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Worlds Within Worlds

Part One: Writing Games in Your Book

 
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The Heart of What Was Lost

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Why is SF not considered literary?

Disclaimer: A quick point to make before I begin: the ‘SF’ in the title refers to ‘Speculative Fiction’ and not ‘Science Fiction’, and thus incorporates Fantasy within it.

Science Fiction, Fantasy and the ‘literary’ have famously not got on in the past. Take Britain’s premier Literary Fiction award, the Man Booker Prize: it has had but one fantasy novel even longlisted in recent years, the superlative Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell by Susanne Clarke. In Sci-Fi, there is a little more positivity with four shortlisted titles since its inception:

• Doris Lessing – Sirian Experiments
• Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale
• Margaret Atwood – Oryx & Crake
• Kazuo Ishiguro – Never Let Me Go

These SF texts can be considered, to quote Adam Roberts, ‘non-genre SF’ fairly safely. The closest our genre base has come to this pinnacle of British critical achievement is Atwood’s Blind Assassin, which contains an SF subplot, though really the central plot is suburban life in mid-20th Century Canada.

Consider also that pinnacle of American achievement, as so much of Fantasy now is American in origin: The Pulitzer Prize. The only SF title to have won is The Road by Cormac MacCarthy. The Nobel Prize Laureates with SF features to their writing? Doris Lesing, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Herman Hesse and Gunter Grass.

Why is this? In the past there has been a fairly safe answer – because SF panders to the masses, and thus isn’t written very well. And yes, in the era of pulp Sci-Fi, and even into the 60s and 70s, this could be considered the case. But is this not the case in all genres, and it is the exceptions that are considered ‘literary’? Consider the current day situation: Anne Perry, Bernard Cornwall, Conn Igulden – all write ‘historical fiction’ to an average, but not literary, standard. Throw in Barbara Kingsolver or Hilary Mantel, and you have the exception. For SF in the early and middle halves of the century, it fell to Orwell, Wells and Stapledon to carry SF forward. I challenge anyone to read Peake’s Gormenghast Trilogy and not be blown away by the style and description – it is clear Literature, and has begun to be treated as such.

Approaching the 80s and 90s, we get a rebirth from the trashy era of Heinlein and Eddings, who, for all their positives, did not write incredible literary stories. Instead we witness Ender’s Game and The Game of Thrones, and the bleeding of Fantasy into the Literary with magic realism, and Kundera, Rushdie and Garcia Marquez. Sci-Fi witnesses a similar ‘non-genre’ rebirth in Atwood and Lessing. It is, in my humble opinion, this non-genre-ization of SF that cast it out from the circle of ‘respected’ genres, alongside the birth of table-top RPGS and computers games that are looked down upon by those who consider themselves ‘the elite’.

Yes, there is trash. But there is trash in all genres. There is a history of trash in all genres. What all ‘literary’ genres also have is history, something SF has in abundance. From Homer’s Odyssey to Shelley’s Frankenstein, from Virgil’s Aeniad to The Real Story of Ah-Q, from Arabian Nights to Beowulf to Stoker to Swift and back again SF is literary history. And, with the advent of the century, and major players who write beautiful prose, and an influx of new authorship and new adventures, I believe the likes of Mieville, of Rothfuss, of Roberts, of Martin, of Murakami, of Lynch; all deserve recognition on a literary plane, and from literary figures.

And I challenge you to show me why not. I don’t think you can.

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21 Comments

  1. Overlord says:

    Hey Moonshine! Great article and I completely agree with you on this… You look at the quality of Rothfuss’s writing for example and you just know it deserves recognition… Mieville is another one who writes beautifully and Martin is just the ultimate example of the perfectly paced complex story.

    I think there tends to be that stigma (see Paul’s recent article) attached to Fantasy / Sci-Fi that it is all a bit out there and read by either children or people with too much time on their hands… it is a sad fact really. I hope one day it will change, but it just seems that if people like Rothfuss or Martin or any of the others you mentioned can’t do it… what on Earth should we be expecting?

  2. I think today what we actually have are works of high literary merit in virtually every genre. “Literary” fiction, today, is merely another genre – work written in a specific style to a specific taste. And, incidentally, subsidized to a large degree by the better selling works of other genres…

    Looking back on the works we consider classics today, most were “popular” fiction in their era. Why? Because readers know best. If a work fails to connect with readers, it won’t be read. And if it fails to connect with readers in large numbers, it probably isn’t very good fiction. One of the best measures of literary merit is probably the number of people reading a work.

