Cup of Dcaf: The Other Side of the Coin

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My last post was a big rant about the lack of respect given to genre fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy. I stand by what I wrote in that post: genre fiction can absolutely have literary value.

But over the last couple of days,  I’ve given more thought to the issue, mostly in the context of academia. I was a creative writing major; I dealt with the stigma of genre fiction during my years of writing workshops and literature courses. I chafed against those strictures, pushing the lines whenever I could, because I love science fiction and fantasy. I love the things that those genres can do.

But I can honestly say that I would not be the writer I am today without the boundaries placed on me in my advanced writing workshops. Continue reading

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Cup of Dcaf: Literary vs. Genre Fiction

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Whoo boy. This is going to be a bit of a rant.

Now, as anyone who follows this blog knows, I write a wide range of genres. I write a lot of epic fantasy, of course; I also dabble in horror and science fiction. And I write a lot of shorter literary fiction. It’s sort of the foundation of my writing.

Where to start? I just found myself in a discussion with a very rigid gentleman. He was of the opinion that all genre fiction is not literature.

Needless to say, I disagreed. The idea that all fiction of a certain genre—and literary fiction is a genre—is inherently superior to all other writing is a joke.

I don’t curse on this blog, but I really want to right now.

This idea that so-called “literary” fiction is somehow better than any fantasy, sci-fi, horror, mystery, romance, historical fiction, or what have you, is unfounded and willfully ignorant. Genre fiction is a veritable treasure trove of think-pieces and artistic talent. Is there a lot of crap out there? Yes. We have our Twilights and our 50 Shades of Greys; we also have the Odyssey and Lord of the Rings and Ender’s Game and Foundation. All of these things have merit; all of these things have things to say.

Any fool who thinks that a book is trash because it features magic or spaceships is limiting his experience with the written word. Genres allow writers to explore themes, criticize norms, and comment on anything at all—and they allow a freer rein of these exercises than literary fiction ever could.

Genre allows imagination to flow. It lets marginalized voices have a say. It lets men and women express themselves and their joys, their frustrations, with contemporary culture in a way that isn’t heavy-handed and blunt. Genres allow storytelling and criticism to go hand-in-hand, weaving a subtle tapestry that not only entertains, but also teaches.

Now, literary fiction absolutely has merit as well. It merely addresses things in different ways. Some of my favorite short stories are “literary”. I wouldn’t write in that genre if I didn’t think it was worthwhile.

And, since I won’t curse, myself, I will just let the estimable Patrick Rothfuss say some more on the subject. Some light profanity is present in this video. A student was told she couldn’t write a paper on one of his books because it was fantasy, so she had him record a reply.