Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Genre fiction can still be literature. Honest.

As I stated in my post a few weeks ago, sci-fi and fantasy - and practically all of their sub-genres - are my cup of tea when it comes to books I love.  I make no bones about it.  When you ask me what I'm reading, 95% of the time it will be something within this realm of literature.  However, as we all know, genre fiction is often looked down upon by academics.  It's considered "low-brow" and unsophisticated; inappropriate for an educated person to be caught reading.  Of course, as a well-educated woman who gobbles up the stuff, I have to politely disagree.

However, I do agree with what Laura Ann Gilman said this on the other day:

"... in my experience, urban fantasy—more to the point, modern fantasy—is at its heart not about the fantastic, but the everyday: the intensity of the real world drawn in the most vibrant colors possible, so that what was mundane and ordinary takes on a new depth and meaning."
To me, taking mundane things in our everyday lives and making them new and exciting is what makes fantasy so fun.  So, okay, you have an adventure set in some alternate medieval period, with talking cats and ghosts.  I get it, some people can't suspend their disbelief that far.  But what's the story really about?  It's really about a young woman making her way in the world, falling in love, and finding her destiny.   (Note: I just finished reading The Poison Throne and The Crowded Shadows, the first two books in the Moorehawk trilogy by Celine Kiernan, and they're fantastic.  Highly recommended.)  There are swords and crossbows, court politics and adventure, but the fundamental story is not about the action, it's about the journey and the relationships that are developed between the characters.

Misty Massey, from Magical Words, had this to say: 

"Some of the genre fiction I’ve read is more well-written and brilliant than any ten literary doorstops, but kept from the eyes of the literati merely because of the genre label."
Genre fiction sells, which means people are reading it.  Considering that one in four American adults failed to read a single book in 2006, shouldn't we consider this to be a good thing?  Shouldn't we celebrate the written word, in whatever form it takes, and encourage people to find the value in it for themselves?  Better yet, why don't we take a closer look at genre fiction to understand the power of escaping the real world through a good story?  Maybe it will even teach the literati a thing or two.

(Side rant: isn't "literary fiction" a genre in it's own right?  Sure seems like one to me.)  

Woo Hoo! 
Word count on the novel: 40,221  !!!

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