  3. Weirdmage says:

    You are absolutely wrong.

    SFF should not in any way seek recognition from the “literary establishment”. In fact it should actively fight it.

    What is needed is that everyone recognize that lit.fic. (,or literature as the snobs who like that genre like to call it,) is a genre, and not in any way a definition of what is good fiction.

    Lit.fic. is the most narrow-minded genre in fiction. And when it comes to telling a story, probably the worst crap available on the bookshelves. Lit.fic. is characterized by its adherence to style over story, and that is something that will almost never make a good novel in my opinion.

    What we need is all genre fiction from romance to science fiction, and everyone else that is looked down on by the “literati” banding together and remove lit.fic. from its present position as the definition of good literature, and get it recognized as what it is just another genre of literature. Once it is classified as what it is, the genre of lit.fic., we’ll hopefully stop them making their narrow definitions be the rule as to what is classified as a good novel.

    • Merlyn says:

      I enjoyed the essay, but the author has ignored the work of some fine SF writers. I challenge anyone to deny that Ray Bradbury wrote exquisite prose. Some of it, almost poetic.

      What is trumpeted as “literary” fiction usually tracks the misery of a pitiful outcast or the trials of a dysfunctional family. Most of the writers are pretentious, self-centered people who sneer at the idea of storytelling.

  4. missoularedhead says:

    I gotta say, I’m having trouble agreeing here. Doris Lessing won a Nobel for her ‘Golden Notebook’, a spec fic if I’ve ever seen one. Rothfuss is #1 on the NY Times bestseller list…it’s not as though it’s underground. Perhaps it’s just me, and everyone I know who reads reads sci fi and fantasy, but the truth is, this bias is something I’ve not encountered. I know someone writing a PhD in English on fantasy novels, another in Literary Criticism on MMORPG and war, and still another (again in English) on steampunk. Now, I may be an odd duck, but that says to me that fantasy and sci fi are taken quite seriously.

  5. Oli says:

    One issue has been that literary fiction is valued for it’s capacity to tackle ‘big’ themes, usually meaning existential or philosophical ones. While SF offers a variety of interesting channels for such explorations, it has largely been dominated by the telling of ripping yarns: I guess the issue is that if you give a story a speculative setting or speculative elements, it can still be ANY kind of fiction, but it is (understandably) identified with its dominant sub genres. I would say that for it to be of ‘real’ literary value, its speculative elements need to be there for a good reason. If you want to tell a story about second marriages and their impact on families then setting it among the moons of Saturn may well distract and detract! Oh, and can I just namecheck Gene Wolfe? That’s who taught me SF can blow your mind with philosophy.

  6. Overlord says:

    Good follow up article here about a fantasy author (Stephen Hunt) who tells off the BBC for not including fantasy in World Book Week.

    http://www.lovereading.co.uk/news/800005470/fantasy-author-stephen-hunt-blasts-bbc-for-genre-bias.html

  7. Ramenth says:

    Literary Fiction circles are like hipsters. The more popular a text is, the less respect it gets, or if it’s still well regarded, people say that’s the case “despite its popularity.”

  8. Moonshine says:

    Thanks for that Marc! Really underlines my point.

    Missoularedhead: I included Doris Lessing in the main article for just that reason. She has written Spec-Fic before. But I also used a disclaimer that her, Ishiguro, MacCarthy, Atwood and the like are ‘non-genre’ SF. i.e., their publisher has realised that they are writing SF, but has published as far from SF as they possibly can.

    For that reason you won’t find them, or David Mitchell, or David Foster Wallace, or Joyce Carroll Oates’ Zombie, or most J.G. Ballard, or Thomas Pynchon, or Don Delillo, or Michael Chabon, or many others I could mention, on the SF shelves in a bookshop. instead you’ll find them in ‘mainstream’ fiction, or ‘general’ fiction.

    I was recently angered by Neal Stephenson being moved into ‘general’ fiction in the bookshop I work in ‘because he’ll sell better there’. Why? Because the poncy world of the masses has little or no regard for SF?

    To me, SF needs to break free from the stigma associated with it. i want more people to appreciate the wonderful worlds within it. I want them to love SF the way I do. And if that means getting it recognized as ‘literary’, so be it.

