(Taken from here.)
Yes, folks, it’s the thread that would not die, now well downstream: War of All Against All. A few recent highlights. Go join in and show them they’re not alone, and bring some air fresheners. (It’s actually very interesting.)
Honestly? Iâ€™m just interested in it. I mean, OK, what attracted me to sf/f initially, and then to the New Wave as I realised it was there, and into experimentalism and modernism as I expanded my horizons, and genre literature, and literature in general, was this strangeness Iâ€™m trying to articulate in that theory. From an escapist point of view at first, then from an intellectual and emotional interest. Having connected with the community via a writerâ€™s circle of folk with highly varied tastes, with nobody trying to impose their agenda, Iâ€™ve always found the factionalism of fandom strange in its own right. My immediate response to that factionalism was pretty much to ignore it, or mock it, or occasionally â€” back a ways, when I realised that with Vellum and Ink I was going to be stuck in the middle of it â€” to let rip against it on the blog.
I suppose Iâ€™m not all that interested in it, not anymore than I am deadly interested in why some people like Pop-Tarts and other people like yoghurt mixed with fruit. It is much less fraught than race, class, sexuality, performativity of these, etc. so to me just doesnâ€™t even really rate the use of the same tools to examine. I suppose that I am ultimately only interested in the people who would appreciate that â€œindieâ€ or Outposts section of a bookstore, which is why I make very little money with my writing. But Iâ€™ll live. For a while, anyway.
own a bookstore, and while that doesnâ€™t do much for me, it does let me observe a very large number of readers and how they view books and genres. Letâ€™s look at that Romance notion. I think itâ€™s kind of benevolent to say that the lit folk donâ€™t read Romance because itâ€™s not their thing. It might not be, yes, but I see a vast majority who, often without reading any of it, will denounce it as formulaic crap. They wouldnâ€™t be caught dead with a Danielle Steel novel, let alone a Harlequin. That has to do with value judgments and the resulting issues of image, taste, etc. And so a class structure comparison seems fairly apt to my eyes. I think both systems are operating, the personal taste system entangled with the underlying value structure. I mean, I admit Iâ€™ve made such value judgments. Iâ€™m guessing most of us have. Iâ€™m not happy about it, and try not to. But Iâ€™ve done it. Hopefully, though, thinking about and trying to understand some of those underlying value structures will help me from jumping to too many stupid conclusions.
The problem canâ€™t be an attitude of superiority, Nick, because thatâ€™s something we all do all the time. You donâ€™t have to be snooty to think youâ€™re right. Everybody thinks theyâ€™ve magically lucked into the one true yardstick, especially if they complain about it all the time like me. The problem is the way â€™story-telling valuesâ€™ have been institutionalized. Too many smart, incredibly talented people are spending too much time writing for people who pretty much agree with pretty much everything they say, when what we should be doing, it seems to me, is aiming our provocations at readers who can actually be provoked. How many Bush voters have read the Rabbit tetrology, I wonder? Like Adorno and Horkheimer predicted, â€˜literatureâ€™ seems to have become high-end intellectual entertainment, branded and marketed so as to avoid reaching readers who might actually be challenged or engaged. Which is just to say that thereâ€™s no such thing as â€˜literatureâ€™ anymore, isnâ€™t it?
As for the â€œliteratureâ€ being branded/marketed in an exclusionary fashion, whereâ€™s the breaking point there? Iâ€™m not quite seeing it, unless you want to delve into cultural divides in the literary superstructure? I think your argument would be stronger if you could at least explore the fissures a bit more than noting that the fissures exist and that itâ€™s all a shell game in the end.
G. Arthur Brown:
the only people who allow themselves to be challenged are those who are seeking new insights, new perspectives, new IDEAS. A â€˜liberalâ€™ thinker. The truly liberal thinker is also very rare. Because we arenâ€™t just talking about the mind that would read Updike in contrast to the reactionary Bush supporter. We are talking about the mind who would read also the Turner Diaries and would still have no fear that they would poisoned by harmful IDEAS. An exceptionally rare sort of mind that doesnâ€™t mind going outside of the box to make its decisions about reading or anything else.