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Friday, February 3, 2012

Are we trying too hard?

[This the third in what's turned into a bit of series of articles that I've written about genre and genre commentary. Again, it's written with a bent toward spurring discussion, not attacking anyone.]

Kitschies Award poster.
The Kitschies, a series of genre awards put together by the Pornokitsch blog and Kraken Rum, will announce their winners later today at the SFX Weekender.  According to their mission statement, they want to elevate the tone of genre literature -- a nebulous but worthy goal.  When I saw the shortlist for best novel, which coincided with the publishing of Liz Bourke's review of Michael J. Sullivan's Theft of Swords and Damien G. Walter's post called 7 literary Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels you must read, I wondered to myself, elevating the tone at what cost?

When I first started reading fantasy, oh so long ago, I began where most do -- Lloyd Alexander, Terry Brooks, David Eddings, and the like.  I lost myself in a world of imagination that seemed so unlike the space I occupied while reading.  Looking back, I maintain a nostalgic affection for these authors, but no longer consider them among the better things I've read.  These were books whose covers cast me in a certain light, encouraging me to keep them obscured when in public.  As time wore on, I never stopped being self conscious about those covers, even as the quality of what I was reading improved.

In recent years, SFF bloggers (myself included) have tried to convince mainstream readers that the things we read have merit.  Awards like The Kitschies seem created, almost exclusively, to serve this purpose.  It seems as if reviews like the ones written by Bourke are geared towards eradicating a certain type of incredibly popular genre fiction and posts like Walter's almost shame (for lack of a better term) readers into reading those things accepted by the mainstream.  I believe we should demand better writing and better storytelling.  Where we differ, is that I believe in demonstrating value in the things that the mainstream rejects, not only those things they embrace.

When I made my list of best SFF books of 2011, I didn't put Tea Obreht's The Tiger's Wife on the list, even though it was the best book I read last year.  I didn't do it because, in my mind, it isn't genre.  It's got some magic, or supernatural plot devices, but only by happenstance.  It is not a Fantasy novel, rather Obreht wrote a mainstream literary novel with a hint of fantasy.  Looking at The Kitschies list, I see a few of that variety, and even more on Walter's.

I'm not denigrating what The Kitschies and Walter are trying to do.  As I stated in my opening, I think it's a worthy goal.  Among all the noise, there is absolutely a place for it in the discussion.  I simply believe we need to be careful.  I think Bourke illustrates my point.  In her recent review of Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan, she eviscerates both the book, the author, and the publisher for its existence.  It's not so much her critiques of the book, but the tone with which she delivers them.  As though we should be ashamed that we bought it, or read it, or God forbid enjoyed it.

I, for one, refuse to be ashamed for what I read.  The Kitschies, or Walter's post, or Bourke's review, or any of the other host of posts and awards with similar make-up, taken in a vacuum, are a wonderful addition to the wide wonderful world of genre reading and commentary.  In fact, I can't think of many people whose opinions I trust more than the folks at Pornokitsch.  What worries me though, is the growing trend among genre commentators to laude novels that walk and talk like the mainstream at the expense of the rest.  This is akin to the pretty girl taking her best friend to prom and ditching him for the quarterback.  Who exactly are we trying to impress?

Fantasy is about divorcing from reality.  Not to escape, but to shirk the baggage that the real world brings with it.  It frees us to explore themes and ideas unhindered.  I fear that in a misguided attempt at recognition by the mainstream literary community we're ceding that freedom.  I hope I'm wrong.  I also hope that all of individuals I mentioned in this post continue to do the kind of work they're doing, pushing the genre to do better.  I know I'll be doing the same.  My only advice is that while we do it, we don't forget where we come from.

Labels: , ,

44 Comments:

At February 3, 2012 at 8:32 AM , Blogger Scott said...

A very thoughtful post Justin, and I agree with it quite a bit.

I always get into this mode every few weeks where I see the same sort of Intellectual notion (if you will) that to be properly "accepted" a book needs to be Hardcover (or at least large trade softcover), have some obscure (Read: Not Fantasy-looking) art on it, and basically not LOOK like a fantasy book at all. Therefore subverting the moniker of "genre" book at all, in the hopes that it will get recognized by a wider (more mainstream audience). I think Lev Grossman's recent Magician books are a key example. Do you know where they are located in the bookstores in Canada? In the Lit/Fiction section. I have never seen them in the SFF section. This boggles my mind since it is clearly genre. But it doesn't LOOK genre does it? Cover and all. That saddens me.

To me, even the little paperback guys with the lovely, fantastical covers depicting magic, and warriors, thieves and trolls need to shine, and I can't understand why they aren't given that shot.

Was it last year or the year before that Scalzi's OLD MAN'S WAR got TOR's book of the year based on Readership comments and lists? And yet, I rather doubt it would have ended up on a lot of lists simply by the nature of it's "spacey" cover, or it's "pulpy" style.

I agree, let's not forget our roots, while we push for bigger and better.

Great post.

 
At February 3, 2012 at 9:09 AM , Blogger Bryce L. said...

Yes! That's absolutely correct. I don't like mainstream music either and tend to think the things that sell the most are the worst. Last year I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and it just wasn't nearly worth the hype. There's a reason I always go back to fantasy, because it's exactly what I want.

 
At February 3, 2012 at 10:40 AM , Anonymous Martin said...

I can't work out what the purpose of this post is apart from to impute unlikely motives to people you ostensibly agree with.

In recent years, SFF bloggers (myself included) have tried to convince mainstream readers that the things we read have merit. Awards like The Kitschies seem created, almost exclusively, to serve this purpose.

Any actual evidence for this claim? Why not instead assume their purpose is the publicly stated one: "to celebrate the year's most progressive, intelligent and entertaining works - the books that do the science fiction and fantasy community proud."

It seems as if reviews like the ones written by Bourke are geared towards eradicating a certain type of incredibly popular genre fiction

And exactly what certain type of incredibly popular genre fiction is that? And how on Earth could a review eradicate a type of fiction?

and posts like Walter's almost shame (for lack of a better term) readers into reading those things accepted by the mainstream.

I can give you a better word than shame: encourage. Why turn a positive into a negative? And what is wrong with encouraging readers to read things accepted by the mainstream? You say you agree with this so what is the issue?

Where we differ, is that I believe in demonstrating value in the things that the mainstream rejects, not only those things they embrace.