    To the above point by Wiermage and Missoularedhead’s point about people doing PhD.’s and dissertations and the lie: Yes, people will write those interesting PhD’s, because people in university are quite liekly to be more radical and emergent than those who ar respected ‘literary critics’ (See Charles Brooker and Martin Amis for examples of Literary Critics against SF). How many more PhD students, nevertheless, will be looking at the ‘modern classics’ – lit-fic of the likes of Kingsolver, Mantel and the like? Far more, I’m willing to bet.

    • Martin says:

      I don’t know who Charles Brooker is (and Google reveals nothing) but in what way was Martin Amis against SF? He was the science fiction critic for the Observer!

    • Dan D. Jones says:

      I think a simple fact of reality is that many people WON’T appreciate the wonderful worlds within SF, even if you dropped it in their lap free of charge.

      Or perhaps they’ll appreciate it in the same sense that I appreciate the wonderful intrigue within the books of Tom Clancy or Robert Ludlum. I’ve read both of those authors. I enjoyed them. I might even read them in the future. But when I go to the book store, I don’t go to the espionage section. It doesn’t matter how much some of my coworkers rave about spy novels. I like fantasy and a bit of science fiction. It’s what draws me in. It’s what keeps me up at night when I should be sleeping so I’ll be ready for work the next day. Spy novels, even very good ones, very seldom do that. And no matter how much I talk about my beloved fantasy, my coworkers aren’t going to abandon their spy novels.

      Different people have different tastes. That’s OK. That’s more than OK. It’s what makes the world, the real one outside of my books, a pretty wonderful place of its own.

  9. Khaldun says:

    So many novels that are studied in Canadian schools today are sf novels. Fahrenheit 451, 1984, the handmaid’s tale, etc. SF and fantasy, like any genre, CAN look at big themes if they want to. I’d like to see them getting more respect (and not just sales).

  10. I read this article, and I find that I really didn’t recognize any of the author’s names mentioned. I have no clue who they are, or whether their books are worth reading. But I doubt I that I will ever read any of them, either. I have tried reading what is classified as “literary” fiction, and I can’t get through it. To me it seems that the definition of “literary” fiction is “Beautiful writing in which nothing happens!” When I read a book I expect there to be a story, something happening.

    I definitely agree with the idea that SF should not pander to the “Literati,” in fact SF should just give them a good swift kick. I will rate a Hugo or Nebula winner over a Pulitzer prize any day. Give me Frodo Baggins, Lazarus Long, Harry Dresden, or Sookie Stackhouse any day … and I’ll enjoy it. Do the people who read the “literary” stuff enjoy it, or do they just read it because someone says it is good (even if it isn’t)?

  11. […] contributors occasionally. What has Science Fiction got to do with Fantasy? Well the first article [Is Sci-Fi Literature?] […]

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  13. Martin says:

    “Why is SF not considered literary?” I guess the obvious rejoinder is, by whom? The answer seems to be the judges of literary awards but you demonstrate in your post that this absolute statement isn’t true. A science fiction novel was longlisted for this year’s Booker Prize and, as you say, a science fiction novel won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. So they do consider SF to be literary. If the question is instead what proportion of winners of literary awards should be SF then I don’t think that is a very interesting question.

    If the question is why do literary awards favour non-genre SF over genre SF then, well, that is a bit better but still misses the fundamental difference between the two. Non-genre SF comes from within literary fiction, genre SF not only comes from outside but the vast majority it has absolutely no interest in aspiring to be literary fiction. As you say: “But is this not the case in all genres, and it is the exceptions that are considered ‘literary’?” Bernard Cornwell is never going to win the Booker but it would be absurd to ask why historical fiction is not considered literary.

    At the end of the post you group China Mieville, Patrick Rothfuss, Adam Roberts, George RR Martin, Haruki Murakami and Scott Lynch together. That is a hugely disparate group. We can probably discard Murakami since he is exactly the sort of non-genre SF writer who receives huge amounts of literary recognition. Then you have a trio of fantasy who are very much in the Bernard Cornwell rather than Hillary Mantel mold. It is frankly ridiculous to suggest that Martin, Rothfuss or Lynch are comparable to someone like Cormac McCarthy and should be considered for the Pulitzer. That leaves two genre writers who do produce literary fiction and would certainly be justified in wondering why they are always overlooked in favour of literary authors producing non-genre SF.

