J.M. McDermott argues that the non-realistic, near-fantastical approach to crisis in literary fiction bothers him, whereas the non-realistic, near-fantastical approach to crisis in fantasy doesn’t bother him. Larry from OF Blog of the Fallen drinks a little bit of the Kool-Aid by trying to find examples of literary fiction that don’t fall into this “trap”.
I find this discussion bizarre, to be honest. I don’t automatically assume that my life is like everyone else’s life, or that everyone’s reaction to stimuli and trauma falls roughly within the same narrow spectrum of reaction. And there is much that each of us keeps hidden.
But then, I reject the term “literary” fiction entirely as nonsensical and meaningless, just as I find “genre” meaningless. I have to use them sometimes because of common understandings of the terms, but that doesn’t make them any more meaningful. So, the discussion becomes even more incomprehensible to me in that context. Literature is not a binary construction. No one text is exactly like any other fictional text. Writers who interest me have unique ways of looking at the world, and some may use fantastical elements and some may not. Some may use elements of “realism” and some may use “hyper-realism” and some may eschew realism altogether. A hard SF writer may seem mimetic to me in his or her approaches just as a “literary” writer whose subject is contemporary relationships, and who uses no element of fantasy, may seem to me a fabulist.
The act of committing fantasy in a story or novel no more automatically makes that writer a fabulist than makes a unicorn of an accountant who reports hearing the voices of angels.
In an unintentional footnote to aspects of these first two posts, Matt Cheney tackles mimetic fiction.
I am now waiting for my friend Hal Duncan’s five-thousand-word post that will bind them and rule them all.
Of course, I am just stirring up trouble here. I’m mixing literary and realist, fabulist and genre. Just call me contrary. Besides, it all seems like a Mad Hatter’s tea party anyway.