Here is a pet-peeve of mine: Genre fiction still treated as a trash-pile with only an occasional winner

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Summary: Genre Fiction is still considered as something that only fringe elements might like, despite years of proof to the contrary. Or, at least, proof that the alternative is not always so swell.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

(02:47:36 CST)

Here is a pet-peeve of mine: Genre fiction still treated as a trash-pile with only an occasional winner

If you like science fiction, then you have heard it all before, and probably many times:

  • "This movie (or book) elevates itself from its genre status..."
  • or, "Unable to elevate itself from genre..."
  • "You forget that you are dealing with science fiction, here, and start looking at the story..."
  • "You do not have to be a geek to enjoy..."
  • "Despite being science fiction..."
  • "This involves not-real things, it surely is for children..."

Still, today, I keep hearing these things. Years after Ellison, Bradbury, Dick, Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, Matheson, Tenn, Campbell, Vonnegut, Pohl, Ballard, and scores of others taught us that science fiction is a medium and not a restriction when it comes to telling stories about human nature and telling them well. Not only is it not some quagmire that needs to be escaped: by not being free of social weights and a need to be post-modern and clever, it can actually go further than some pop/mainstream-lit choices. These pop-lit novels being continuously about rebellious children of dysfunctional families who learn to love another after some big tragedy and the prodigal child returns. The Little Mermaid has been written, mainstream and/or pop-lit, we can let it go. Science fiction writers like Stross and Doctorow and, including more specualitve and horror and fantasy bends, Gaiman and Barker are still asking questions about the human condition that other genres cannot because you cannot work in a good tragedy when the worst that can happen is death. Shakespeare has well-trod that ground. Speculative fiction allows us to go beyond it.

And yes, genre fiction is full of escapism and wish fulfillment fantasy and all that, but it is not the only culprit in the room. Think of the scores of pop-lit novels with successful women who are little more than substitutes for the failure of the masculine, or full of coincidences about finding true love just when you thought you should give up. Not that I have anything against pop-lit. I am only ragging on it because I am tired of fake metrics that claim that pop-lit gets a starting score of 80% and genre fiction starts with 30% and anything above 60% is passing. 90% of everything is crud. That was true when Theodore Sturgeon wrote it in the 50s and it is true now. We celebrate, in some ways, the failures of genre fiction more spectacular, while bad pop-lit merely fades away; but this is not anything like proof. This is merely proof that we think of spec-fic as inherently bad and childish and lit-fic as inherently adult and mind-expanding.

And don't even get me started on the crap people say about horror...

Si Vales, Valeo


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