The genre fiction ghetto

I came across this review in The Curator for a fantasy book, Cyndere's Midnight. The book is by Jeffrey Overstreet, and the article is by Annie Young Frisbie, titled "On Fantasy Fiction; Or, You Should Read Cyndere's Midnight."

Frisbie (or can I call her Annie? she sounds personable) talks about her history as a closet fantasy fan, her coming out, and now her advocacy for non-fans of the genre to lay aside their snarkiness and give a really good book a try. She declares: "I'm tired of seeing fantasy ghettoized. Genre was made to be transcended."

I'm one of those people who don't...quite...get fantasy. It's just not my thing. I love C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia and the Harry Potter books, and I hear true fantasy fans disparage them as bad examples of the genre, so...I guess I'm just not a fan, although this glowing review might inspire me to give it another chance. Truly, no offense intended; I think I just get tripped up by names I don't know how to pronounce.

Because in any case, I totally understand feeling marginalized for enjoying commercial fiction that's not considered prestigious, in my case romance and mystery novels, and in fact enjoying them so much that I write my own.

When Frisbie (and/or Annie) mocks people who read "to pad your Goodreads feed with Booker nominees in order to impress your Facebook friends," I remember when I signed up for Goodreads at a friend's request and then feeling twinges of...oh, no, was that embarrassment?...when I listed recent books I'd truly enjoyed but were nothing like what my other friends were sharing with the world.

I didn't and don't want to fill this blog with apologetics and justifications and rants about how I feel ashamed or victimized by my preferences. I know other people just like me are out there, in large numbers, and I choose not to dwell on the naysayers' snootiness.

But I don't mind bringing it up once in awhile, just to discuss the phenomenon of creating a divide between "literary" and "commercial" fiction. (Isn't that a funny distinction all in itself? Literary meaning it's like literature, and commercial meaning it sells -- shouldn't both strive to be both? Kind of reminds me of "Republican" and "Democrat" -- shouldn't all Americans embrace the basics of both those words?)

I've been skulking agent blogs and writer forums whenever I need a break from revising my WIP (work in progress to those who don't skulk -- I've discovered all new terminology from all this procrastinating), and I found this uplifting A from a Q & A by the Evil Editor:
Authors don't get to declare what kind of prose they write. ... That's a job for critics, agents, and the people who make up the lies that go on the backs of books. Apparently you're unhappy with calling your book literary fiction. Don't be. Literary doesn't mean it's literature; it just means it's boring. My advice: add some sharks and a wolfman, and call it commercial fiction.

That made me laugh. I love that we have professional advocates out there to override any sneering voices.

I'll end with a great quote from Annie (I'm going for it -- I just read her bio and she loves LLL and cloth diapers [just like me, swoon]. Seriously, read her article; it's great, and here's a similar blog post she wrote):

Don’t let signs at Barnes and Noble or tags on Amazon.com tell you what kind of books you like to read. You’ll miss out on countless worlds of beauty.

Enjoy novels that tell a story! Enjoy characters you'd want to be friends with! Enjoy an adventure you'd like to go on! Embrace your chosen genre, and be happy.

Image courtesy of Julia Freeman-Woolpert from stock.xchng


Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...