Now this will likely be a long-term rant, of which this post will probably be part one of many. I will tell you now, in the pursuit of full disclosure:
I write genre fiction.
If that statement makes the elitist stick in your arsehole move slightly more north than makes you entirely comfortable, I think we can both agree that this blog is not for you.
I’m going to quote one of my favourite writers now, Ursula Le Guin:
To think that realistic fiction is by definition superior to imaginative fiction is to think imitation is superior to invention.
You’ll find I quote her a lot because she has a lot to say on the subject and is just generally amazing. As one of my heroes of genre fiction, Le Guin proves that just because something isn’t real that doesn’t mean it’s not plausible. She makes a big point about the idea of plausibility in imaginative fiction, with which I wholeheartedly agree.
When I write my imaginative world I’m not completely rejecting the idea of realism. I’m simply rejecting this reality, here and now, and failing to see it as the boundaries of worthwhile literature. I see that it’s important to live in the real world (as much as I despised that idea as a child), the same way I believe the alphabet is important, as the essential base elements of creating something altogether different.
And here lies the rub, Madame or Monsieur Stick-butt (if you’re still persevering through to the bitter end): all fiction is made up, be it genre or literary. Imagination is the key to all fiction.
I have issue with the idea that literary fiction is “serious” fiction because it prefers to dwell on characters staring at their own bellybuttons rather than any semblance of plot. There’s a snobbery involved in the idea that a novel has to stylishly forgo such plebeian nonsense as plot or narrative in order to be “writerly”. It’s like the modern artist who forgoes canvas altogether and splashes paint upon their own naked flesh. It’s interesting, makes a point that is certainly worthwhile, but I wouldn’t then make the logical leap that anyone who still deigns to use canvas is therefore less artistic or lacking in value.
I find it interesting to note that the Wikipedia article on literary fiction has a disclaimer: “This article has multiple issues.”
In my opinion the slippery term “literary fiction” does little as a helpful description of what is, undeniably, a genre in its own right. Perhaps if we got rid of it altogether it might help to finally be rid of the schism in literature that patronises genre fiction as unserious, unworthy and unliterary.
Bollocks to that.