Rinse and Repeat: Slapfights in Fiction
If any of you have taken a recent look into the literary part of social media, you would have noticed that yet again, people are up in arms about some literary fiction writer trash talking fanfiction and everyone else who has ever written fanfiction trying to defend its literary merits. For me, it’s sort of a facepalm thing–I’ve seen all these arguments before and I’m betting that the person who set all this off was just another young literary writer trying to establish that they are better than everyone else so they decided to punch down at something that is more popular.
I’m honestly annoyed and tired with hot shot writers trying to take pot shots at other genres of fiction that they deem inferior. It happens over and over and over again and bluntly, I’m calling bullshit on all of it. Genre does not dictate quality. Writing ability determines quality. I think some people just need to realize that their arguments for literary quality actually boil down to two things: elitism and money.
The core of elitism and snobbery in literature assumes that certain stories are worth more than others. They assume that tragedies are better than comedies, stories with moral lessons are better for your soul than stories for entertainment, literary fiction is more serious than genre. I find these assumptions absolutely odious because it implies that not everyone’s voice is equal. Telling people not to write is the literary equivalent of telling people to shut up. Maybe you might not connect with someone’s story, but you don’t have to read it. However, this also doesn’t give you the right to tell people not to write their stories.
I also think it’s a matter of money. Many people write stories, but only a few of them will sell enough books to make “being a writer” a full time job. When some struggling writers see writers of other genres being successful, there’s the urge to try to tear them down in order to make themselves seem better. Unfortunately, there’s still this notion (especially in the west) that you should do work for the love of it. If you’re doing it for the money, you’ve sold out. (I see this in many fields, including my own. There is still this stigma that if you’re a scientist and go into industry instead of staying in academia, you’ve “gone to the dark side.”) But the reality is, everyone needs to make money somehow. That’s how our society works. The food on the table and the roof over your head aren’t going to magically appear just because you want them. And if a writer is able to commercialize their talent so they don’t have to live in a box, then congratulations to them.
Related to money is competition. Obviously, there are only a finite number of publishing houses in existence and they only have a finite number of slots to publish books per year. On the other hand, I would argue that different genres are not competing for the same slots. If you’re aiming to be the next F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tor or Harlequin will not publish you no matter how well you write. And even if you think your genre is too overcrowded with traditional publishing, you can always go the self publishing route. With today’s technology, there’s no excuse for not getting your story out there if you think it should be read by people. Of course, the readers only have a finite budget to buy books–but that’s something that no writer can control.
Anyways, my main point is that writers complaining about other genres should stop wasting their time complaining and go back to writing their own books and trying to make them as best as they can be. It’s silly wasting time arguing about how good you are and how bad others are instead of actually doing the work to show how good your books are without burning your bridges with other writers.