Tag Archives: genre

Bad Fantasy: the boils on the arse of genre fiction

Let’s face it, we’ve all read some truly atrocious fantasy novels.  For some people that may be the reason they don’t read the genre as a whole, for which I can hardly blame them.

Neither do I!

To be completely honest: I’ve stopped reading generic High Fantasy novels.  I just can’t take it anymore.  Not only is it generally a reworking of old trite nonsense which is quite painful to read, it also makes me angry.  I get angry that this junk gets published when I know I write better, I get angry that people buy these books (thus propagating the myth that these books are desirable works of fiction) and I get angry that writers write them.

How dare they!

The fantasy genre is snubbed enough in literary circles without these idiots bulking up the shelves with their drivel.  In my creative writing module at university my professor, the author John Burnside, at one point announced something like: “I hope none of you are writing fantasy or any such thing!”  At which point I felt obliged to point out that, yes, I do write fantasy and have done so since my first random, meandering stories as a child.  The whole classroom, of only 15 people or so, suddenly became a little more awkward.

I remember trying very hard during his class to not write fantasy for my assignments; despite my confident assertion he had struck a chord which continued to reverberate throughout the semester.  It was only for my dissertation the following year that I submitted a work of fantasy, a single chapter in what would later become Exodus.  Burnside wrote the comment: “I wonder what she will make of the real world” when he marked it.  I still got an 18/20, though.

So here’s my challenge to any other writers of fantasy, or any much-maligned type of genre fiction: write the best goddamned novels ever to be read by human eyes.

We’ll show those bastards.

On writing GENRE (gaspshockhorror)

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.”

I’d say.

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.