The Genre I Heart
I find that I am less passionate about specific books than I am passionate about genres. That is, I am much quicker to jump and defend fantasy and science fiction from detractors (those who feel books like that aren’t “legitimate” literature) than I am to scoff at someone who just wasn’t thrilled with, say “Ender’s Game” — one of my absolute favorites.
I find that the disdain leveled against certain kinds of books is what really brings out the tigress in me. I snap, I growl, and goodness do I get snarky. Just because a book doesn’t appeal to you, personally, doesn’t mean it has no merit or value. And just because a genre — fantasy, sci-fi, horror, romance — doesn’t float your boat, doesn’t mean that others aren’t sailing away completely slap-happy with their chosen read.
A few days ago I found myself vehemently defending, of all things, Neil Gaiman’s Coraline to a dismissive book club. “Not adult enough. No moral, no point. Not complex enough, not enough descriptions, what did everyone look like? Was it a dream, an imaginary world in Coraline’s head? What did the Other Mother mean.”
I was furious, in a very real way. The main complaint was the unreality, the unbelievability. They were convinced the book had to have a message, or be an allegory — the steadfastly refused to say “it’s fantasy, so we’ll accept that this is all supposed to happen and move forward.” I was beside myself! We’re talking about a Hugo and Nebula-award winning novella, so well-received it won ADULT fiction awards, not just young reader prizes (although it won those too). Those credentials didn’t matter in the least to the club: what mattered was it wasn’t real, so it didn’t mean enough. It didn’t mean anything.
Stories, even the realistic ones, are still only stories. Fictions. Make-believe. Think how expanded the minds of these folks might be if they could just see that the degrees of unreality don’t make for better or worse literature: they just make the stories different. And thankfully so. I’ll take my unrealistic, unbelievable, but incredibly complex, creative, and fascinating fantasy stories over the alternative any day.