As an avid science-fiction reader, nobody was surprised that my short-stories followed my interests and I came to identify as a science-fiction writer. I don’t like gore, bloodshed or horror. If a movie looks like it might be down that road, I ask my (adult)daughters if they think it will be too much for me. So when I found myself writing horror, and doing it well, I was very surprised. Even now I still wonder how I can be okay writing it but not watching or reading it.
Then there’s fantasy, a genre where you need to be oh-so-careful that readers know the limitations of magic and superpowers or there is no tension in the narrative. And it can get so derivative, reusing existing blocks to build cliché plots, but when it is done well, it can be brilliant. I’m yet to get more then my ankles wet in this genre, but looking forward to it.
Then there are all the qualitative genre’s like romance, detective, mystery, thriller and so on. I ignore these and let the story tell itself so others can sort it into boxes later.
But to know what genre is for, you have to step back and ask what is writing for? For me, writing is about putting humans in situations that push them to expose what human nature is really made of. While you can do that in a modern urban situation, pushing things beyond extremes is easier to do in science-fiction or fantasy, where some of the rules restricting possible scenarios are broken.
So while Ghost of Newsangtown(not yet released) is able to use the urban environment to explore the impact of sugar-coating death for our children, I needed the far future to really push the gap between the rich and the poor for Asteroid Tours(not yet released). Genre is a tool that enables me to explore and communicate ideas that fascinate me, it is not a pallet of colors or a soundtrack to make a story more enticing.