Then you are an idiot. I believe in demonstrating the value of things that have value regardless what they are. The question of who might notionally reject them doesn't come into it. Your next paragraph shows that you rigidly divide things into genre and non-genre fiction. That's your problem, not anyone else's; it doesn't have anything to do with those three. If what you are really saying is that you believe in the demonstrating value in the things within the genre then Pornokitsch, Bourke and Walter clearly all do that. So what's the issue?

It seems to be that your feeling have been hurt. You don't disagree with Bourke's review, you just object to here tone because you enjoyed the book and now you feel bad. Boo hoo. If you aren't ashamed then why not shut up? But no, you've got to bring your baggage: "What worries me though, is the growing trend among genre commentators to laude novels that walk and talk like the mainstream at the expense of the rest. This is akin to the pretty girl taking her best friend to prom and ditching him for the quarterback. Who exactly are we trying to impress?" Your metaphor is nonsensical and aimed at imaginary people.

Scott's comment above is another example of the same. "I see the same sort of Intellectual notion (if you will) that to be properly "accepted" a book needs to be Hardcover (or at least large trade softcover)" Who are the people who think this? They don't exist. "And yet, I rather doubt it would have ended up on a lot of lists simply by the nature of it's "spacey" cover, or it's "pulpy" style." What are these lists? They don't exist.

 
At February 3, 2012 at 10:48 AM , Blogger Justin said...

I think in the case of the Kitschies, you're absolutely right. I think they're trying to do that. I agree with the effort. As I said, I'm not trying to call out anyone individually, other than as examples to what I'm talking about. Each of them is a vital part of the discussion.

What I'm nervous about, or trying to articulate (perhaps unsuccessfully) is an increasingly widespread mentality that distances the commentary from ubergenre(for lack of a better term again) books that are also doing tremendous work.

By trying to make genre more relevant or accepted in literary circles (i.e. - complaining that SFF doesn't make the Booker shortlist), are we losing something on the back end? I have no idea. I'm just trying to ask the question.

 
At February 3, 2012 at 10:56 AM , Blogger Justin said...

Your next paragraph shows that you rigidly divide things into genre and non-genre fiction. That's your problem, not anyone else's; it doesn't have anything to do with those three. If what you are really saying is that you believe in the demonstrating value in the things within the genre then Pornokitsch, Bourke and Walter clearly all do that. So what's the issue?

Actually, what I'm doing is separating "really genre" from "this is kind of got some genre elements, but really it's more literary". Which is possibly an asinine distinction to be making.

Reminds me a bit of the debate in film that movies that win awards are completely divorced from what people watch. When SFF awards reflect winners that genre readers may not be reading, but the more mainstream literary community is, is that a problem?

I have no idea.

 
At February 3, 2012 at 10:59 AM , Blogger Bryce said...

Great post! I started noticing this same thing when I first got on the internet to start looking at book reviews and found forums dedicated to books and authors. Inevitably, there's always a group of people in there that choose to spend their time bashing whatever is mainstream in Fantasy, calling out the dialogue, setting, even the action scenes.

These people seemingly spend all their time reading foreign fantasy novels if they read any fantasy at all, and wax poetic about the wonderful portuguese novel they recently read (though it was written twenty years ago, and is more literary than fantasy) and thumb their noses at most everything that comes out of the big 6 in the US.

These people annoy the hell out of me, and I can't imagine that they're really having any fun reading (which, let's not forget, is an important part of the process, especially in fantasy). In fact, I'd hazard that they're having far LESS fun than me, and that they simply read what they read so that they can continue to flaunt their supposed superiority.

Look, I have no problems with people that read foreign novels, or literary works. None at all. But when they point at my book on the subway and giggle with their hipster friends, and tell me I should really give James Joyce a try, then I have a problem. It's a great big world, and if I want to read Michael J. Sullivan and enjoy myself, I should be able to do that in relative peace....besides, Ulysses is boring.

 
At February 3, 2012 at 11:06 AM , Anonymous Martin said...

As I said, I'm not trying to call out anyone individually, other than as examples to what I'm talking about.

I don't care about whether or not anyone is called out, I care about the fact you are using them as examples. In the case of the Kitschies, you seem to be admitting that your example is false. That isn't a great way to start a discussion. I also still have no idea how Bourke's review of a fantasy novel has anything to do with the mainstream.

What I'm nervous about, or trying to articulate (perhaps unsuccessfully) is an increasingly widespread mentality that distances the commentary from ubergenre(for lack of a better term again) books that are also doing tremendous work.

But what you have singularly failed to show is any evidence. What are the tremendous ubergenre works that are being ignored in favour of non-genre SFF? By what measure is this increasing? From perspective the exact opposite is the case: the internet is awash with praise for ubergenre works (good and bad alike) with very little discussion of literary SFF.

By trying to make genre more relevant or accepted in literary circles (i.e. - complaining that SFF doesn't make the Booker shortlist), are we losing something on the back end?

Well, let's look at that specific example. It is true that some people have complained that SFF doesn't make the Booker shortlist. But are such people trying to change genre fiction? No, of course not. What they are doing is criticising these literary circles for being parochial in their outlook and ignoring the genre.

Can you give any concrete example where the genre has lost anything on the back end?

Actually, what I'm doing is separating "really genre" from "this is kind of got some genre elements, but really it's more literary".

It is up to you to decide whether that is asinine but I do wonder what possible benefit you get out of such a distinction.

When SFF awards reflect winners that genre readers may not be reading, but the more mainstream literary community is, is that a problem?

Which awards? Again, you state something unlikely as a fact without backing it up with any evidence.

 
At February 3, 2012 at 11:24 AM , Blogger Weirdmage said...

"Which awards? Again, you state something unlikely as a fact without backing it up with any evidence."

I can help with that one: The Clarke Award to "The City & the City."
And even while I can agree to disagree that TC&TC is a good book. I'd say that IF you call it SFF, the nonsensical worldbuilding and the "mcguffinesque" changes in the way the "unseeing" works, makes it a shitty SFF novel.

It was hailed for its "literary" qualities, and many said Miéville was robbed of the Booker for that one.

 
At February 3, 2012 at 11:31 AM , Blogger Justin said...

Well shit, I need evidence? If I was making an argument, you're absolutely right. I don't think I am. You're attributing more of a point of view to me than I think the post warrants.

The only statements of fact in the entire post are:

The Kitchies are announcing their winners tonight.
Bourke and Walters made a post.
I read some books when I was younger.
The Tiger's Wife isn't very genre-y.
More genre commentators are lauding literary SFF.

