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Genre Prejudice

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

A great piece in the Guardian today : a review of Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood by Ursula Le Guin. Now I'm biased because, in my view, Le Guin is pretty well divine, but it's fantastic to hear her criticising Atwood for her insistence that this book (and others, such as The Handmaid's Tale) is not Science Fiction. Which it obviously is. But as Le Guin puts it, Science Fiction is "a genre still shunned by hidebound readers, reviewers and prize-awarders" and Atwood, consequently, "doesn't want the literary bigots to shove her into the literary ghetto". Ah, Ms. Le Guin, what would we do without you?

Railing against genre-prejudice is a bit of a theme to this blog. At the same time I think it's even a shame we talk about genres that much. All too often it's arbitrary and nonsensical. The Picture of Dorian Gray is "a classic" whereas something like Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness or her Earthsea volumes are, instead, pigeon-holed as SF and fantasy. How old does a "speculative" book have to be before it is moved across to the "Classics" shelves? And who bloody well takes it upon themselves to decide?

Le Guin loved Atwood's book by the way. I may track it down. But, Le Guin has recently had a new book of her own out - Lavinia - and I must admit I'm rather more inclined to read that one ...


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