Another rant about the place of fantasy/scifi in literature

This snippet from George RR Martin about The Road encapsulates in its essence what I think is so wrong about how some people feel about genre fiction in general:

I think I speak for virtually all fantasy and science-fiction writers that it’s a constant annoyance for anyone who works in these fields, that whenever a great piece of work is produced, you get reviewers saying, ”Oh, this isn’t science fiction, it’s too good.” Most recently, that’s happened with Cormac McCarthy and The Road. Which is definitely a science-fiction book, and yet it’s winning all these prizes and people are saying, ”No, no, it’s science fiction.” Well, it’s literature and it’s science fiction. It’s a breath mint and a candy mint!

There are those who think I’m being defensive simply because I love genre fiction. I would think that would be too shallow a way to look at it. I’m about experiencing anything and everything you love in reading. To anyone who would come to me for advice, I would never ever say don’t try something just because it happens to be categorized in a certain way. Encouraging the sentiment that a particular genre is somehow ‘beneath’ an arbitrary literary bar frankly reflects poorly on the proponent.
Everybody is partial to their genres when reading (and make no mistake, award-winning novels are a genre by itself). So when someone crosses the genre gaps, that’s great. So I’m just amazed at people who’d tell others, “Oh no, that’s not science fiction. That’s bloody McCarthy, so it can’t be considered science fiction because it’s so well written!” Oh please.
I’ve read as much as (if not more) contemporary fiction and prize winning fiction than the next person, and here’s what I’ve learnt:
The one and only thing that separates the wheat from the chaff in literature is the author, regardless of the subject matter.
Go on. Come and tell me I’m wrong.


2 Comments

  1. Being a fantasy fan, those sorta comments annoy me a lot as well. I’ve read a lot of fantasy novels that are WAAAAY more imaginative, original, AND intellectual than most so-called ‘works of literature’.

  2. direstraits

    Thanks for your feedback, eyeris, and I certainly agree with you.
    What fantasy works do you like?
    Nice website you’ve got there, btw! 🙂
    ds

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *