s, pulp fiction was the literature of choice for the reading public, before it was supplanted by comic books and paperbacks. Few authors claimed the pulps as the predecessors to today’s paperback books.
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The period 1900-1910 was fertile for the development of Pulp or junk fiction because in this span some periodicals appeared which eventually took the form of pulp magazines of the early 20th century.
Types of Junk or Genre Fiction
There are many types of genre or junk fiction. Some of the main genres as they are used in contemporary publishing are
Characteristics of Junk Fiction
Following are few major characteristics of Junk Fiction:
- Cheap Price and entertaining stuff.
- Published mostly in paperback edition.
- The plot of popular/junk fiction is well-defined and interesting. It is full of complications and conflicts so that the interest of the reader may not be lost till the end. For example the novels of J.K. Rowling are entertaining till the last page.
- However such plots commonly lack a sustained plot, worked out with close regard to cause and effect. Such plots also lack deep study of character and the intellectual analysis of such varied problems as occupy the fiction of the present age.
- The conflicts in popular fiction, unlike the literary fiction, are either resolved totally or at least wound down toward a resolution by the end.
- Popular/junk fiction tends to have more of a clearly defined resolution of conflict by the end of the story.
- Such fiction refers to mass so it remains popular with wider audiences.
- Junk fiction represents an instinctive and traditional, philosophy of life and does not soar the higher plane of philosophy.
- Such fiction mirrors our contemporary living chiefly.
- No dealing with serious issues of life rather the object of entertainment is priority in junk or genre fiction.
Examples of Junk Fiction
Romance novels of Danielle Steel like To Love Again, Remembrance, Loving, or Barbara Taylor Bradford’s A Woman of Substance or Nora Roberts’ Montana Sky are good examples of Junk fiction.
John Grisham’s legal thriller novels like The Firm, The Chamber, The Client, A Painted House, The Pelican Brief and Skipping Christmas, can also be categorized into junk novels. Mary Higgins Clarke’s suspense novels like Where Are the Children? and A Cry in the Night and Sue Taylor Grafton’s alphabet series like “A” Is for Alibi (1982), “B” Is for Burglar (1985), or “C”Is for Corpse (1986) fall also into the category of junk.
Stephen Edwin King’s horror novels like Carrie, The Shining, The Stand, It, and the Dark Tower are junk novels. Besides, novels of Dean Koontz, Irving Wallace, Jackie Collins, Jacqueline Susann (the author of Valley of the Dolls.), Dee Brown, Robert Ludam, James Patterson Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler are good instances of junk fiction.
Very recently the books of authors like Dan Brown (the author of The Da Vinci Code). Ken Follet (the author of World Without End) or Ayn Rand (The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged) are also genre fiction.
In Hindi, the novels of Gulshan Nanda, Ved Prakash Sharma are also junk novels.
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