So Elizabeth Bear linked to this article on Thursday. I opened it in a tab in my browser and promptly forgot about it for two or three hours (and a glass or two of wine.) When I returned to it, my first reaction was “what the hell am I reading?” followed swiftly by “oh my god… EXACTLY.” Go read it, and then come on back.
Here's the thing.
I LOVE the term “speculative fiction.” It's the term I use when people ask me what I write. I more often than not have to define it for them as best I can, (“You know.. sci-fi, fantasy, horror kind of stuff…”) and know that invariably they still don't really know what it is that I write. That's because everything I write is different. I write fairy tales, psychological horror (badly, I might add,) bio-based sci-fi, stuff that would have fit well on The Outer Limits or The Twilight Zone, if I were writing scripts, and contemporary fantasy and magical realism. If I knew dick about the Victorian era and its technology I'd also be writing steampunk, but that's another post entirely.
The thing is, all of that fits under one umbrella… somehow. It's What I Write. They all seem related to me. They always have. The stuff that I read seems related — Douglas Adams sits next to Neil Gaiman on my shelf, and apart from being British they don't really have a damn thing in common. T.H. White's The Once and Future King goes nicely with Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game and Stephen King's The Stand. They go together. They just do.
I occasionally notice this thing that Mr. Morgan talks about here, what he calls the “more relevant than thou” attitude. And I, like him, just don't give a fuck. It's a big tent, and we can all fit in here.
I'm not in a position where these things can really bother me. Nobody knows me or my writing, and maybe they never will. Nobody is going to be disparaging my stuff as irrelevant because frankly nobody's ever seen it. But what I know is that I, Reader, do not sort my loves into 'relevant' and 'passe'. I read what I love.
I do not love crime fiction. I do not love mystery. I do not — Cthulhu help me — I do NOT love memoir. I do not love romance, erotica, or thrillers. I rarely can get behind anything that does not contain the elements of fantasy, horror (which typically is fantasy, but scary,) or sci-fi. (Notable exception: T.C. Boyle.) But my heart absolutely swells for anything in the SpecFic tent. Even if I don't love the story (you've seen me gripe and nit-pick a bit here before) I love the writer for going there. I love the stuff that says “what if the world/universe was not as it actually is, what if it were like this instead.”
We're artists. Don't we all get that? And art is subjective. The idea of sci-fi writers bitching about who is more relevant than whom conjures caricature images of art gallery snobs, claiming that a stark red canvas is more relevant than, say, Chagall. It is subjective — you like it or you don't. There is no good or bad, better or best. You like it, or you don't.
You know what I don't really dig, even in our tent? Space operas. Also, vampire stories. But they're still written, and they still sell, and I absolutely love that people are writing and reading them, and who the FUCK gets to say that they shouldn't?!!
It's a big goddamn tent, and it's got a number of banners flying over it: skulls, dragons, spaceships, dripping butcher knives, gene sequences, robots, broomsticks. I LOVE this tent.
And anyone who thinks we should take down any one of those flags can get the fuck out. I'll be over here in the corner, reading a book.
Maybe even theirs.