An Eye for an Eye for an Eye ~subverting and challenging genres

Today’s post comes from Marc Nash. If you remember I was setting sail on a voyage to discover books that are exciting and break the norms; Marc is one of the authors creating such work. You can find his blog here:

I used to bristle at the word ‘genre’. Apparently I don’t just write ‘fiction’, rather my novels are in the genre ‘literary fiction’. Yet ask for a definition of quite what that is and you’d struggle to receive a coherent answer. At best you might receive woolly assertions that genre novels tend to operate more on the level of plot and story-line, while literary fiction places less emphasis on plot and more on language and character. I’ve never understood why literary novels supposedly don’t overly-concern themselves with plot, nor why genre novels can’t attain high level of literariness through their language. They are not mutually exclusive. I always have the sneaking suspicion, that ‘literary fiction’ is merely the genre tag for when a book can’t be neatly fitted into any of the other genres.

But my new novel “An Eye For An Eye For An Eye” is a bit different for me. Firstly I wanted to write a genre book that also demonstrated a literariness through it’s language and depth of character study. But I also approached the task of writing a genre book that was at the same time also subverting the very notion of genre. Taking the standards of the genres I was working in and breaking as many of those prescriptions as I could. Will the gatekeepers of these literary genres admit my book to their canon, or will they banish it as heretical?

Genre number one: Police procedural. The main character Simon Moralee is charged with clearing up murders, yet he isn’t actually a policeman at all. He’s a member of the public with a special psychic power, who is adopted by the police to make them look good in their clean-up rates. The problem for them is, his mental ability completely obviates the need for any detective work at all, so that he actually represents the death of procedure. The police are demoted into serving as little more than Moralee’s baby sitters, yet he himself yearns for being elevated to a true policeman and bemoans what his gift has done to the solid practises of evidence and deduction.

Genre number two: Paranormal. Well Simon’s psychic gift is notionally a paranormal one. Since he can decoct the last few frames a person sees before they die, which in the case of murder victims is usually the faces of their killers. The book examines quite how the balance of his mind may have been shaped to throw up such a power, while his adversary also offers further, menacing but mundane reasons as to what lies behind such an ability. But the book goes further, as part of its theme interrogates those very last frames in a person’s life as it tantalisingly probes just what happens at the point of death. So a paranormal phenomenon actually serves as the launchpad of the most rooted-in materiality fact, that of death itself.

Genre number three: Dystopia. The definition of ‘dystopia’ is a place where everything is as bad as it could possibly be. Yet you don’t need the post-apocalyptic delight of a zombie invasion, or some viral pandemic, or nuclear catastrophe to bring civilisation to its knees. My inhospitable world is one more of drift and aimlessness, fostered by a collapse of central authority brought about by economic bankruptcy. I was conceiving of a world not too much further removed from the economic problems suffered by certain countries within the Eurozone like Greece and Spain. What might happen were a government forced to adopt such economic stringencies, that citizens no longer saw any benefit in regarding themselves as citizens of their nation? So the dystopia I have created is one that has many recognisable facets of our own society and offers some political slant on where our Western democracies may currently lie in their relationship to us their citizens.

And yes, “An Eye For An Eye For An Eye” not only has a plot, a considerable array of big ideas and themes, but it also revels in its literary language! Now to see what the genre purists make of it.