    So yeah, literary awards could definitely be a little less parochial and could do more to investigate the very best of genre fiction. But, as I see it, the problem is much less that literary awards rarely reward genre writers and much more that writers within the genre rarely have the aspirations of Mieville and Roberts.

  14. Vaudeview says:

    Science Fiction has pooped in the pubic’s eye for a long time. I cry at night..

    http://tinyurl.com/gudshoe-s1r

  15. Dan D. Jones says:

    Speculative Fiction is not considered literary because the vast majority of it is NOT literary. I love Rothfuss and agree he’s an excellent writer, but _The Kingkiller Chronicles_ is not (and I’m pretty sure does not aspire to be) literature. It’s rather a damned find yarn.

    This is a bit simplistic and ignores a whole lot of important details but, in a nutshell, literature tends to be character driven and speculative fiction, by its very nature, tends to be plot driven. Speculative fiction is all about incredible magic or awesome technology and amazing, heart-palpitating adventure.

    I fully agree that there are exceptions within the genres that deserve recognition. It IS possible to write speculative fiction that qualifies as a great work of literature. But that doesn’t change the fact that there is a fundamental tension between the aims of speculative fiction and the aims of literature. Reflecting that, there’s also a fundamental tension between what fans of the genre want.

    _Gormenghast_ may be an awesome piece of literature and a wonderful story, but I’d wager that only a few of the regulars here have read it. Furthermore, I’d wager that if you sent every regular member here a copy of it for free, only a few more of them would complete the first book, much less the whole series. Most of the readers here want Kylar Stern wrapped in his black ka’kari engaged in an assassination, not Steerpike plotting to burn a library. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    So personally, I don’t particularly care that Speculative Fiction doesn’t receive literary accolades, any more than I care that SF books aren’t nominated for Grammys or Oscars. It’s different worlds; it’s different purposes. It doesn’t mean that one is superior to the other. It just means they’re different.

  16. August says:

    I thought I’d chime in here, because I’m a (Canadian) literary critic, and I see a lot of opinions about what people like me must think, and most of them are just ridiculous. I thought you might appreciate my perspective.

    So: I review books for money (mostly Literary fiction, which is a term I’ll use here to mean the genre of mainstream fiction that cherry picks the best from other genres, even though I think it’s problematic to define it that way), and am reasonably well known, and I think–I hope–reasonably well-respected by my peers. I give positive reviews to genre fiction fairly regularly (mostly horror, SF, and mysteries, as those are the non-Literary genres that come across my desk most often), and am always eager to find strong works that challenge Literary norms, especially when that involves exploring territory originally carved out by the pulps way back in the day. I have a degree in English literature, and I studied interdisciplinary theory at grad school. (That’s not really relevant, but I thought you might like to know a bit of my background.)

    I read Lovecraft & PK Dick & Miéville & Gibson & I enjoy them every bit as much as I enjoy A.S. Byatt & Julian Barnes. I also play video games, tabletop RPGs and whatever. So do many of my Literary friends, including those who are authors and publishers.

    First, reading professionally is different from reading for pleasure. When I read for pleasure, I read for a bunch of different kinds of pleasure.

    Some examples from my pleasure-reading: I read A.S. Byatt because her prose is smooth on the surface, but becomes sharp and clever as you look at it more closely, and because she writes about art and colour better than any English-language writer now living. She gives you a sense of works of art as physically vital, the literal embodiment of all the thought and energy the artist put into them. Her characters think differently from each other, about entirely different things, and she can show you whole different worlds that exist simultaneously in the same space, if you are willing to put effort into looking. I like that sort of thing; I like being challenged in that way.

    I read PK Dick because he was a mad genius, and every one of his books gives me an existential crisis, and I come out the other end changed, and often uneasy about it. The emotional trauma of paranoia is always so visceral in his work (though otherwise his characters are often–but not alway–very flat, and his prose isn’t worth a tinker’s damn). I like that sort of thing too.

    I read William Gibson because, even in his explicitly SF work, nobody looks more closely at *now* than he does, and he understands why little things we take for granted are actually big things. He hangs it all on a (usually) pretty exciting thriller plot, but what you’re actually reading is a clever stew of sociology and psychogeography. He’s also got a gift for metaphor, and with Pattern Recognition he got his characters to walk around like real people. With Zero History, he finally figured out dialogue. In fact, I should probably confess that William Gibson is my favourite living author, and I have interviewed him professionally.

