Sam Sykes has a great post about how fantasy fans internalize the belief that the genre defaults to crap. I implore you to read it. It’s good. Really.
And it’s because of Sam that I’m writing about the phrase in the title above. Only, I’m coming at it from a different angle. I’m not talking about the belief that good fantasy novels are exceptions, not the general rule (in part because I have no idea what “good” means in this context). What I’m talking about is the feeling I get when people ask me what I write.
By “people” I typically mean “MFAs at my university.” Somehow the fact that I am a writer on the path towards publication has spread through rumor in my university. I’ve probably mentioned my writer status somewhere before, and so people I’m friends with on Facebook simply know. Regardless of why these folks know I am a genre writer, in conversation with them, the question that often springs up is “what do you write?”. From there, I tend to get sheepish about the whole genre thing. If I bring it up — “I write genre fiction” — it is either said with a hint that I’m not terribly proud of it, or some vain attempt to qualify my statement with nonsense like “I write literary and adventure SF.” None of these presentations makes me particularly proud.
And now that I’ve read Sam Sykes’ take on how readers adopt this attitude about their favorite genre, I think there needs to be a break in my own little world. I’m done with being ashamed and afraid to say what I do. No more.
Saying “I write genre fiction” isn’t a bad thing. And to anyone who thinks it is, well, fuck you. I write genre fiction. I’m proud of that fact. I love genre fiction. Most people love genre fiction, even if they won’t admit it to themselves. Those people should be ashamed of saying things like “I like Star Wars, but that’s because I grew up on it; I’m not into that stuff anymore” or “well, that book isn’t really genre; it’s literary.” Fuck that. It is genre fiction. It’s also literary. So what? It can be both. It’s also perfectly fine to like Star Wars AND the recently-released John Carter, or Star Trek (new and old) and Game of Thrones (the books and the show). Celebrate it. Love it.
And if you write the stuff, don’t do what I’ve done for far too long: cower at the prospect of having to justify yourself to someone who “doesn’t write that genre trash.” You should throw off the shackles of shame and flip your figurative middle finger off at anyone who scoffs at what you love to do. Fuck’em.
This is genre. Hear us roar.
Or something like that…