Genre War is Over

Friday May 08, 2009 @ 10:59 AM (UTC)

You know that genre war? You know, the one I’ve been fighting ever since the day a high school English teacher said the words “Science fiction isn’t literature” to me?

It’s over. Ursula LeGuin has encapsulated the entire thing in this little essay and won it at a stroke. She even uses the same examples that have occasioned many of my struggles over the years. It is not so much that the essay contains new arguments as that it is concise, clear and authoritative. It says everything one wants to say, and more cogently than this weary combatant, at least, can muster in the face of battle.

I’m sure the mopping-up action will persist, and perhaps I’ll still be having the same tiresome arguments for the rest of my life. But now I can send this link to people — heck, it’s reusable with attribution, so perhaps I should print it up and carry it around with me — the weight of it is lifted. Thank goodness for Ursula K. LeGuin.


Hey, Felicity—

I’m coming over to your side. Read my latest posting, “Where’s the Heart?” on my blog.

Thea —

I read your post — good on ya! I used to describe the genre/‘literary’ divide as a wall, and the process of working against it as trying to chisel out one of the bricks. Using that metaphor, it’s good for folks to be working from both sides.

Sometimes I’m not sure about that though, because it seems like it’s not enough for works to blur genre boundaries — attitudes need to change. When I listen to an interview about The Yiddish Policemen’s Union where the interviewer apologizes for using the word ‘genre’ with regards to the work and its influences — a work that drips hard-boiled and won the Nebula AND the Hugo — I realize how far we have to go. (For that matter, when the Powell’s “Staff Pick” review for that book calls it "a “what-if” story for adults".)

Anyway, whether or not my wall metaphor is still workable, thanks for picking up a chisel :)

Interesting note: About fourteen years ago, my husband worked in the Astor Place Barnes & Noble (no longer there, I believe) in NYC. At that time, he remembers that books were not shelved by genre. Perhaps the chasm has widened in direct result to the increase in MFA programs (though I love mine).

I’ll be on the watch with my curious chisel.

Thanks, Felicity!

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