Everything else is seems, or I think. I HOPE I'm just asking the question. The comments in Bourke's post led me to believe there's a gap between ubergenre readers and the more literary ones. I'm trying to see if:

1) Is there a tug and pull here?
2) What's causing it?
3) Is it really anything to worry about?
4) What impacts might it have?
5) Is there anything to do about it?

Your answer is, 'nothing to see here, move along.' And you may be right. I'm not sure others will agree with that. Color me an interested party without a strong viewpoint yet.

 
At February 3, 2012 at 11:41 AM , Blogger Stefan Fergus said...

"very little discussion of literary SFF" - this is patently and provably false. Chabon, Duncan, Coetzee, McCarthy (to name but four) have all written about literary genre fiction, as well as the differences between the two. Some, like Duncan, have declared that genre fiction is trashy and that literary SFF is whoring oneself; on the other hand, Chabon has written extremely positively about genre fiction.

As an aside or slight departure from whatever bee is in Martin's bonnet: consider the fact that many of those aforementioned names, all literary fiction authors, had their greatest success with genre fiction (or, in Chabon's case, genre-related fiction - Kavalier & Clay). What impact does this have on the debate? Does this mean genre helps literary fiction reach a wider audience? Or does it legitimise genre fiction? Personally, I don't think genre needs legitimising, but it's probably true that because of The Road, Kavalier & Clay, I Lucifer and The Last Werewolf, that some of these literary authors were able to attract the attention of a new set of readers. I have no data to back this up, of course, but it's something to ponder and throw into the mix. (As slightly off topic as it is.)

 
At February 3, 2012 at 11:48 AM , Anonymous Martin said...

So, the question of SFF awards with winners that genre readers aren't reading but is read by the more mainstream literary community. Weirdmage puts forward the Clarke award. This (along with the World Fantasy Award) is probably the most literary of the SFF awards. This is unsurprising since it is a juried award. And Weirdmage's example of a winner that genre readers aren't reading but the is read by the more mainstream literary community is The City & The City. Absolutely hilarious. Justin then pretends that he never made such a claim. However, he does point out that the Kitschies were awarded tonight. These were won by a pair of genre novels: A Monster Calls and God's War.

Justin: you've made many more factual claims than that. I have directly challenged you on them but you haven't answered any of the questions I've asked. It is pathetic to pretend you are just an interested but neutral party: it is your post, you have framed the discussion and you are now not prepared to defend your framing.

 
At February 3, 2012 at 11:52 AM , Anonymous Mark Lawrence said...

I enjoyed Ulysses. I also enjoyed Among Thieves and Control Point... I'm happy to point at the open door swinging both ways between those books and I don't feel the need to mock what one set are reading to encourage them to mosey through said door on occasion.

I do find it peculiar that Justin's post and entirely reasonable replies have had him called an idiot so swiftly or why we're pulling 'assinine' out of the scrabble bag in the first salvo...

Clearly a topic that provokes great wrath! Fun to watch though :)

 
At February 3, 2012 at 12:07 PM , Blogger Scott said...

@ Martin. In reference to my comment above about lists. It was likely a bit obtuse, but I was referring to a lot of the Genre specific lists or awards that play with the big boys. Like Scalzi's been up for the Hugo before, but I find that even Hugo and other awards can overlook "genre" to find "literary genre" instead as if it's some sort of contest where they won't let the plebs in to join because their clothes are too shabby.

The Arthur C. Clarke Award is a good example, of one that seems to nominate a lot of the same type of books year in year out and books that are written quite "pulpy" or present as "too genre" seem to be overlooked in favor of the stuff that pushes some sort of boundaries, or crossed some level of weird to make it stand out. Does that mean the paperback urban fantasies ought to be overlooked?

You might be right, that could just be me projecting, but it truly feels that way every time one of these major lists drops and I don't see much on it I recognize, let alone felt was the best I'd read that year, it rankles a bit. It's hard enough for SFF authors to get published, without being dismissed from lists or awards for not being cutting-edge enough. None of the more pulpy stuff even gets nominated. That's just strange to me.

To each their own though, and you are welcome to your thoughts on the subject.

 
At February 3, 2012 at 12:11 PM , Blogger Justin said...

The City & The City was a fine choice from my perspective. Not Mieville's best work, but a worthy one.

I've not read A Monster Calls, but everything I've seen about it calls to mind more of The Tiger's Wife than something like God's War.

But, alright - lets go through piece by piece here:

Any actual evidence for this claim? Why not instead assume their purpose is the publicly stated one: "to celebrate the year's most progressive, intelligent and entertaining works - the books that do the science fiction and fantasy community proud."
None. It's my own filter. I'm implying that 'elevating the tone' means we're shooting for something. I'm taking a leap that something is 'mainstream recognition'.

And exactly what certain type of incredibly popular genre fiction is that? And how on Earth could a review eradicate a type of fiction?

Entertaining, anachronistic, light reading. I believe she called it (paraphrasing) so poisonously bad it poisons books shelved in its vicinity.

I can give you a better word than shame: encourage. Why turn a positive into a negative? And what is wrong with encouraging readers to read things accepted by the mainstream? You say you agree with this so what is the issue?

Because he wasn't encouraging, at all. Encouraging people to read these books, is great -- telling them they should because they're smarter is condescending.

Then you are an idiot.

Granted.

It seems to be that your feeling have been hurt. You don't disagree with Bourke's review, you just object to here tone because you enjoyed the book and now you feel bad.

Eh, not really. I don't feel bad for liking the novel (and series). I feel bad for the way she wrote it, but more to the point, I'm concerned about the comments that I believe demonstrate a hugely fractured community of genre readers. It was combative and nasty.

I also still have no idea how Bourke's review of a fantasy novel has anything to do with the mainstream.

I think it validates their perspective that fantasy novels are somehow infantile. It's like when you beat up your little brother. Put him in a headlock, and show him who's boss? Sure. Throw him into oncoming traffic? Not cool.

Well, let's look at that specific example. It is true that some people have complained that SFF doesn't make the Booker shortlist. But are such people trying to change genre fiction? No, of course not. What they are doing is criticising these literary circles for being parochial in their outlook and ignoring the genre.

Actually, I think they are. The call for a Booker shortlist is a call for books that meet the Booker expectations, which isn't wizards and space ships regardless of how good the prose or conceit are.

