[Note: Continued from Part 1.]
Recent events and discussions once again bring the topic of genre fiction’s mainstream respectability to the forefront. So we thought it’d be timely to ask this week’s panelists:
Q: In your opinion, does literary science fiction and fantasy have mainstream respect? Why, if at all, does it need mainstream approval? What would such approval mean for genre fiction?
Read on to see their eye-opening responses…
is a writer who lives in Vancouver. The Best of Lucius Shepard
, a career retrospective, is now available from Subterranean Press, and next year will see the publication of a new as yet untitled novel.
I don’t believe mainstream approval would or will do much for genre fiction. It appears to do quite well in the marketplace as things stand, and lumping it together with the mainstream might, heaven forfend, see a decline in the sale of fantasy trilogies. There are authors-Tom Disch springs to mind-who have/had literary aspirations that such approval might have helped, at least as far as gaining them the respect of the literary establishment, but would it have sold more of their books? Perhaps, but who can say?
Does genre fiction have mainstream respect? Not so much, but it’s gaining respect, I think, in certain quarters thanks to folks like Junot Diaz and Michael Chabon. The previous generation of American writers didn’t like to admit they were nerds and geeks ; they were still trapped in antiquated self-images, considering themselves junior Hemmingways and Woolfs, and were threatened by anything that might erode those images; but the fact that both Diaz and Chabon seem to embrace their inner geek has prompted a number of their peers to come out of the closet and admit what an influence Steven King, say, had on their writerly lives and, in several cases, to write genre novels. Yet there are instances today where a writer has felt he had to escape the genre. Take Jonathan Lethem, for example. I feel you can’t generalize intelligently about this topic-it’s such an individual matter. For instance, not all writers are capable of being the self-promoters that Lethem was/is (and I mean this in the most positive sense.) Tom Disch, for sure, wasn’t capable of it. Though he could be charming, his personality was far too prickly for mass consumption.
My own attitude is this. I enjoy writing. I’m fortunate enough to have made a living at it for 25 years. I don’t write to be respected-I write to tell stories I find interesting, to communicate a mood, to resolve inner turmoil, and for a variety of personal reasons, not least among them being that I suck at holding down a steady job. Mainstream respect for what I write would be nice, but I simply haven’t cared about it enough to do doggie tricks. It’s no big deal one way or another.