Friday, March 25, 2011

Fantasy food for thought.

Well, this is a little embarassing. It has been almost two months since anyone updated this! Let's change that, shall we?
This morning, I was ambling downstairs for my morning coffee when I overheard someone talking about fantasy literature on the radio. Yaay Wisconsin Public Radio! Veronica Rueckert was interviewing Wisconsin native Patrick Rothfuss, of The Name of the Wind fame. You can listen to the program yourself here (10 AM on 3/25).

Mr. Rothfuss said something I found particularly interesting - someone he knew had read his books, and classified him as a literary fiction writer, rather than a fantasy writer. Admittedly, I have not read any of his books myself, except for The Adventure of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle. And while wonderfully written and deliciously subversive, I assume it is not the ideal Rothfuss example. But it's no secret that The Name of the Wind and its sequel, The Wise Man's Fear, are firmly entrenched in the fantasy category.

The reasoning behind Mr. Rothfuss's classification as a literary fiction writer was simple - it was because the book was deemed "good." I've often wondered about this myself. Why do fantasy and science fiction books have such a stigma? Are they really more poorly written than literary fiction books? Is that why they don't sell better?

I don't know the answer. It does seem odd to me that this stigma exists in spite of the Lord of the Rings series essentially shooting it in the foot. The same rule applies to science fiction as well, with powerhouses like Kurt Vonnegut disproving the theory that science fiction is poorly written.

I'd love to hear what this blog's readers think. Leave a comment and give your $0.02! In the end, all I can do is shake my head and continue to recommend some forthcoming science fiction titles that are well-written.

The Passage comes out in paperback in May. I've raved about this before, so I won't subject you to it again. It's available as a bargain book for $10!

Robopocalypse lands in June. Think World War Z with robots instead of zombies. Very entertaining, and set to become a Steven Spielberg flick in 2013.

Warm Bodies comes out at the end of April. I'm currently a few chapters in. It's about a zombie who falls in love. Yes, I realize how awful that sounds. It's actually rather good thus far.


  1. I'd say that literary fiction is a genre just as science Fiction and fantasy are genres and there's good and bad writing in all of them. Margaret Atwood famously denies being a SF writer because she believes, and probably rightly so, that she won't reach as many people if she is shelved in SF. Jonathan Lethem, George Orwell, Audrey Niffenegger, David Mitchell, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Cormac McCarthy, Kazuo Ishiguro, JG Ballard, José Saramago, Haruki Murakami, and Yann Martel have all written SF or Fantasy novels. Michael Chabon and Philip Roth have both written alternate history novels concerning WWII, but so has Philip K. Dick. Two recent books that have attracted a lot of attention lately: "Swamplandia" by Karen Russell and the excellent "The Tiger's Wife" by Téa Obreht can be considered magical realism novels.
    On the other side, China Miéville has started to gather some crossover attention. Neil Gaiman has been doing it for years. Ian McDonald, Gene Wolfe, Ted Chiang, Paolo Bacigalupi, Ursala K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler, Connie Willis and Neil Stephenson are all worthy of attention.
    I guess it's a matter of perspective.

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