But what you have singularly failed to show is any evidence. What are the tremendous ubergenre works that are being ignored in favour of non-genre SFF? By what measure is this increasing? From perspective the exact opposite is the case: the internet is awash with praise for ubergenre works (good and bad alike) with very little discussion of literary SFF.

You're right, I'm not offering evidence. I'm taking 3 examples and making a mountain out of a molehill. Probably. Or I'm observing an early trend.

I probably missed a few of your questions.

 
At February 3, 2012 at 12:12 PM , Blogger Weirdmage said...

I should perhaps have made it clear that my TC&TC comment was made to the whole discussion as to "literary"-SFF being hailed as the greats of the genre. And I know several people who read TC&TC who never reviewed it, or "pulled their punches" when they did so, because they didn't want the "wrath" of the "literary"-SFF/cult of Miéville.

And if anyone is interested, I think I said a lot of what I feel about this subject in my TC&TC review http://weirdmage.blogspot.com/2010/09/review-city-city-by-china-mieville.html

The second to last paragraph in that review is what I think many SFF fans see as the problem with "literary"-SFF.

 
At February 3, 2012 at 12:20 PM , Blogger Scott said...

@ Mark. Indeed, the very point. Well said sir.

I can enjoy Miéville, Erikson and Wolfe for challenging me and make the process of reading books a complex learning experience. I can also enjoy stuff like Butcher, Harrison, Carey, and Cole for sheer adventurous and exhilarating storytelling. Hell, I even read comics regularly.

I think the point I was at least making was why does the distinction have to come down to "literary" at all. Why can things not stand on their own merit.

This week I read Issue #5 of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's BATMAN and the damned thing nearly brought a tear to my eye. It is writing as good as you could find in any prose novel...and yet would Snyder ever get nominated for an award for it? Probably not. The question I'd ask is why not?

 
At February 3, 2012 at 12:34 PM , Blogger Chris said...

I find that if you’re a genre reader and reviewer than at some point in your life you’re going to be vehemently defending your reading material of choice.

You’ll have to defend it from fans of other genre, friends, family or co-workers. But someone out there isn’t going to like the book you’re reading and you’ll be compelled to stick up for it.

Some people will be ignorant and misinformed, others will have been exposed to a particularly bad example that’s soured them on the genre as a whole. Others will have more nuanced opinions that can lead to a great opportunity for an interesting discussion.

And really, that’s all I want, to talk about the books I’m reading with anyone who’s interested enough to engage with me. If you happen to dislike the book but can frame your distaste in a respectful manner then you and I are gonna be just fine.

I’ve read some absolutely cringe worthy examples of genre writing and it’s unfortunate that those bad apples seem to taint the whole barrel in a way that terrible mainstream books never do. But it’s only a problem if you let it be one.

 
At February 3, 2012 at 1:35 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it such a bad thing to enjoy something just in order to escape or for pure entertainment? It seems that lately the people who read fantasy for this reason get frowned upon (even from other genre enthusiasts), as if our intellect is somehow in question when we choose to read a good romp about dwarves, elves and wizards to escape for a couple of hours the crap we deal with in real life everyday.
After a long week of dealing with politics, moralities and societal issues in everything from my day job to my religion to my family, the one reprieve is getting lost in a good fantasy that isn't preachy or moralistic - it's just fun.
I do think there is certainly a place for genre that deals in areas that are thought-provoking and inventive and have something to say about issues in the real world, and I do think we need to encourage that kind as well, but I don't think we need to bash the escapist genre fiction in order to do that or to say that somehow the people who read those types of books are lacking in some respect.
For me a balance of both is where I find joy in reading. Sometimes life is just crappy and I want to escape into an uncomplicated story that sweeps me away from everything I'm going through, but sometimes I'm looking for a challenge, something that makes me look at the world in a different way and that's when I pick up the books that fit into that niche.
I certainly don't feel the need to prove to that person sitting across from me at the doctor's office that the book I'm reading with the half naked, sword wielding warrior with a wizard and and unicorn by his side isn't “fluffy” escapist fiction that I'm reading to escape real life. The fact that I'm going in to be tested for a possibly life-altering disease is a scary one and my stress level hits 11 out of 10 by just sitting in the doc’s office. That person can think what they want about the validity of what I'm reading - the reality is that I don't want to read a book about diseases wiping out the planet in some horrific end-of-world epidemic and how that applies to real life experimentation on animals or some such, because my already frayed nerves are likely to break altogether, so instead I read something that soothes my nerves and just gets my mind on something else. Is that a bad thing? Is it bad to want to escape sometimes?
It doesn't mean I won't face the results of my test when they come in or somehow ignore my health issues because I am reading a book that allows me to escape that reality for a while.
I guess the point I'm trying to get at is that I see no problem with promoting books with something to say about real world issues as long as it isn't at the expense of the more escapist-type of genre fiction, because that has a place in our lives too and it doesn't make them any less worthwhile to read just because they fit in a different niche in our lives than the “heavier” ones do.
In the end I hope both continue to be given their due on store bookshelves, and the people who read one or the other or both don’t feel the need to prove that what their reading has some sort of worth, because measuring worth is all a point of perspective for the individual and you can’t measure it or prove it no matter how many awards are won or how many non-genre critics give a genre piece two thumbs up.

 
At February 3, 2012 at 1:44 PM , Anonymous Scott B Robinson said...

I once knew an individual who specialized in repairing original 16th- and 17th-century libertine pamphlets. Imagine the eccentricities of his clientele. He assured me their tastes were both intellectual and literary to the highest degree.

As I have mentioned to Ole, it is often an especially difficult pill for many avowed "literary" writers like myself to swallow--that we too pander to a particular clientele with particular intellectual tastes.

 
At February 3, 2012 at 1:44 PM , Anonymous Martin said...

Scott: In reference to my comment above about lists. It was likely a bit obtuse, but I was referring to a lot of the Genre specific lists or awards that play with the big boys.

I complained that your lists were imaginary, you have responded by failing to identify a single one of these lists.

Like Scalzi's been up for the Hugo before, but I find that even Hugo and other awards can overlook "genre" to find "literary genre" instead as if it's some sort of contest where they won't let the plebs in to join because their clothes are too shabby.

You specifically mentioned Old Man's War as a book that was overlooked for its ""spacey" cover, or it's "pulpy" style" but it was shortlisted for the Hugo in 2006. So again you are reduced to unsupported statements about imaginary states of affairs. What are the literary genre novels that the Hugos have favoured over genre novels? How have the Hugos - an open membership organisation - stopped the plebs from joining in?

