How Genre Fiction Became More Important Than Literary Fiction
The book war is over. The aliens, dragons, and detectives won.
Literature or Genre fiction?
The writers Kazuo Ishiguro and Ursula K. Le Guin are having a highly old-fashioned debate about the distinction between literary and genre fiction. Ishiguro started it, in an interview with The New York Times
about his latest novel The Buried Giant,
when he asked “Will readers follow me into this? Will they understand what I’m trying to do, or will they be prejudiced against the surface elements? Are they going to say this is fantasy?” Le Guin didn’t like the tone of that last remark and fired back, “Well, yes, they probably will. Why not? It appears the author takes the word for an insult.” Now Ishiguro has defended himself, rather meekly, by saying, “I am on the side of the pixies and the dragons.” The whole spectacle is very odd. It sounds like a debate from another era. What writer today would feel any need whatsoever to separate him or herself from fantasy or indeed any other genre? If anything, the forms of genre—science fiction, fantasy, the hardboiled detective story, the murder mystery, horror, vampire, and werewolf stories—have become the natural homes for the most serious literary questions.
Only idiots or snobs ever really thought less of “genre books” of course. There are stupid books and there are smart books. There are well-written books and badly written books. There are fun books and boring books. All of these distinctions are vastly more important than the distinction between the literary and the non-literary. Time has a tendency to demolish old snobberies. Once upon a time, Conan Doyle was embarrassed by the Sherlock Holmes stories; he wanted to be remembered for his serious historical novels. Jim Thompson’s books—considered straight pulp during his lifetime—are obviously as dense and layered and confounding as great literature. Correction: They are great literature. Who really thinks, today, that Stanislaw Lem isn’t a genius, that he’s “just a science fiction writer”?
Rest of the article: http://www.esquire.com/entertainment/books/a33599/genre-fiction-vs-literary-fiction/?fb_ref=Default