Workshop Review: Trends in Major Genres

This morning I attended another workshop sponsored by the Mid-America Library Alliance (MALA), this time at the West Wayandotte branch of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library. The topic of the half-day session was “Trends in Major Genres” and covered everything from Male Urban Fantasy to space operas. From 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., nine different librarians from the Kansas and Missouri area shared brief, 20 minute presentations on specific genres – needless to say, by lunch time, I felt overloaded with information and quite hungry, but I definitely feel it was worth it. In order to avoid a novel-length post, I won’t go into detail about each presentation, but I will share highlights from my favorites.

Up first was Cynthia Dudenhoffer, academic librarian at Central Methodist University, and her presentation on Male Urban Fantasy. Generally set in cities (and thus, “urban”), books in this genre feature often sarcastic, awkward main characters with tragic pasts who become amateur detectives. Cynthia explained that the Urban Fantasy genre is dominated by female authors, and thus female characters, but noted that male authors and leads have become increasingly popular too. Most notable in the field is Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files, which, though more modern and action oriented, espouses some of the classic motifs found in the writing of older predecessors like Fritz Leiber and Brian Lumley. Others Cynthia noted were Mike Carey’s Felix Castor series, Simon R. Green’s Novels of the Nightside series, and Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles.

Another enjoyable presentation was Assistant Branch Manager at Mid Continent Public Library, Anna Huckeby’s presentation on “Returning Heroes in Romance.” She started by explaining that, since she personally began reading Romance 20 years ago, the genre has come full circle in that the war hero motif has become popular once again. Romances typically involve two or more people in a relationship that usually go through some kind of test that strengthens it. There’s the alpha males, who have trouble expressing themselves, but do have a softer side – Anna compared them to gummi bears – and the strong, supportive women. She referenced the wars that have been taking place since the beginning of the new millennium, which have popularized the returning war hero in Romance novels once again – war is romantic, after all. Lori Foster‘s Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor series, Maya Bank’s KGI novels, and Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series were a few that Anna shared.

Other memorable presentations were Brandi Blankenship’s fun Zombie Lit talk and Louisa Whitfield-Smith’s exploration of High Fantasy. Brandi, another representative from Mid Continent, prepared us for the coming zombie apocalypse by introducing different types of the walking dead – voodoo zombies, slow zombies, little zombie girls, etc. – and shared a couple of zombie apocalypse preparation tools like Max Brook’s The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead. Louisa, from the Johnson County Public Libraries, began her presentation by sharing about how she’s recently been trying to re-spark a youthful interest in the Fantasy genre as an adult. She took us through some of the classics, like the Homer’s Iliad and Tolkien’s ever famous Lord of the Rings, and then introduced us to more modern Fantasy titles, like George R.R. Martin’s popular Song of Ice and Fire series and Brandon Sanderson’s standalone, Warbreaker.

Overall, each of the morning’s presentations provided attendees with a treasure trove of resources and titles that will help us in becoming more familiar with some of the major genres and helping our patrons find books they’re interested in. I even came away with a few titles that I’ll be adding to my own to-read list!

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