The Arthur C. Clarke Award is a good example, of one that seems to nominate a lot of the same type of books year in year out and books that are written quite "pulpy" or present as "too genre" seem to be overlooked in favor of the stuff that pushes some sort of boundaries, or crossed some level of weird to make it stand out.

Here are the last five winners of the Clarke Award: Nova Swing by M. John Harrison, Black Man by Richard Morgan, Song of Time by Ian R. MacLeod, The City & the City by China Miéville and Zoo City by Lauren Beukes. All very different novels but all genre novels published by genre publishers. Are they pulpy? No. You would not expect pulpy novels to win a literary award.

Does that mean the paperback urban fantasies ought to be overlooked?

For the Clarke Award? Yes, it is an award for science fiction.

 
At February 3, 2012 at 1:48 PM , Anonymous Martin said...

Justin: I'll leave the first three points to one side since we are arguing over different interpretations and we obviously aren't going to agree.

Granted.

You've removed the context here. Call me judgemental but if you define yourself in opposition to what other people think then yes, I think you are an idiot. But I didn't call you an idiot, I allowed for the possibility that you meant something different from what you actually said.

I feel bad for the way she wrote it, but more to the point, I'm concerned about the comments that I believe demonstrate a hugely fractured community of genre readers. It was combative and nasty.

I'm never going to be convinced that the tone argument is at all relevent to anything. However, in terms of demonstrating a fractured community, why is this a surprise or a concern? Of course, it is fractured, how could it not be. But why does the fact Bourke believes something different to you and others matter?

It's like when you beat up your little brother. Put him in a headlock, and show him who's boss? Sure. Throw him into oncoming traffic? Not cool.

Again, your metaphor is incomprehensible. In what possible way is Sullivan's novel Bourke's little brother?

The call for a Booker shortlist is a call for books that meet the Booker expectations, which isn't wizards and space ships regardless of how good the prose or conceit are.

The first part of this doesn't make any sense and doesn't reflect reality. The second part is factually wrong: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a book about wizards and it made the Booker longlist precisely because the prose and conceit were recognised. When people wonder why SFF doesn't make the Booker shortlist, they are wondering why such boks are so rarely recognised.

 
At February 3, 2012 at 1:58 PM , Blogger Bryce said...

I love all literature. I think where I draw the line is the unnecessary feeling of superiority that some people have about what they read vs. what the mainstream folks read.

By the way, I've never read Ulysses, but it's on the list. I'll get there eventually. :)

 
At February 3, 2012 at 2:44 PM , Blogger Weirdmage said...

SFF written by litfic authors make litfic awards lists, because they are taken seriously by the "litarary establishment". The same, or better by any standard, book by a SFF author receives scorn by the "literary establishment". It has nothing to do with what is in the book.

And when the lific crowd (="literary establishment") say something is "bold" and "groundbraking", you can usually hear the moans of SFF readers, because it was considered passé 10 years ago.

If Miéville had started with litfic, I'm sure the litfic fans would be debating if he should have gotten the Nobel now, or he if he was to young after TC&TC.

And I don't understand why "literary"-SFF fans get so uptight when you point out their "darlings" are not original. After all they claim "ordinary" SFF is derivative.

If you use SFF standards for a litfic author who uses SFF "tropes", you'll very rarely find they are original at all. Adding litfic's introspection and metaphors, that are also there in "ordinary SFF" (, but litfic fans can't see unless it is gone on-and-on about for endless pages, sacrificing any semblance of telling a story, because they don't seem to have the ability to see a deeper meaning in stories that are actually engaging,) you'll see that they are just pretentious pricks. Too involved in their own importance to actually take more than a passing glance at the genre thay are trying to usurp as their "original/daring new direction".

If you want to play in the SFF "sandbox", you should refrain from stealing all the toys, claiming you have invented new toys, and then calling them shit toys afterwards.

 
At February 3, 2012 at 7:58 PM , Anonymous Schaefer said...

Wow. Seriously? Wow. @Martin, we get it you don't agree with Justin's post. Does that really warrant posting your diatribe against it? Read whatever the hell you want to and let others do the same. I applaud Justin for even responding to such trifle.

I believe this, along with Justin's previous two posts, bring to light very good questions concerning the status of genre literature today. Thank you for writing it and getting at least some of us thinking.

By the way, Ulysses rocks...Prince of Thorns rocks harder.

 
At February 4, 2012 at 1:56 AM , Anonymous Martin said...

Wow. Seriously? Wow. @Martin, we get it you don't agree with Justin's post. Does that really warrant posting your diatribe against it?

Justin posted the link to this on Twitter saying "I ask the question: are we trying to hard?" He followed up by saying "Worth discussing at least, I think." I agree and that it why I have been discussing it with him.

Justin's proposition is that:

a) Some within the genre (with Pornokitsch, Bourke and Walter as examples) are trying too hard to gain mainstream recognition
b) By doing so they are (in some unexplained way) harming the genre

I disagree with both points and, since Justin "hopes he is wrong", I've asked him to try and support his proposition. What do you think? It is noticeable that you have failed to engage with either the post or my response to it. Instead, as always happens with people who can't engage with the substance, you are reduced to the tone argument.

Read whatever the hell you want to and let others do the same.

Good advice. Of course, this goes against Justin's post which says that certain types of writing are harmful and, implicit in this, is the idea that rather than being ignored, they should be opposed.

I believe this, along with Justin's previous two posts, bring to light very good questions concerning the status of genre literature today. Thank you for writing it and getting at least some of us thinking.

And what are these questions? You don't say, you don't engage with the post at all. You say that the post got "at least some of us thinking" and, while you don't actually state it, you presumably include yourself and exclude me in that. But where is the evidence of this? As far as I can see, I am the only person who has actually engaged with the substance of the post, the other comments all address unrelated strawmen. Justin wants an honest conversation about the issue but apparently other people don't.

 
At February 4, 2012 at 1:59 AM , Anonymous Michelle said...

@Mark. Remember that recent conversation about how hard it is to actually 'discuss' anything on the internet without it degenerating into a vitriol-fueled argument? This is a good example.

 
At February 4, 2012 at 3:16 AM , Anonymous Martin said...

Tone, tone, tone. But please, point to a single piece of vitriol in the comments here. The closest I can see is Weirdmage's comment about "pretentious pricks" but even that isn't particularly strong.

