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dusted off in read-only


posted 28 Oct 2005, 19:10 by Legolas, Commoner

Thanks for the link, Larry, this is indeed interesting stuff. It's certainly true that "literary" authors are not much more original than "genre" - not necessarily the spec. fic. genre, any genre - authors, but that they merely have other norms and standards to adhere to to fit into their "literature" category. The genre of "literature" takes a special spot in the world of books for the simple reason that it is the only genre to be defined by style and quality of writing, rather than by content or subjects written about. Following that reasoning, there is no reason why some so-called genre books can't be literature, as well, and I indeed think that some are. But humans tend to have a tendency of trying to sort things into categories, and cross-overs that fit into multiple categories or none at all are therefore a bit difficult to sell - unless they are written by reputed literary authors, since writing one critically acclaimed book is generally enough to ensure the next books will be successful as well, even if they are quite different. I don't think it's true that spec. fic. an sich doesn't appeal to the mainstream literary critics or book buyers. After all, there are enough examples among the contemporary "classics" that are partially or entirely speculative fiction. Umberto Eco's "Baudolino", for instance, is partially historical fiction, partially speculative fiction. There are many books that offer the same combination, but that do so from a "genre" angle, and therefore are ignored by literary critics and readers. It may be a slight exaggeration, but I think an author's first - successful - book and the way it is presented to the media define his career. Start out by publishing a critically acclaimed "literary" novel, and you can freely go into speculative fiction later without really losing much standing. But if you start out with a "genre" novel, you can pretty much forget ever getting the attention of the "literary" crowd unless you sell such enormous amounts that they cannot ignore you anymore - but the best way to sell enormous amounts is of course to be a conformist, which a "genre author" who wants to appeal to a literary crowd almost per definition is not. And so it is that, ironically, the "literary" mainstream crowd only ever really hears of the best-selling genre books. Those books are usually rather conformist, which in turn strengthens the aversion against genre "escapism", while the general public remains blissfully ignorant of the existence of non-conformist genre books which, if they only knew about them, they might actually want to read and appreciate. To put it in less abstract terms: if the general public thought of for instance Stanislas Lem and Steven Erikson when SF&F is mentioned, rather than of Star Wars and David Eddings, genre books wouldn't be despised so much. P.S. Contrary to what one might deduce from my post, I actually do appreciate David Eddings' books. Star Wars, not so much. view post


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