Books: The Other Side Of The Fence Dept.


It's time the major literary awards stopped being a gated community (io9, by way of Salon)

The traditional objections to genre fiction - that it is formulaic, psychologically inauthentic and indifferently executed - are not without merit, but then neither are the genre fans' familiar retorts that literary fiction is self-indulgent, feebly plotted, overwritten and dull.

Yes, I normally wince at most anything io9 puts out, but this was worth chomping out and discussing. (That and it's a link from elsewhere.)

Right there is the same thing I've been saying here in one form or another for a while now: SF&F and mainstream/literary fiction have a lot to teach each other, and it's often not the things most people assume. I find much literary fiction can be "formulaic, psychologically inauthentic and indifferently executed", and SF&F can be just as "self-indulgent, feebly plotted, overwritten and dull" as the competition. Neither one has a monopoly on wretched excess or mingy middle-mindedness.

The hard part seems to be getting critics of one field to take the other more seriously, as the article goes on to note. Most mainstream literary critics aren't trained to pick up on when SF&F leaps out of its box and becomes something a little mroe ambitious, just as they're not terribly clued-in on when mainstream lit tries to spin in SF&F tropes without actually thinking through the full implications of their inclusion.

So what will it take? New critical standards, at the very least — something that won't happen until the current crop of mainstream lit-critics stop flipping their noses up at everything that doesn't have a book award ribbon on the cover. It takes at least a generation and a half for that kind of turnover. In short, no holding your breath.


Tags: Science Fiction Repair Shop fantasy publishing science fiction writing


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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the categories Books, Science Fiction Repair Shop, published on 2012/10/12 10:00.

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