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The site currently has a tag. I'm not quite sure what its purpose is.

Do we need this tag, and what should it be used for?

  • It's worth noting that the current convention for "x-literature" tags is that "x" represents a language. – user111 Jul 10 '17 at 15:04
  • Well Movies&TV.SE deliberately does not have a childrens-tv tag or similar. – Chenmunka Aug 18 '17 at 9:34
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Part 1: we should avoid genre tags at all cost.

Tagging should be simple. Whether the Just William stories should be classified under children's literature is a fascinating and multifaceted question for the main site. But we shouldn't have to get into complex literary debates to decide whether questions about Just William or Harry Potter or whatever have you should be tagged with a tag like . Tagging should be simple, genre tags are anything but.

There's also the fact that we already have a lot of tags. Questions are tagged with title tags, author tags, and language tags. Adding a genre tag puts us perilously close to the five tag limit. If we add genre tags, we should remove title tags.

(It's come to my attention that the previous consensus is also in favor of avoiding genre tags).

Part 2: for questions about a specific genre, we should have a generic tag

If there's a question about the Science Fiction genre, or about the Children's Literature genre, then they should be tagged with , not or . The reason for this is simple. Consider the question "Should the Wheel of Time series be classified as Science Fiction or Fantasy?" If we had a and a tag, the logical decision would be to tag that question with both tags. Since the question would presumably have an author and title tag as well, we would be approaching four tags. Which isn't that bad for that question, but I could imagine questions that compare three or four different genres causing problems. Using just a tag seems a lot simpler.

Part 3: Again, for questions about a specific genre, we should have a generic genre tag

But what if someone has a question about a genre, not about a book in a genre or classifying a book into a genre... What if I wanted to know about a trope within a certain genre? Does it still make sense to use the generic "genre" tag?

I gave a practical reason in part 2. Here's the equally practical but more literary reason.

The reasoning underlying all of my objections to genre-based tags is the understanding that genres are not clearly defined, objective categories. Exactly like the concept of literature, the concept of genre is marketing and politics. Some interesting examples of the way marketing and politics create genre:

  1. The genre of solarpunk was created before there were any stories to label as solarpunk (thank you BESW for telling me about Solarpunk). Which was the point: creating the genre of solarpunk, and writing the equivalent of a mission statement describing why solarpunk was necessary, inspired people to start creating solarpunk books.

  2. Harry Potter was originally marketed as children's literature. That changed in part because adults also enjoyed reading Harry Potter, and the adults didn't like having something they enjoyed being labeled as for children.

Genre is fluid. Genre is constantly making exceptions to any definition you give it. Genre is the exact opposite of what a tag is supposed to be--an easily definable concept.

I'm not sure how a question about a trope should be tagged. First of all, I'm not even sure if we should encourage questions about tropes; it might not be the best concept for studying literature. But I do know that individual genres are not objectively definable, and therefore I would question the notion that a genre can be objectively associated with a trope.

Part 4: What is a genre?

To be fair, I don't really have a clear definition of what a "genre" is. But it seems odd to me to have a genre defined purely in terms of the target audience, rather than in terms of what the stories are actually about.

We don't necessarily need to agree on an exact definition of genre. But when we see a category of books defined by marketing and politics, that's a good sign that we're talking about genre.

If I had to give a specific definition of genre, I would give a definition along the lines of the one BESW gave in a comment to this answer:

Functionally speaking, genre is usually shorthand for "people who like X will also like Y." It's most often applied by marketers and distributors, rather than authors or analysts, in order to funnel likely audiences toward the work. Genre labels also are not exclusive; you can (and should) have a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery.

  • But what if someone has a question about a genre, not about a book in a genre or classifying a book into a genre... What if I wanted to know about a trope within a certain genre? Does it still make sense to use the generic "genre" tag? – Catija Jul 10 '17 at 23:18
  • Questions like your Wheel of Time example have (unfortunately, IMO) been deemed off-topic. – Rand al'Thor Jul 10 '17 at 23:42
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    Is "children's literature" really a genre though? Things like science fiction, romance, steampunk - these are genres. But children's literature seems to describe an audience more than a genre. I'd say that it's orthogonal rather than parallel: children's books can be sci-fi or mystery or whatever, just as adult books can. – Rand al'Thor Jul 10 '17 at 23:43
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    @Randal'Thor Functionally speaking, genre is usually shorthand for "people who like X will also like Y." It's most often applied by marketers and distributors, rather than authors or analysts, in order to funnel likely audiences toward the work. Genre labels also are not exclusive; you can (and should) have a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery. – BESW Jul 11 '17 at 0:10
  • @Randal'Thor huh, I can't believe I voted to close that question about the Dragonriders of Perne. Well, everyone makes mistakes. I think if genre-categorization questions were asked now, they would be deemed off-topic. It's probably worth another shot (maybe not with that exact question, since it was also downvoted). – user111 Jul 11 '17 at 0:12
  • @Catija I addressed your comment in a modified version of my answer. (Spoiler: no). – user111 Jul 11 '17 at 2:35
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Per Stack Exchange policy, the rules for tag burniation are:

  1. Does it describe the contents of the questions to which it is applied? and is it unambiguous? Basically, we shouldn't have "Meta tags." This tag only unambiguously describes the content if the question is about children's literature as a genre, and if we consider children's literature a real genre. Those failing, I'm not convinced that this is an actual topic.
  2. Is the concept described even on-topic for the site? Yes, technically it is.
  3. Does the tag add any meaningful information to the post? Unless you're asking about children's literature as a genre and you consider children's literature a real genre, then no. If you're applying this tag to a book, you should probably be using a more specific tag. For example, if you're asking about the The Magician's Nephew, tags like [science-fiction], (arguably) [religion], [c-s-lewis], and [chronicles-of-narnia] are actual topics, but [childrens-literature] doesn't add anything.
  4. Does it mean the same thing in all common contexts? Debatable - is there even an accepted definition of what constitutes "children's literature"?

That being the case, I think that burniation would be appropriate here.

I suppose other questions we could ask are:

  • Are people likely to search on that? Would you ever want to find questions specifically based on the fact that they're about children's literature? (I wouldn't, but that's just me - maybe someone else would).
  • Can you be an expert on the topic? (Debatable - it's such a broad category of genres that I don't see how you could actually be an expert in that as a topic).
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    I did act slightly unilaterally and remove the childrens-literature tag. My reasoning was essentially that it was a change that effected one question, that this question hadn't gotten a lot of attention, and that if people disagreed the change would be easy to reverse. But anyway, the reasoning in this answer is sound, thank you for writing this up. And let's be sure to save this answer for future questions. – user111 Aug 3 '17 at 0:51

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