 
At February 4, 2012 at 4:40 AM , Blogger Eric M. Edwards said...

I have to disagree that "Fantasy is about divorcing from reality." Or your claim that it’s not inextricably bound up in the wider field of fantastical writing. I would urge readers to look where fantasy has come from but I think these are not the same sources you have in mind.

Nor is the term mainstream useful. Books like "The Tiger's Wife" are hardly mainstream. No more than Angela Carter or Margaret Atwood should be considered to be "mainstream" despite how widely read these authors are. I admit, Atwood comes close. Mainstream is airport thrillers, romance novels, and absolutely, many Fantasy book series. Mainstream tastes tend towards the escapist, easily digested, and disposable.
Literary as a classification is even more problematic.

Franz Kafka, especially his short stories published and unpublished during his lifetime is unmistakably fantastical. As is some of Gogol's work - though considered in his day a staunch realist. They are also considered to be canonical "literary" fiction.

Likewise, I’m against an artificial line being drawn between magicians who cast spells and hang out with people of short stature - and magicians like Bulgakov's Woland and his hellish retinue who fall upon Moscow in The Master and Margarita. Or Goethe's Faust, on which the latter is based.

Jorge Luis Borges and Thomas Moore are fathers of modern fantasy - and of fantastical literature in general. Without Utopia, we wouldn't have all our great dystopias and Borges influences are equally lasting. These are just two, plucked out of a near bottomless hat.
I would not wish to cut off this rich flow from divers origins and alternative sources such as Weird Tales, Pulp/Science Fiction, Gothic, and Horror, and strand the sort of ponderous epic fantasy you are focusing on, upon a sandbank of limited prospects. Cut off from the satisfying wholeness of speculative fiction and its history.

This would certainly accomplish what you fear: that Fantasy with a capital F ends up in its own ghetto, consigned to the backwaters of literature.

I/II

 
At February 4, 2012 at 4:44 AM , Blogger Eric M. Edwards said...

I worry this post boils down to is a subtle (and frequently no so subtle) fear that people will make fun of what you read, despite your protestations. I see this backlash frequently. But what you are discussing is in fact rather mainstream, pedestrian fantasy. Big epic series that are high on the boy's own adventure quotient and low on the exploration of deeper themes.

It is easy to mistake nostalgia with the qualities of books. I would suggest that you'd not enjoy those same titles if you read them for the first time now, as much as you did when you first encountered them then. I don't doubt you still enjoy books of this sort, but I'd be wary of saying it’s entirely because of their virtues and not that dialogue they establish with your own childhood/early adulthood experience of the genre.

And there are still just as many books of this sort being published, and young readers encountering and enjoying them as there were "back then." Many more. We always feel a pang for the passing of our halcyon youth and that somehow things were more authentic because they were more "ours" and less removed from whatever primary source we believe in our folly we had tapped first.

There is nothing wrong with this sort of novel. They've always been quite popular and make up the bulk of the genre. But we shouldn't insist that they are something they are not, or that lauding novels which set out to do more, are kicking sand in their faces. There is room for both, and all examples in between, on the blanket.

I also think that we've reached a period where many of those who started out in the late 1970s and 1980s, resent seeing what was appropriated as "geek culture" for their own use, explode into mainstream awareness and acceptance. You can hear an echo in your "pretty girl" et al example. There is a bitterness.

On the contrary, this is a Good Thing. I think your analogy is a poor one, as what is happening is that instead of the members of the Chess and D&D clubs going to the prom together and dancing with no one or with each other, let along with their Jock rulers, we've thrown *all* the students from the combined tri-county area into the AV Club, given them Buffy t-shirts, iphones, copies of the Harry Potter Handbook and sent them on a sleepover in a small remote haunted time traveling cabin in the troll plagued mountains of madness.

Some of them will not survive, some may eat the others, but by Cthulhu, it will be a night to remember.

II/II

 
At February 4, 2012 at 4:54 AM , Blogger Sean Wills said...

I don't want to step on anyone's toes here, but these kinds of discussions tend to shirk away from acknowledging even the possibility that a lot of mainstream SFF just isn't all that great. I tried Joe Abercombie and Richard Morgan and a lot of the other authors who are supposedly 'breaking the mould' or whatever, and you know what? They're not doing anything different. They're writing the same kind of fantasy fluff that the genre's core has been composed of for decades, just with more swearing and (a little bit) more sex. That readers will defend this stuff to the death if anyone suggests that the genre could afford to mix things up a bit is depressing, to say the least.

 
At February 4, 2012 at 5:29 AM , Blogger Justin said...

That's an interesting point, Sean. I certainly think if you ask Abercrombie, he'd completely agree with you. He's writing the same old thing, just playing with some of the tropes and adjusting the volume, if you will.

I think we're seeing more mixing up. Hurley's God's War, Okorafor's Who Fear's Death, a lot of the recent Small Beer Press releases.

Genre means it checks certain boxes. And I think there's a general annoyance that those boxes have turned out to be awfully specific. For example, Lev Grossman's stuff being shelved in Literature and not SFF in a book store. Or Tiger's Wife, or Night Circus, or any of Atwoods stuff. Is it SFF? And if we're (the genre community, whatever that means) the only ones who consider it SFF, is it? Does it matter? Why do we argue those distinctions?

In Walter's post he says, 7 SFF novels you must read. Only a genre reader would consider most of those novels SFF. Everyone else just calls them literature. Insisting that SFF has some ownership of those titles comes off (to me) like searching for legitimacy. The whole message changes if he says, 'Hey genre readers, here are some lit novels that you might dig.'

 
At February 4, 2012 at 5:50 AM , Blogger Justin said...

Great response, Eric. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

I couldn't agree more with you that the vast majority of 'nostalgic genre' is hard to read these days. I tried to pick up Weis & Hickman the other day on a lark and didn't get past page 10. There is a big distinction between nostalgic fantasy (Sullivan is a good new example of this, but also Rachel Aaron, Jon Sprunk, etc.) and what Abercrombie, Ahmed, Brett, etc. who I see doing more (more, not a lot) thematic exploration.

#

I'm not sure this is a subtle (or not so subtle) protestation of, 'leave my epic fantasy alone' so much as it's a 'are trying too hard to get outside observers to look beyond epic fantasy?'. Again, if the answer is no, GREAT! I'm just trying to plop myself down in the middle of a debate I perceive in the community. Maybe the fact I perceive a SFF community is my first problem?

