I am somewhat bemused by the way ‘literature’ is so often assumed to be a superior form of writing, above any form of genre fiction and, particularly, science fiction (‘ptooey’). Authors known for ‘literature’ are, apparently, more talented, competent and intelligent than ‘sci fi’ authors, who by definition are hacks, talentless and ignorant of basic writing skills and higher human truths.
It’s a funny attitude: I’d argue that the best science fiction (‘ptooey’) is easily as well-written as ‘literature’, with as much character depth and quality of styling as the material upheld by the literati. In the mid-twentieth century, before sci-fi was socially cool for the majority, Robert A. Heinlein’s writing was arguably as good as Steinbeck’s when it came to stylistic competence, social message, characterisation and plot, among other things. As always, the sci-fi setting was merely backdrop to a human story which, naturally, had to be drawn in careful and compelling ways that would appeal to readers while at the same time delivering a message.
None of this has ever been acknowledged by the beneficiaries of the ‘literature exclusively defines quality and status’ school. Never mind that ‘literature’ sells in quantities which are a tiny fraction of the figures achieved by science fiction. Never mind the fact that the audience for ‘literature’ is tiny ; whereas these days science fiction brings enjoyment to wide swathes of everyday society.
No, literature is apparently the better form, it would seem, defining the superiority of those who read and write it. Apparently those who write ‘literature’ are so superior as moral and intellectual beings that anybody who disputes their status is – by definition – wrong, thus proving that those who write (‘ptooey‘) science fiction are socially and intellectually incompetent.
I find all this hilarious, of course. I was actually trained in writing literary fiction, formally (at a polytech, before university). So I do know what constitutes such material. Oddly, I usually write non-fiction, because I was trained in that too, and opportunities arose where I could publish. I mention this because it turns out that the only way the literati and their academic apologists take other writers credibly is if that writer steps forward with their own genitalia publicly clamped in one hand and declares themselves an ‘and poet’ in addition to all their other self-assigned labels, pouring forth their ‘feels’ about the latest academic/literati in-crowd social angst. This then becomes a label. You know: ‘Associate Professor of English, Intellectual Onanist and Poet’, ‘Associate Professor of English, Pretentious Cultural Appropriator and Poet‘ and so on.
Apparently the only way for ‘and poets’ to recognise the worth of other writers, personally and otherwise, is if the other writer plays that particular game and, naturally, steers well clear of science fiction (‘ptooey‘). That’s why I gave a science fiction story I wrote the tagline ‘Hot lesbian science chicks take drugs to defeat the alien slime monster’. It just seemed better that way. And, oddly, it was also a fair description of the tale.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2019