I am constantly asked about genre, as though it’s a mark of quality, and I find myself wondering about how important such a thing is. Is genre just a title, a category to help us group stories into classes of pre-determined judgment, or is it something more?
Stephen King’s books are widely regarded as horror, but this is also the man who penned such greats as The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Neither of those stories would ever be thought of as horror, unless you’re an idiot. He also wrote The Running Man and the somewhat cult-classic Dark Tower series, both possibly classed as science fiction, and yet somewhat not. I mean, if you really delve into any of his novels, there’s a hell of a lot more there than mere horror, and yet everyone seems to think of him as a horror writer.
My first publisher classed The Dark Path as a horror novel, a genre I would have never imagined when I wrote it, and yet it’s gone on to great success from both people who profess to love and those who detest horror. Since taking things into my own hands, I’ve decided to change its categories to action/adventure and thriller, both of which it slots perfectly into, and yet these do not define it. The same goes for my Prometheus Wars series; both books could be classed as anything from mythology to paranormal, but the heart of the books is adventure, and as such that’s how they’re categorized, much to my chagrin. Tiny boxes make for even smaller windows, and when trying to get readers to notice you, you want the biggest damn Plexiglas window in the world.
Genre is a useful tool, but it’s also a double-edged sword. For instance, I know there are hundreds (possibly thousands) of phenomenal books out there I will probably never read simply because they’re classed as romance novels. No matter how gripping a synopsis reads I doubt I’ll dip my toe into a romance on the off chance it slides into a stereotypical estrogen-fuelled sappy-saga.
No offense to romance fans, but I’d rather put my face in a blender than read about heaving bosoms and engorged loins. And yet I know chances are many of those stories classed as romances are brilliant, and in no way limited to what I perceive a stereotypical romance to be. This is my loss, and all because of my prejudging of the genre, much like another reader might see a book classed as horror and expect to be terrified by ghosts and scary clowns.
So is genre good?
Much like pigeonholing people, typecasting books so blindly is ignorant. And yet we need it. There’s no swifter way to identify subject matter other than genre categorization. It draws the reader in to read more about a book they will hopefully like, and until each author reaches the same heights of popularity as the King, we will continue to class our writing in such a way.
I’ve noticed my blog getting a little bit too sensitive and flowery for my taste. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I don’t want to suddenly look down and realize I’ve grown a vagina and I’m crying at daffodil commercials. And so I wrote something to remind us all what I truly am. Enjoy.
There was so much of it, covering him, consuming him. He could not escape its cloying effect upon his skin; its bitter, coppery taste as it gagged him.
And he loved it.
Or at least a part of him did.
Part of him rebelled at the things he had done to people he did not know, but the greater part, the stronger part, quashed what little rebellion remained within his mind to such a point he could barely remember his own name anymore. All he knew was the exultation he felt every time he cut open an artery and the hot, crimson liquid of life flowed out and over him.
They would eventually catch him, of that he had no doubt. The lack of control he had shown had resulted in crime scenes thick with evidence – almost as thick as they were with blood – but he didn’t care. The addiction was too strong, the need to cut and tear, maim and chew… he had no control anymore.
In the start he’d had control, or at least thought he had. He could stop himself back then, in fact he had done so on more than one occasion when the morality he still held within had rebelled at his actions.
But no more.
He could no more control these urges than a fisherman could control the tide, and though he might try to stop himself, each time he knew it was futile. Eventually they would catch him, and he would go peacefully, hoping they put him with other prisoners, but if they didn’t… oh well.
For now, however, he had other things on his mind. He stared at the young man who had tried to terrify him in the bar with bravado, mocking him in front of the young man’s friends and prancing like a peacock. He was no peacock anymore, had no cock at all, in fact. The young man had first been angry, then disbelieving, as they all were, then afraid, and now he was terrified.
The crying had finally stopped, but not before he had threatened to slice the man’s eyelids off completely in order to get to the ducts hidden beneath; this was the only way to stop the crying without blinding or killing the victim, and it wasn’t time for killing… yet. He was enjoying this far too much to end it so soon.
For all his bravado, the fight the young man had put up was pathetic in its incompetence. Versed in various forms of martial arts himself, the fact the young man had been so easy to incapacitate and handcuff had been a true disappointment. He had made up for that by slowly severing the man’s feet and sealing the wounds with duct-tape. It really could fix anything.
Such an action was ultimately messy, but he didn’t mind. The blood contained the life, the soul, of the young man, and to be touched by it was like a special kind of sacrament. In a way, what he was doing to the young man was the greatest compliment; he was worshiping his life in a way no other ever would, but the young man didn’t appreciate that, he merely kept trying to scream around the duct-tape sealing his mouth.
The man kept flopping around on the floor like a fish whenever he made a cut, making things difficult. Several times he had come close to nicking an artery, especially when he was working up near the man’s groin, but that was the price he had to pay for working under these conditions. He brandished the scalpel once more and moved forward, deciding this time to take the legs off at the –
The door to his storage shed banged open and before he knew it a dozen bodies were converging on him, smashing him into the ground, cuffing his hands behind him. The young man cried out like a bitch as they tore the duct-tape from his lipless mouth.
But they’d been smart enough to catch him, and before he knew it he was sitting in a padded cell, restrained in a nice canvas jacket with leather buckles going all the way up his back as well as one which went between his legs. It was very secure.
He was done.
There was no arguing it; he was going to rot in this cell or one exactly like it for the rest of his life. He might not know much, but he remembered the state he was in didn’t support the death penalty, so this was it forever.
No more blood, no more life, no more joy.
