I’ve been thinking about running a new blog series. I don’t generally have a scheme, or base of topics, that I adhere to when writing these. Sometimes I write about comic reviews, I’ve done some television reviews, a movie, and books... I wrote a blog on Pokemon Sun/Moon. If there is a scheme, it would be “Things That Interest Me.” That isn’t much in the way of alluring people to read what I write up. I do think this new one may work, in a more coherent way, and post more often than the D&D Interludes and Comic Companions.
Fantasy is seen, more often than not, as a purely Genre category of fiction. I am using the capital ‘G’ in “Genre” because Genre Fiction refers to fantasy, science fiction, romance, thriller, and mystery. Depending on the author and “literary merit” of the work, sometimes historical fiction will be lumped in with this. Literary Fiction is reserved for works that we study in high school and college; authors of note who influenced entire cultures from history, right up to scholarly folks who see the art form as high art, or as something to be broken down and dissected.
J.R.R. Tolkien, while arguably the grandfather of modern fantasy literature, was a scholar who wrote his works based on the old English Anglo texts. His work has layers that can be seen by the average reader but broken down and interpreted by scholars of both fiction, non-fiction, and historical texts. He is noted as a Genre author who has come into the crosshairs of scholarly study. C.S. Lewis would be another example.
Now, what about someone such as Dan Simmons? His Hyperion novels are based on the Canterbury Tales. They are not what I would call “easy reads” by any stretch of the imagination. I am not saying they are difficult, but to a reader who wanted light-hearted fun, and a book they could down on a Sunday afternoon I would tell them to look somewhere else. Is that, a book that can be dissected, a literary work? Or is it strictly Genre.
My fear is Genre fiction tends to be out of bounds if it is written for enjoyment purposes only. How can you say whether or not something is just entertainment? Charles Dickens wrote for money. Yes, his writing is high caliber, but it’s been over 100 years since he was publishing works, and not many high school students have trouble picking up his books and reading. He was publishing for the reading public of his time, serializing his work and getting paid per-word. Plenty of colleges still have classes based on his work. Just try taking a class about late 19th Century British Literature and not come across his name once.
Does this mean that serialized, pulpy work is considered real literature if it stands the test of time? Or does this mean that Genre can be studied if it is written by a scholar? Does it need to have layers? How many layers, if that is the case?
What if, at its most base form, the work doesn’t go deeper than what you see? Yet, it holds up against time and is written by a scholar, and is enjoyable?
I think the lines are blurred. It's silly to see something as a real “literary work.” Yes, there are authors who publish multiple books a year, using a formula that will sell and stories that are weak. Pulp is very much alive, which is fine. Think of it this way: You can survive and do so very well, on a diet that consists of nothing but the leanest protein, healthiest fats, and low-sugar. But, isn’t it okay to just every once in awhile eat an ice cream cone? Maybe get some sprinkles or a little extra candy shell? Does that mean you aren’t eating real food?
I’m not sure that it matters unless your goal is to expand your view and challenge yourself. If that isn’t an idea that you need, then the latest issue of Cosmopolitan will suffice. And I’m not putting that magazine or anything similar down. Writing is hard. It is a time consuming and difficult task, to take something in your brain, put it down on paper in a coherent manner and then have people read, interpret and enjoy it. If you’re doing that, then you’re a lot more accomplished than most people, myself at this point, included.
With all of that in mind, I would go back to the matter at hand: a new blog series. I’m not sure how often I will be posting, but I would love to begin writing a series of blogs on Genre Fiction; staying in my comfort zone of Fantasy Literature, and occasionally branching into Science Fiction. I will be the first to admit I know a lot about Fantasy and just a mediocre base knowledge of SciFi.
I’m going to entitle this series “Fantasy as Literature. ” Each post I will pick a topic, an author, a single book or run of books and make a case as for why it should be considered more than just Genre. For purposes of branding, selling and buying I get why you have the labels. I’m not interested in romance literature. But, it is one of the best-selling genres in the country, the authors publish a lot, and I’m sure that there are plenty who were top students, great writers and smart people publishing in that form. It just isn’t for me, which is why I love that books have categories. I know where I stand in the bookstore means the likelihood of me grabbing something interesting. Unfortunately, it might also mean I’m not branching out as much as I should. A good book is a good book, regardless of the author or genre.
And that’s where I stand on the new posts. They should be posting this week, or by the latest next week. I’ll tag them all with the “Fantasy as Literature” marker, and a few others including the authors, and/or books I am writing about.
Look out for it; I hope you all come back to read them. I am very excited to begin the series and have already outlined a few post topics.
See ya’ll later.