    I read Bernard Cornwell because there’s lots of action, a reasonable nod in the direction of historical accuracy, and he’s funny sometimes. I read Gordon Dahlquist because I’ve got a thing for faux-Victorians getting up to smutty stuff, and he writes a cracking mystery. I could go on. These are all distinct pleasures, and are all equally valid, when reading for pleasure. And I’m under no obligation to examine any of them (but I do, because I’m like that).

    When I read professionally, I look at entirely different things. What is the author trying to achieve with this book? Where does it fit in her oeuvre? Where does it fit amongst the other books being published right now, and amongst the traditions the author writes from? Does it have obvious influences, and has the author assimilated them well, or is he trapped by them? I look at the structure of the book, and I see if it holds everything together, or wanders about aimlessly, or (worse) if it’s some bit of wholly inappropriate cleverness. I look at whether or not the plot functions logically, and–more importantly–if the plot flows naturally from the characters and their choices, or if the author has wedged it into an agenda of her own.

    And here come the two things that seem to have the commenters up in arms:

    First, is the writing any good? There are no hard and fast rules. The most important thing is that it’s functional in a way that is appropriate to the artistic aims of the book, and that the author pulls it off. Showy is generally bad, but that’s not the same thing as complex or linguistically dense; in fact, it’s often what happens when an author attempts those things, and fails. Stripped down prose with very few adjectives and adverbs can be dull and monotonous in the wrong hands, but rich and wonderful and moving in the right ones. It’s all very subjective, but I agree with Umberto Eco in that there are privileged readings (he said something like ‘a text can mean anything, but it can’t mean everything’, and that holds true with judgements about quality; any word could be the right word, but not every word–some are very obviously the wrong ones). I read like an editor, with a red pen in my hand, taking apart sentences and seeing why they work or don’t work, striking out excess words and underlining the bits that are surprising or exceptional.

    I’ll let you in on a little secret about Literary prose vs SF prose, using an example. Charlie Stross and Ray Robertson (a Canadian Literary author who occupies roughly the same space in CanLit that Stross does in SF) have really similar prose styles. Except that Robertson’s prose is a much, much better version of that style. When I read Stross, my red pen sees a lot of “good enough” words and sentences instead of “best” ones. In Robertson I see mostly “best” ones. Robertson doesn’t publish as often as Stross does, but when does publish, his books feel more professional, like he has paid more attention to the details. It feels like he cares more about the quality of his books, whether it’s true or not (I don’t think it is). And *that matters*. I will say this, though: Literary authors catch hell for bad prose way more often than you might think. The ink in my pen is just as red for Robertson as it is for Stross.

    But prose quality isn’t the big one for Literary types. It’s big, but not the biggest.

    So finally, the biggest thing is, for lack of a better term, emotional/psychological realism. A novel is a kind of model consciousness or world-view (or several competing ones, depending on how many characters there are). I need the characters to be people. I don’t need to like them, I don’t need to understand them. I’d prefer to be interested in them, but that’s a separate issue. What I want is to believe in them as people running around in the world, having thoughts I’m not hearing, desires I’m not reading about, and so on. I don’t need to see those thoughts and desires, I just need the sense that they’re there, and to believe the author would show them to me if she thought it was necessary. I can’t give a book a positive review, regardless of its genre, if it doesn’t succeed at doing this, at least to some degree. Exceptions can be made for extremely experimental works, or other cases in which it’s clear the author deliberately chose another path, but those cases are pretty rare, and I am reluctant to embrace them. And I’ll tell you what else; really polished, accomplished prose makes pulling this off a hell of a lot easier.

    It’s a hard thing to do, and a lot of authors don’t get it right. You can still do this and have a plot involving guns and swords and action and big ideas about space or time and whatever. Elmore Leonard does it. Patrick O’Brian was brilliant at it, most of the time. Canadian SF writer JM Frey, whose novel Triptych I recently reviewed, does it very well. Ursula K. LeGuin gets it right, and so does China Miéville.

