I read this post about the death of Literary fiction. Lately I have been having a lot of arguments on the subject of literary versus genre fiction. It’s obvious which I favor, but I think that personal preference plays a very large role here. A lot of times in the academic world you will see professors touting the wonders of literary fiction and the beautifully written prose. But that was never what interested me and that wasn’t what got me into writing.
I’ll never forget discussing my writing with someone who was reading it and having them ask about a chase scene that I had been working on. Another person (who was also a writer) had been nearby and overheard the conversation. He piped up with the snide remark: “I used to write stuff like that, then I grew up” referring to my writing of a chase scene.
This attitude didn’t surprise me and it’s one that I’ve dealt with from family or others throughout my writing. “Why don’t you just write stuff that really happens?” is pretty much the common way I’ve heard it brought to my attention. My answer is that reality tends to be a little boring. It’s not what I like to write, for the same reasons I don’t write Westerns or Erotica. It’s just not what I want to do.
There’s a trend in schools here in the US to discourage the writing of genre fiction. Most creative writing classes actually tell you to shy away from science fiction or crime thrillers or any of that. People write what they like, so when the people who want to write genre fiction drop the class or don’t sign up, what’s left is simply people who want to write for other literary authors.
Sure the genre writers don’t get as much practice with that part of the craft because they’re not in the class for it, but they’re what’s selling and popular. So if this trend is repeated it won’t matter how good your book is if all the industry wants to find is the next Meyer, Fifty Shades of Gray or Hunger Games. If those things are what sell, why would a business model permit them to take chances on something else? The wonder of the digital age isn’t that the gate keeper is removed, it’s that the gate keeper has changed. The industry realizes there’s a place for fan fiction and light (horribly written erotica) and other things that were branded as a no-no previously.
This might sound petty or rude, but in a way I think literary fiction did this to itself. It ostracized itself from genre fiction and to most pretty prose and the human condition aren’t enough to leave their genre of choice behind. Hell, you can get well written prose elsewhere, but most people aren’t looking for a heavy read. Had academia welcomed more genre writers into the fold we might have seen more of a mixing of the two, but it seems with the age of digital information, that ship might have sailed.