Glancing up at the camera, he turned away from it, sitting with his face pointed towards the corner, his legs pulled up towards his chest. This would be difficult to do without getting caught, but those many sessions of yoga would finally pay off, as would his meticulous dental care.
It took a while of nuzzling and digging, but he finally found it and clamped down hard with his incisors, sawing back and forth at the thick leathery texture. On the cameras it would probably look like he was trying to satisfy himself sexually, but by the time they realized what he was actually doing he would be free.
As he felt it start to sever between his teeth, he heard the door open behind him, but they were too late. Once he was free they wouldn’t be able to stop him, not this time. The rushing of feet sounded and he gave a last, final wrench –
And was loose.
The blood from the severed femoral artery in his thigh sprayed hard against the white padding, and he pushed his face into it, savouring the last time, drinking deeply just before hands grabbed him and pushed his face into the ground. But they were too late; the scene was already fading before him.
The last thing he saw was his own blood congealing on his eyeballs, and he licked his lips, savouring the taste for the final time….
Copyright © Luke Romyn 2011
Vain gazed through the crowd. He knew the little drunk hid in Mason’s somewhere and he needed the information he could provide. He also knew the man wouldn’t want to be found and that would be why he loitered in such a public place. He would expect Vain to avoid Mason’s because of the amount of people gathered here; he knew the Dark Man’s abhorrence of crowds.
What he did not know was that the Dark Man would go to any lengths to get what he needed, and right now he needed to find the man known on the street as Squirrel.
Vain found Squirrel in a darkened corner booth nuzzling up to a toothless prostitute who looked like she’d recently devoured an entire buffalo. Either he nuzzled up to her or she was simply so enormously fat that he had to squash his face into her ample bosom to avoid being dumped onto the floor. Vain approached them, smoothly gliding through the crowd. Squirrel looked up and very nearly swallowed his tongue at the shock of seeing the assassin standing before him.
“Leave us,” commanded the Dark Man without even looking at the hooker.
“Why should I, cutie? The three of us could have a great party together.”
“If you don’t leave now, you fat slut,” whispered Vain venomously, “I’ll cut off those lumps of lard you call tits and feed them to you raw.”
Her look of enticement turned swiftly to one of terror, glimpsing the fury within the Dark Man’s eyes. She almost tore the diminutive figure of Squirrel apart in her haste to escape. Vain calmly took the seat she had so agreeably vacated and sat in silence, pinning the fretting young drunkard with a withering glare.
“Well, um, ah, sir. What brings you to this part of the neighborhood?” Squirrel asked nervously.
“You do,” said Vain simply. This increased the sweat popping from the rapidly sobering Squirrel’s temple.
“Ah, me, um, ah. What can I do for you today?” Squirrel was clearly uncomfortable in the Dark Man’s presence, but the scrawny little man would never find the balls to refuse him, Vain thought contemptuously. Something about the Vain made normally brave men think of mortality. Men who weren’t so brave, like Squirrel, turned to water at the mere sight of him.
“Why are you trying to hide from me, little man?”
“Hide? Me? From you? No, um, no sir. I’m simply laying low after your most recent exploits–I mean your last job,” he corrected hastily.
“You call this laying low? And why would you need to lay low after a job of mine?” inquired Vain quietly, casually scanning the room for anyone who might be watching them. No eyes met his.
“Well, sir, some people might think I knew something and come after me for information,” said Squirrel.
“You know nothing of my actions, or me, so don’t try to bullshit me with those stories. Save them for your drunken friends. Why did you try to hide from me? Or should we dispose of the Squirrel’s nuts?” Vain pressed a short bladed knife against the squirming man’s testicles, pricking the skin through the cloth of his pants.
“No! God no!” squealed the little man. “Dante has been contracted for you! He’s been paid to collect your head, and has sworn to kill anyone associated with you. That’s why I’m hiding. I swear it,” he finished huskily.
Vain drew back the knife, and considered Squirrel’s words. Dante’s exploits were well known as both effective and painful, almost as notorious as his own. Unlike the Dark Man, however, he reveled in his kills and enjoyed the notoriety his position entailed. Everyone from the lowest drug dealer to the Mayor of New York knew who he was, but no one had ever been able to touch him. The man had an almost sixth sense for traps and danger of any kind. Thus, even though elite task forces and assassins had been deployed to entrap him, he always escaped, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.
“Dante is hunting me?” Squirrel nervously nodded and the Dark Man chuckled hollowly. “How unfortunate for him. Has he come to see you yet?”
Again Squirrel nodded, “But I told him nothing, I swear.”
“Of course not. Like I said, you know nothing about me anyway. However, you must have given him something for you to have enough money to entertain Big Bertha there. What did you tell him?” asked Vain.
“Nothing, I promise you sir,” Squirrel began, but at a dark look from Vain he flushed. “I might have said you were looking into the Marcello contract, but that’s all, I swear on my pecker.”
“You must know more than even I give you credit for Squirrel. Only a select few have even heard of the Marcello contract, let alone know who’s been contacted for it.” Vain offered no hint of emotion. “However, for your own sake, I’d try to keep that sort of thing to yourself from now on. Don’t you think?” He punctuated the last comment with a sharp jab from the knife still in his hand. Not enough to wound the man, just enough to make his point. Squirrel swallowed heavily.
Without another word, Vain rose from the booth and started towards the exit.
“Wait sir, one more thing before you go.”
Not turning, the Dark Man grunted, “What is it?”
“It’s said that Dante is staying at the Royal Hotel. Possibly on the sixth or seventh floor, in case you were wondering.”
“I might just pay him a visit,” whispered Vain maliciously, striding out into the night.
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