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I've been trying to understand the difference between literary fiction and genre for a long time. A member of my writers' group used to bring in science fiction for critique sometimes, and sometimes her avant garde work. It was all meticulously written in her delightful, faux naif style, and we could never tell the difference between avant garde and science fiction, except that occasionally the science fiction had some very human aliens in it.
In fact, I believe the best fiction, whether literary or genre, has always combined powerful language with psychological and social insight and story.
The way we separate genre and literature in the twenty-first century is, to my way of thinking, mostly about selling, and there is no doubt that writing in certain niches sells far better than others. I've been writing since I was about six years old, and in the beginning, I was above all interested in the stories.
What happened to the Indian Princess? What did she do? I went through a long period in college and after when I saw myself as devoted to high art. The truth is that I have always loved some high art, admired other high art, and reacted to some with a big "meh.
In our present literary landscape, this often, although certainly not always, means well-written genre books. The problem with highly polished art writing is the danger of creating only static set pieces— bijoux for contemplation and admiration, rather than a river that sucks you downstream through its rapids and sluices.
The novel I'm working on now is science fiction, and I've been trying hard to master how to create that river. I'm writing just as carefully as ever, at least in the later drafts. This probably means I'll never be a commercially successful genre writer because it will always take me too long to write a book, and a prime characteristic of successful genre writers is that they keep new product in the pipeline.
How is writing this book different from writing my other fiction? Occasionally in the science fiction novel, I choose to simplify language for action--but I do that for action in anything I write. I am probably more careful about the geography of my settings because I want them to be very clear in the reader's mind as the action plays out.
In language, I pay a great deal of attention to using words that fit the material culture of the world I've created. I avoid images that include objects or ideas that don't exist on this planet. This is part of the pleasure though: I delight in world-creating as much now as I did when I was five years old and my parents bought me for Christmas a miniature ranch with horses and fences and people.have been a homeowner for over 30 years, and I took this unprecedented step of writing an unsolicited letter of recommendation for Bob because I believe that exceptional work should be recognized.
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