We've seen many posts and discussion over my first year of blogging dealing with the fact that genre fiction - namely, fantasy and science fiction - is the poorer cousin of literary fiction.
But, dare I say it, I'm starting to feel massively sorry for poor old literary fiction. I was doing some research earlier on fantasy and science fiction literary prizes (mostly to see how many awards Lauren Beukes can possibly win this year for Zoo City *grins*) and these are the awards I could find without delving too hard:
- Arthur C Clarke
- John W Campbell Award
- Philip K Dick Award
- Gaylactic Spectrum Award
- Hugo Award
- Nebula Award
- Prometheus Award
- World Fantasy Awards
- David Gemmell Legend Award
- BSFA Award
- Locus Award
Without searching hard, I have found eleven ways in which we lavish praise on our brilliant authors and celebrate all manner of speculative fiction. We shout from the rafters about how excellent our science fiction and fantasy is!
On the literary side, the main award they have is.... the Man Booker Prize. And we're trying to get in on that too! One of the recent complaints is that genre fiction is not recognised by the "mainstream". Based on the above, I would say that we have quite the glut of awards right now and have no need to muscle in on the Booker Prize, thank you very much. We are the mainstream.
Some people are getting their knickers in a twist about the fact World Book Night did not highlight any fantasy and science fiction authors. Umm, I saw David Mitchell, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Margaret Atwood, and Philip Pullman. They might not get shelved in "our" section all the time, but they all write speculative fiction. Out of 25 authors, that is a fair proportion, I'd say, considering that crime took a relative back seat and chick lit - although deemed to be a profitable part of the book shelves - only had one representative.
This week we have seen a prominant fantasy novel hit #1 on the New York Times list The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. A lot of people were saying 'Boo yah literary fiction!' and nudging each other about the fact that people would have to sit up and take notice now!
I think that they have been taking notice, guys. They know that The Lord of the Rings, C S Lewis, Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games - many of the massive phenomena in the literary field over the last few decades have been speculative fiction. Two huge classics are Dracula and Frankenstein - beloved by millions. We have never been the poor cousin. We are dominant and powerful and have a voice heard by many.
This is why I say... poor old literary fiction! Let's allow them the Man Booker Prize, it's all they have!