So what's all this forsaking of one's literary pedigree about?Read the whole thing. Gilsdorf goes on to argue that in addition to gaining greater acceptance in the academy, genre has found a home among the literati because "readers want richer, more complex and more imaginative and immersive stories." That may be true in some instances (such as Justin Cronin's post-apocalyptic vampire epic The Passage). But I hope that literary authors are also coming to realize that speculative elements are less facile escapism and more facilitators of theme. Universal human experience can come through in both narratives about frustrated academics facing existential ennui and survivors at the world's end squinting down the stocks of their homemade crossbows.
It began with the flipside of this equation. It used to be that genre writers had to claw their way up the ivory tower in order to be recognized by the literary tastemakers. Clearly, that's shifted, as more and more fantasy, science fiction, and horror writers have been accepted by the mainstream and given their overdue lit cred. It's been a hard row to hoe. J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Philip Pullman and others helped blaze the trail to acceptance. Now these authors have been largely accepted into the canon. You can take university courses on fantasy literature and write dissertations on the homoerotic subtext simmering between Frodo and Sam. A whole generation, now of age and in college, grew up reading (or having read to them) the entire oeuvre of Harry Potter. That's a sea change in the way fantasy will be seen in the future -- not as some freaky subculture, but as widespread mass culture.
(Picture: CC 2009 by awrose)