I would prefer that we had no distinctions at all, frankly. Drop the SFF into the Fiction section and be done with it. But, that's not going to happen and thus we end up in this parochial discussion about what's our's and what's their's.

We see a lot of grumbling that Atwood won't admit she writes SFF, who cares? What does classifying her as SFF gain for the genre? If we're not searching for legitimacy of Abercrombie and Morgan, why do we care if the high brow stuff is considered SFF? I get the impression (according to you and Martin an entirely wrong impression, which is fine) it's insecurity that no one thinks the vast majority of SFF is worth a shit and it drives us to find the other 10% to justify the genre's existence.

Maybe it's just about trying to use the other 10% to make the other 90% better. I'm stoked if that's the case, and I'm glad I wrote the post to stimulate this response.

 
At February 4, 2012 at 6:55 AM , Anonymous Martin said...

I'm confused. You say you would prefer it if there were no distinctions but claim they are somehow inevitable. They are not at all inevitable but you have just spent the whole post arguing in favour of them. You say, for example, The Tiger's Wife isn't a fantasy novel. You profess not to know why Walter would describe those seven novels as SFF. So would you say that for you the most important important thing is who publishes a book? That everything published by an SFF publisher is SFF and nothing published by a non-SFF publisher is SFF?

For me, the most important this is content; a novel is an SFF novel is it contains SFF content. I would have thought this was a pretty obvious and widespread point of view and it means there is no reason to second guess the motivations of people describing novels as SFF.

I am interested in the best 10% of SFF not because it justifies the existence of the genre or because it might improve the rest of the genre but simply because it is the best 10%.

 
At February 5, 2012 at 7:50 AM , Blogger Abigail Nussbaum said...

It seems as if reviews like the ones written by Bourke are geared towards eradicating a certain type of incredibly popular genre fiction

I'm really not sure how you draw this conclusion. Inasmuch as any review is geared towards eradicating any kind of fiction (a futile goal that few reviewers of my acquaintance would be so foolish as to believe themselves capable of), Liz's review is geared towards eradicating bad fiction. Liz's criticisms of Theft of Swords are specifically of its quality - she criticizes the poor prose, predictable plotting, mishandling of archaic dialects, and lack of agency of female characters. At no point in the review does Liz criticize or express a longing for the eradication of the epic fantasy genre - an argument she'd have trouble making with any credibility given that she's written extremely positive reviews of epic fantasy novels for both Strange Horizons and Tor.com.

In her recent review of Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan, she eviscerates both the book, the author, and the publisher for its existence. It's not so much her critiques of the book, but the tone with which she delivers them. As though we should be ashamed that we bought it, or read it, or God forbid enjoyed it.

There seems to be a leap here that has nothing to do with anything Liz wrote. Liz's review is critical of Theft of Swords, because it's a reviewer's job to criticize where they find fault. It is implicitly critical of Sullivan inasmuch as it concludes that he's written a bad book, and explicitly critical of his publisher for abdicating their role as a gatekeeper of quality and letting such a bad book through. But nowhere in the review does Liz say anything about the book's readers and what they ought to feel about it. She's reporting on her own reading experience, and if you choose to take that as a judgment on yours then that's on you and not on anyone else.

 
At February 5, 2012 at 8:32 AM , Blogger Justin said...

@Abigail

Thanks for the response.

To your first point, I was speaking more toward shallow, anachronistic second world fantasy in general as opposed to the 'epic fantasy'. The definition of the latter is far to broad to apply to Sullivan's novels as some representative of it. Is 'eradicate a kind of genre fiction' hyperbole? Absolutely.

To the second point, of course I'm applying my own filter to what she's written. I'm reading into it. When she says that a novel poisons other novels around it, she's saying it's so bad NO ONE should read it. In criticizing those responsible for publishing it, there's an implicit critique of those who read it and liked it. I'm not particularly offended by that, I do find it interesting though. Especially that someone would claim she's not criticizing the reader. That seems like willful denial to me.

Again, for the umpteenth time, she's entirely within her rights to do and I don't begrudge her the review. It's her opinion. But, I'm going to read into what I want to -- also my right, no?

The point of this article was just to point a trend, I think could be happening (I have no idea if it is), and I caution that we should be aware of it. Although, at this point having read 30+ comments on the subject, relating them back to my original words is becoming increasingly difficult.

 
At February 5, 2012 at 10:02 AM , Blogger Abigail Nussbaum said...

Is 'eradicate a kind of genre fiction' hyperbole? Absolutely.

See, what you call "hyperbole" I call "imputing false and unworthy motives to someone on no evidence." Which is not a nice thing to do.

In criticizing those responsible for publishing it, there's an implicit critique of those who read it and liked it.

By that reasoning, every negative review is an implicit criticism of the people who do like - or even the people who chose to consume - the subject of the review. Does that seem reasonable to you?

It's her opinion. But, I'm going to read into what I want to -- also my right, no?

Of course. But I think that I'm also entitled to read things into your reaction, and to ask you to support your argument. So far in this thread you keep retreating into an attitude that you're just saying what you feel and it's unfair to ask you to examine either your assumptions or your conclusions. Which, again, is pretty easy to read into.

 
At February 6, 2012 at 3:35 AM , Anonymous Jared said...

I'm leaping back to the original post and avoiding the discussion of the MJS review entirely. The whole thing is somewhat belated - I blame the Prestatyn internet (or lack therefore).

For me, there's a reason that one of The Kitschies' criteria is "entertaining". And I agree with Justin wholeheartedly: that's a really, really important aspect of genre literature that shouldn't ever fall by the wayside.

Regarding the larger debate, China Miéville actually had a lovely quote on this over the weekend - "Our own desires should not go uninterrogated." He then went on to weave more cleverness, including "the thing you want is not always the most interesting thing to have." What is it about SF/F that we want? Why do we want it? And if it were different, would it be more interesting? In a way, that's what SF/F does already - explore interesting differences. Why not apply the same creative process to SF/F itself?

I don't pretend to have the answers to any of those questions. But I believe that asking - and discussing - them is the important part, and that's what Justin, Liz and Damien (and hopefully The Kitschies) are all doing.

 
At February 6, 2012 at 4:25 AM , Anonymous Anne said...

For what it's worth, when Jared and I started the Kitschies (and, more broadly, Pornokitsch), we did so with the goal of "elevating the tone of the conversation about geek culture" - wording which we've accidentally kind of lost over the years. The point being that we're not explicitly trying to make mainstream readers take genre seriously, but rather to make genre readers take genre itself more seriously, by taking all genre seriously.

