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Maybe one of the benefits of a more digital world is that we can lose the genre distinctions. In a digital world, a book doesn't have to be shelved just in science fiction or literary fiction or mystery, it can be "shelved" in all of them at once if necessary. So the answer to the question of whether Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union is literary fiction or science fiction or mystery is, who cares? Or China Mieville's The City & The City. They're just fine books.

Ken Muldrew

The cover art on science fiction books really bugs me. All those horizontal cathedral-spire spaceships shooting laser beams...why do book publishers do that?

But I'm sure I could get past the covers if it wasn't for something else which I have never been able to figure out. I love the books by Stanislaw Lem that I have read, but I haven't read them all and I don't know why I haven't read them all. I love Vernor Vinge. Dan Simmons' Hyperion series was some of the most compelling fiction that I've ever read. And yet, if I'm browsing in a bookshop, I'm more likely to pick up Dan Simmons' ordinary fiction rather than his science fiction.

I think the idea of an alternate universe just seems too likely to fail. Nobody can imagine a fully consistent universe; not even close. If the story is good enough, then I am perfectly content to allow all sorts of magic that will stitch the seems together, but it always seems like I will be forced to work too hard to suspend analysis of the background setting. That's probably a foolish presupposition that has kept me from reading a lot of great books, but there it is. I suppose what I really need is someone with my exact tastes to recommend scifi books so that I can get over my initial prejudice.

mac macgillicuddy

For me, it's similar to your approach/avoidance, only I always liked the idea of the genre of science fiction and the CONCEPT of science fiction, but I rarely found a book I really liked..or wound up remembering. I know I read a lot of Heinlein's stories, and Isaac Asimov was another favorite. But I can't remember them now. I do still like Star Trek, though I am far from a Star Trek buff; every time they find a new way to present it, I look forward to it.

Kevin Wolf

Star Trek was the vehicle by which I came closest to fandom. I still enjoy a lot of that, and sci-fi movies. My reading of SF has been far more spotty. A friend I grew up with was deep into SF and would recommend stuff. I adore Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, and greatly enjoy his standards like Martians Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451. He may be the only writer in this genre whom I revisit.

I've enjoyed Silverberg, LeGuin, Disch, others. Some of the "classics" I found downright awful. Dune created a very impressive world - all in service to a plot that ranks right up there with, say, the original Star Wars movie. Really silly. I hated Stranger In a Strange Land. It seemed painfully obvious and felt just plain painful. I skipped from about the 2/3 point to the end just to confirm that it went where expected (and so I could escape the damn thing faster).

I agree with the general idea that many SF writers are as good as "mainstream" or "literary" writers in ability and style. And let's face it: some literary fiction is just plain boring. A wild sci-fi plot can sometimes come as a relief.

J. Dvorak

My niece writes young adult fantasy/steampunk and fights the genre stigma every day. (Her novel The Unnaturalists comes out this summer, by the way).

minstrel hussain boy

i too am a huge vonnegut fan. today i can't read about monsanto and its frankenseeds and dioxin corns without thinking "ice-9."

Sarah TX

My MIL and I are both wide-grazing book lovers who often have this debate - she on the side of defending Lit and me on the side of defending Whatever I Enjoy. My latest battle is trying to convince her to read Zone One, which is about as Modern Lit Genre as you can get, except for the zombies of course.

In other words yes, people are still arguing about 'this', the way they're still getting peeved over prescriptive grammatical mistakes or how 'kids these days' are surely the worst generation.


Thanks, Lance, for bringing the ULG essay (which I'd not otherwise have found) to our attention. It's a little frightening to consider how much energy we all collectively (though some more than others) put into convincing ourselves that our likes and dislikes are traces of discernment about Quality, rather than just likes and dislikes. I think ULG hit the nail on the head with her hypothesis.

Hoosier Mike

"Actually, I was terrified by an episode of Jonny Quest, now that I think about it, but I’ll keep that between me and my therapist."

I was going to guess the invisible monster (the one that scared me the most) but then started thinking; gargoyle, spider robot, giant crab ...

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