acceptance

Posted on Posted in journal, pre-crash

Clarion South 2007 (which now runs biennially, so there's no CS 2006) has announced its line-up of tutors. Now, I know I'm biased and all, but I don't think you could beat the 2005 line-up (don't believe me? one of my tutors posts pictures of cats and bathroom tiles. What more could you want from a tutor? Really?)

Still. Gardner Dozois. Kelly Link. Can you repeat Clarion? Can you? Can you? Please?

In other news, Neil Gaiman notes something of the Australian psyche:

I definitely got the sense when I was out there last time that Australia was a bit behind the US and the UK in its understanding and acceptance of fantasy (despite having several of the best fantasists and fabulists currently writing out there)

In Neil's case this arose because of a review in Melbourne's The Age, which starts with an apology for the entire concept of genre fiction:

THERE is a problem with "genre". All enveloping terms such as crime or science fiction are anathema to many. They're not serious fiction. Regardless of the grudging acceptance by the literary world of James Ellroy or William Gibson, commercial classification remains a stigma.

The worst one of all is that horrific appellation fantasy, a world definitely for dweebs or, at best, "young adults".

Sadly, this is the realm that Neil Gaiman finds himself in again and again.

Note in particular the last line I've quoted, as if in writing fantasy Gaiman is aiming for worthier ideals but can't quite climb out of the slums. The review is by Ashley Crawford and, not being a regular consumer of The Age I don't have any knowledge of his (her?) style or tastes. But the review, although positive, does smack of a distaste for genre fiction.

Is there a lack of acceptance by "mainstream" audiences in Australia? Are we behind the UK and the US in accepting genre fiction? Could population base have some bearing on this?

I'm undecided. On the one hand, just last night I met a friend's wife for the first time, and we were discussing my writing. She explained very apologetically that she didn't read fiction (she prefers historical non-fiction), but then said, "But your book isn't really fantasy, is it? It didn't read like fantasy to me." Now, the main character of this book is an angel with black wings — 'nuff said?

11 thoughts on “acceptance

  1. Well, I don't know about Australia, but THE AGE isn't particularly keen on genre in general. It's rather liter-AIR-ree in its reviews, despite having Lucy Sussex as a regular reviewer. Generally I skim the book section on Saturday to see if there's any interesting non-fiction out, and that's it.

    …but maybe it is Australia, because I've always felt I was fighting against said backwards attitude.

    (What does fantasy read like anyway? Probably something with the word 'epic' in it.)

  2. I'm not sure what specifically she meant by "doesn't read like fantasy" because we were interrupted at that point and I couldn't hound her draw her out on it.

    I know that when non-writers ask me what I write about, I tend to answer "science fiction" or "science fiction and fantasy" rather than simply "fantasy", and I'm not entirely sure why. Is it that I'm skirting the inevitable response, which can range from pitying to blank incomprehension? (Is it that I don't want to hear, yet again, "Oh, you mean like Harry Potter? Or Dan Brown?")

    And if The Age is Literary in its views (as are most other newspapers I know), well, they are reporting to the mainstream audiences. Pandering to / creating the response, right?

    What interests me is that movies are approached differently, as if they somehow are allowed more liberties. Techniques such as animation, and storylines such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Star Wars aren't questioned for their worthiness (although they are sometimes described as "wierd" in that sneering/bewildered way). Perhaps because movies are "newer", and haven't yet built up the history that printed stories have?

  3. The worst one of all is that horrific appellation fantasy, a world definitely for dweebs or, at best, "young adults".

    Ashley Crawford is an ignorant, posturing, youth-unfriendly dickhead. S/he's also a journalist, and journos are legendarily resentful of writers of any kind of book, but doubly so of successful writers of books.

    With the sneering, with the pitying and with the blank incomprehension, I think it's important to remember that it's the sneerer's problem, not the fantasy writer's. Neal Gaiman certainly shouldn't feel he has to account to some generalising git who had to meet a deadline, and neither should the rest of us.

    I do hate the way people go from 'A writer, are you?' straight for J. K. Rowling's millions. Or, they start sputtering about how they don't read much but their child / husband / best friend reads like crazy. Or, they start dropping suggestions for stories into the conversation. It's got so that I introduce myself as a technical writer rather than a fiction one, because encounters get so uncomfortable.

    👿

  4. I couldn't agree more! I tend to introduce myself as an engineer, even though I'm not working as one at the moment, just to avoid that very situation. The majority of people I meet are completely oblivious to the spectrum of writing out there, both in terms of genre/content and in terms of "success". (And don't get me started on the misapprehensions about the work part of it all: from the time I choose to devote to it, to the process itself, and the whole kettle of fish that "inspiration" is supposed to be. My friends and family are wonderful, but even they sometimes are perplexed by the fact that I like a routine. Apparently, it's supposed to be this muse-inspired rush and emerge perfect and fully-formed. Damn. I knew I was doing something wrong.)

  5. I love Neil Stephenson's story about being asked by another writer at a writers' conference what he did for a living. Puzzled, he said, "I write."

    She said, "No, but what do you do for money."

    He said, "Uh, writing? Like, books."

    After a couple of more go 'rounds, she realized that he was a working writer, and totally iced him for the rest of the conference. Because if he was making a living then he was obviously one of those writers.
    😐

  6. Justine, you're funny. I'm better now – I had a little sleep.

    Scott, I know and love that story.

    Deb, we just have to face it – we're PECULIAR and people can't get their heads around us.

    Yours weirdly,
    Margo.
    :mrgreen:

  7. I know that when non-writers ask me what I write about, I tend to answer "science fiction" or "science fiction and fantasy" rather than simply "fantasy", and I'm not entirely sure why. Is it that I'm skirting the inevitable response, which can range from pitying to blank incomprehension? (Is it that I don't want to hear, yet again, "Oh, you mean like Harry Potter? Or Dan Brown?")

    I tell people I write "speculative fiction". I'm usually far, FAR away before they finally figure out what that means. 😉

  8. That's another good trick. Sadly, I tend to get suckered in to that while I'm unable to run away, and then I have to try and explain the genre terms… ack!

  9. Just say that you write fiction that explores alterate realities and social structures. If you can't impress them with facts, wow them with bullshit, I always say.

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