Where we differ, is that I believe in demonstrating value in the things that the mainstream rejects, not only those things they embrace.

It concerns me greatly that you don't think the Kitschies demonstrate value (or attempt to do so) in those things the mainstream rejects, because that means we've failed in our goals. That said, what we're after truly is conversation - like this, for example - about genre. So we have succeeded, in a roundabout fashion.

In recent years, SFF bloggers (myself included) have tried to convince mainstream readers that the things we read have merit. Awards like The Kitschies seem created, almost exclusively, to serve this purpose.

Again, if the Kitschies seem geared toward this, we've failed in our purpose. Our primary aim is and has always been to make sure genre readers take genre seriously. Let me be clear that we're not trying to come down against escapism (et al.); rather, we're trying to hold escapist literature to the same standards as any other literature. No book should be let off lightly because it was not intended to be taken seriously. Nothing should ever go unconsidered, and no book should be let off the hook because it's escapist, or as fluff, or whatever other words we like to throw at stuff we enjoy when a little ashamed of that enjoyment. These feelings are just as worthy of interrogation as everything else literature - all literature - inspires.

Rereading what I've written above comes across as stodgy and defensive, for which I apologise - because I am beyond delighted that we're talking about this stuff at all. Like Jared says above, it's the asking and the discussing that's the important part.

 
At February 6, 2012 at 5:50 AM , Blogger Justin said...

The point being that we're not explicitly trying to make mainstream readers take genre seriously, but rather to make genre readers take genre itself more seriously, by taking all genre seriously.

That's a really good distinction, Anne. I've not thought of it that way before.

It concerns me greatly that you don't think the Kitschies demonstrate value (or attempt to do so) in those things the mainstream rejects, because that means we've failed in our goals.

They do in so much that the mainstream tends to reject everything in our genre. This year's nominees (at least in the Red) trend more toward novels that fit within the box the mainstream is most comfortable within the genre. Or at least that's my impression. In years past your lists have included some more ubergenre stuff, to borrow a terrible word I used earlier. Is it just one of those years? Probably. But, as I'm trying to draw trends about the literary conversation of genre, I do think it's worth pointing out and wondering about.

Using the Kitschies as an example in this article was probably a mistake. I really think you guys do a great job. And I would agree, that the success is that is engenders conversation.

 
At February 6, 2012 at 5:53 AM , Blogger Justin said...

@Jared

And I bet China was making ladies swoon when he said it. The jerk.

 
At February 6, 2012 at 12:45 PM , Anonymous Jared said...

@Justin: I don't think using The Kitschies as an example was wrong at all. Anne's right in that we have (for some reason) elided "elevate the tone of the discussion" into "elevate the tone", which is incorrect. But the overall point is still a fair one, and we're not-so-secretly delighted to be used an example of *anything*.

I can't agree enough about the importance of NOT disregarding everything great about ubergenre (really?) when it comes to genre books, but I don't think there's a special category of "shit mainstream readers like". Genre certainly shouldn't ostracise itself by pretending that the silent majority "wouldn't like our stuff anyway".

Really interesting point about the RT. Definitely don't see it that way, but I guess I can see where you're coming from. At least in comparison with the GT list (in which, we overlapped with your own best of list, if I recall correctly). Hmmm.... (goes off to count monsters and spaceships)

 
At February 7, 2012 at 1:38 AM , Blogger Joe Abercrombie said...

My problem with the award was that I wasn't shortlisted.

This obviously renders the entire thing an offensive farce.

But then you did give me rum.

Now I'm conflicted...

 
At February 7, 2012 at 5:27 AM , Anonymous Nic said...

I, for one, refuse to be ashamed for what I read.

Well, great. Though you do realise you’ve just written a lengthy post explaining how you’re definitely, 100%, *absolutely* not bothered about what other people think of your reading tastes, right? ;-)

It’s a shame you feel yourself under attack as a reader, particularly since this feeling – it seems to me – stems from a misinterpretation of both Bourke’s review and the Kitschies. Contrary to your construction of events, I think both of these things are seeking to *celebrate* the genre, not denigrate it.

The Kitschies’ founders have already spoken for themselves, and very ably; fundamentally, they’re interested in conversation internal to the genre, not whatever the ‘mainstream’ may or may not think. What about Bourke? Is her review geared towards eradicating a certain type of incredibly popular genre fiction? If that’s Bourke’s goal, then she’s got a strange way of going about it; her last two reviews at Strange Horizons were both positive, and both about epic fantasy titles (see here and here).

In other words, her review of Sullivan is not about hate for epic fantasy; it’s a criticism of what she considers to be a particular bad example of it. What is wrong with that? Should we give rubbish books a pass because they happen to have magic in them? And if you liked the book - as I gather you did, from the fact that your most recent post is a review of a later volume in the series - how does her review stop you from disagreeing, and explaining why you liked it? We all have different tastes, and different criteria that we use to judge what is good and what isn't; surely it can be a conversation, rather than "She hates what I like, therefore she hates me!!1!"

You say you're interested in demonstrating value in the things that the mainstream rejects, not only those things they embrace. And this is exactly what Bourke’s review, and the Kitschies, are trying to do: take genre books seriously, by praising them when they’re good – well written, mould-breaking, *and* entertaining – and criticising them when they aren’t. Which is an agenda I support. What I’m not interested in is valuing something simply *because* the mainstream rejects it, which is the subtext I'm getting from your comments, rightly or wrongly; that’s as ridiculous as liking something just because it’s mainstream.

I refuse to pull my punches when reviewing a book that I think is bad, just because it’s genre. I will not coddle poor writing just because some imaginary mainstream bogeyman might be looking over my shoulder as I type and run away cackling “See? I TOLD you all genre was bad!” Decrying reviews that criticise prose or characterisation in a particular genre novel is not a rejection of ‘mainstream’ ideas about genre, but an acceptance and an internalisation of these ideas: “we can’t expect anything better from a genre book; they’re only meant to be entertaining; asking for anything else is elitism”, etc. Nonsense. It's a big genre; there are room for more tastes than that.

 
At February 7, 2012 at 5:53 AM , Anonymous Nic said...

Wait, you got rum? I didn't!

I hereby take back everything nice I ever said about the Kitschies.

(Except for the part about God's War winning.)

 

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