This was posted by a friend of mine, and I thought she made some very good points, so I’m sharing it.
In reading and writing, who owes what to whom, I wonder.
Does the author owe it to the reader, to pander to their preconceived ideas and ideals? Or is it the duty of the reader to put those notions aside at the door and open their mind to the text before them? Perhaps both?
In a perfect world, to me, there would be no genre. It’s a sticky thing. It’s a useful tool, somewhat, for knowing what themes and tropes — what tools and building blocks — were used to create the story, but at the same time it can be a detrimental thing as readers may flock to a book thinking it’s something it isn’t, or scorn it for the same reason and all because of which shelf in the store it’s on, or which cute little sticker the library put on the spine.
In some ways, I do think authors owe a little to the reader. I think, for example, that an author should not write a book that has signs of being built on fantasy themes and tropes, then call the short stocky things with beards and axes ‘elves’. Most certainly she could do this. It’s her world and story after all! B’God write your story, not what someone else tells you it ought to be; but, and this is important, make a little concession to the reader by introducing that the short stocky bearded things are elves. It comes down to description. Don’t take for granted that your reader will decide that an elf is short stocky and bearded with an axe penchant. However, if your elves are tall willowy and fae, then you need only say ‘elf’, because you’ve hit the natural assumptions.
The reader, however, owes the author a bit of slack. Tropes, stereotypes, genre conventions, and so forth can only take us so far — we can only combine those in so many ways before we’ve run out of stories, unless we tinker and tamper with them. We need to sometimes have dwarves that love trees, elves who love axes, and dragons who dance ballet. We need redheads with the temperament of Mother Theresa, and blondes who’re super-geniuses. We need sex-crazed Bible-thumpers, and professional companions who’ve taken vows of chastity. (continued on jayeedgecliff.com)