According to a recent essay in The Nation by Dan Sinykan, an English professor, literary fiction might soon be dead.
I’m probably one of many who will be glad to dance on its grave. While it is certainly true that not all fiction is great literature, the implication that only “literary” fiction is the truly good stuff made me furious long before I started writing science fiction.
Sinykan defines literary fiction as “fiction that privileges art over entertainment.” I find that definition ridiculous, given how much art I have found in science fiction and other work relegated to “genre” and how little I have found in some supposedly literary works.
I mean, are you really going to say that Ursula K. Le Guin didn’t create art? Or, for that matter, Joanna Russ or Octavia Butler?
And while F. Scott Fitzgerald had a lovely way with words, his subject matter was less than enticing. I remain unimpressed by The Great Gatsby, though I suppose the struggle between grifters and the more established rich is still a ripe subject for exploration.
When I was at Clarion West, Chip Delany told us that literary fiction was just another genre. It was a revelation. Of course, Chip’s work certainly reaches the standard of art.
I began to read science fiction at about the time literary fiction became a term – which Sinykan says happened in 1980 – because so much of what was supposed to be good fiction back then was boring the hell out of me. Continue reading “Is Literary Fiction Dead?”…