    In my experience all but the very best writers get the balance wrong somehow. The difference is SF writers tend to then throw their weight into polishing up the plot & ideas bits instead of the characters (which I think, honestly, is a mistake regardless of genre, except in very rare circumstances). Guy Gavriel Kay comes really close, and gets better with every book, but has still only done it once or twice (and his early books are a joke in that regard). Tolkien is an abominable failure. Neal Stevenson gets there in The Diamond Age, but otherwise misses the mark. Neil Gaiman manages it in some of his comics, but pretty much nowhere else. Frank Herbert and Joe Haldeman don’t even come close. Charlie Stross doesn’t even seem to try half the time. (And except for Tolkien, these are all writers I *like*.)

    The absolute last thing I ask myself is whether or not I like a book, because I’ve been at this long enough to know the difference between things I like and things that are good. I *like* David Eddings, but I also know those books are utter trash from beginning to end, and if I had to read them professionally, I could not in good conscience give them a positive review. I could–and would–say that I enjoyed them, but I would make it clear that it was because sometimes trash is fun, in the same way that sometimes ice cream and pork rinds taste just right for dinner. But nobody would take me seriously if I recommended it for a nice Friday night at home, and they’d be right not to.

    Anyway, I look those things for every book, regardless of its genre. I agree with William Gibson when he said “Readers who are excessively concerned with genre, and the boundaries of genre, don’t strike me as particularly sophisticated readers. And that can be true on both sides of that fence.” I write mostly for trade publications (ie. magazines that librarians and booksellers read to help them decide what to stock), so I will try and place a book in a particular marketing category if I feel it’s necessary (we don’t want a bookstore specializing in mystery novels to order a box of George Martin by mistake), but it has no impact on my assessment of the book’s quality.

    If you want to know why Literary types claim some SF writers and not others as their own, it’s the psychological realism thing. Those writers get that bit dead on, every time, and it, more than anything else, is the defining characteristic of contemporary Literature**. All of those writers I mentioned who *don’t* get it right have other things going for them that make their work great, but they are never going to hit the Nobel or the Booker or the Giller or whatever metric you choose, because that’s the one hurdle that they absolutely must make, every time. Literary fiction is, first and foremost, about modelling a believable consciousness in prose. If they achieve that, then it doesn’t matter what the plot looks like, or if the characters ride around in spaceships and shoot guns at each other, because those things aren’t usually relevant. Although it is possible for them to get in the way if the writer isn’t all that good at them, or uses them to wedge the characters into a plot with an agenda.

    Let me also say, though, that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with writing to a particular community of readers. JM Frey’s wonderful novel Triptych could have had Literary accolades if she’d dropped the time-traveling assassins, which got in the way (mostly because she’s better at psychological realism than she is at action), and had just gone with the furry blue alien–oh, and gotten a better cover; I cannot tell you how important that sort of thing is in being taken seriously outside of the SF community; so much genre stuff has just offensively ugly covers–but she wasn’t writing for Literary acceptance, and doesn’t need it, or to my knowledge, want it. And that’s okay.

    To be honest, I’m not particularly fond of labelling things, despite all this. But if we must, I’d like to take the marketing category we call “Literature” and change its name to Mainstream Fiction, and let “Literature” be the very best work from all genres, past and present. But that ain’t gonna happen. I’m not trying to tell you guys that elitism and genre snobbery doesn’t exist, because it certainly does. But we critics are readers first, and we’re in it because we love to read, and in my experience, most of us are open to new kinds of reading experiences.

    Anyway, I hope this has been in some way helpful. If not, I’m sorry for taking up your time.

    **When you get into work that is too old to be considered contemporary, then other factors come into play, about which I am not going to say anything, because I am a critic of new books, and I don’t feel comfortable defining where older books fit, at times when ideas and criteria were markedly different.

  17. Tim says:

    Oh we’re reading the handmiads tale in University. I like it, but I don’t like the lack of plot that is inherent in a lot of literary plots. There snobbiness from the fantasy side;)
    Hmmm I kind of disagree that anything should be added to the literature side because that solidifies the image that literary fiction is a cut above “Genre” fiction. Personally I find Rothfuss’ female characters horribly written…sorry if that’s abit harsh but the scene where Kvothe and the barman (can’t remember his name) are talking about women is pretty cringe worthy

  18. the_hound says:

    I agree with Martin here, calling Rothfuss or Martin ‘literary’ is a stretch… bit like saying Rowling is ‘literary’. I can jump between the two – pulp fantasy/ sci fi and literary works, and love both… but you need to recognize the differences as well.

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