“litfic for people who hate litfic”

Matt Cheney — he of The Mumpsimus — published this article in Emerald City, which I quite liked:

There is a stereotype of literary fiction shared by both science fiction readers and non-science fiction readers: that academically-sanctioned, “serious” contemporary fiction is all about dull middle-class people having affairs, and that the writers of this fiction do such things as use a couple hundred pages to describe events that could quite easily be described in a paragraph. This stereotype is not entirely inaccurate — such books do exist. But just as it is unfair to condemn all SF as clunkily-written space operas for people who are hiding from puberty, so it is unfair to dismiss all literary fiction as unimaginative hogwash for people who yearn to be seen as sensitive.

I’m constantly dismayed by how many people will slam one style of fiction in order to promote another (usually their own), and no gap seems so firmly entrenched as that between so-called genre and literary fiction. As someone who more or less wants to live in that gap, build a nice little pleasure palace there, articles like Cheney’s are a refreshing change from the usual insults hurled at both sides: that literary writers are bores who don’t know how to tell a story, that genre folk are hacks who don’t know how to write.


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