Is Genre Fiction Reaching Critical Mass?

"...all the writers who’ve been excluded from literature for so long – my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction, writers of the imagination..."

“…all the writers who’ve been excluded from literature for so long – my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction, writers of the imagination…”

Interesting things are happening in SFF and other ‘genre’ fiction right now. Having been looked down on for decades (centuries?) it’s increasingly looking like mainstream cultural and critical acceptance is on the cards. Why do I think this? And why now?

The last two ‘blockbuster’ exhibitions at the British Library were devoted to comics/graphic novels and Gothic fiction. The BFI have a sweeping Sci Fi season on at the moment. The BBC are getting in on the act and have sci fI documentaries playing right now. And then there was this speech from Ursula K Le Guin (and if you haven’t read her Left Hand of Darkness I suggest you stop reading this right now and get a copy).

I’ve written briefly about Interstellar already and, whatever you may think of it, there’s surely no denying it’s great to see a slab of grown up sci fi reaching a wide audience – not just robots slugging each other in the face for once. And on TV Game of Thrones has become the one to rule them all.

That’s why I think it’s happening now, but where has it come from? What’s driving it? I wonder if it’s not linked back to the phenomenon that is/was Harry Potter. The generation that were kids when the first book came out are grown up now. And through their teenage years and into early adulthood they followed Harry’s saga, with Lord of the Rings punctuating it on the big screen (along with the Potter adaptations themselves of course). It was an adolescence defined by fantastical fiction, some of the most successful ever, and it has led to an fantasy-literate adult audience broader than ever before.

That’s my theory at any rate, and I’m sure there are many other ways to spin it – capitalism following one genre success to make more money maybe, or the internet uniting disparate fantasy fans into a collective force, or something in the times we’re living through making fantasy and sci-fi appealing as either carriers for metaphor or escapism from the global recession.

I’ll post something more about Harry Potter soon, but what do you think? Do you think genre fiction is ascending to its rightful place alongside ‘literary’ fiction? If so, what’s your theory?


Interstellar and Magick

First off, allow me to announce right up front: Interstellar Spoiler Alert.
Ok, just those who’ve seen it left? On we go.
I saw and very much enjoyed Interstellar the other night, and one part of it struck a bit of a chord with me. Once Coop (Matthew McConaughey) has gone into the black hole and fallen into a higher dimensional space the filmmakers were quite clearly needing to find a way to represent something outside our perceptions yet in a way that we could perceive. The way he was able to interact with matter, pushing at the strings of reality seemed like a neat way to represent it, and actually reminded me a little of Jamie Braddock from X-men/eXcalibur comics. I think Interstellar pulled it off better though if I’m honest.
I write about magick and odd ethereal concepts so I’m always on the lookout for ways other media portray the unportrayable. I’m not talking about fireball-slinging wizard battles here, but more esoteric stuff. Interstellar fits right into this, particularly when bearing in mind the famous Arthur C Clarke quote:
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic
Talking of magick...

Talking of magick…

One of my other film faves for this is A Field In England, Ben Wheatley’s Civil War weird-fest. When the magick (or is it drugs?) gets going there’s a beautiful and abrasive bombardment of images that threatens to overwhelm the viewer. Add that to the ethereal tone conjured throughout and I think it far exceeds any of Kenneth Anger’s Magick Lantern Cycle where magick is concerned.
Typically understated

Typically understated…

Out of film, parts of Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles comic series take a great stab at showing intersecting realities, particularly some of the Phil Jiminez illustrated issues around Bloody Hell In America – take a gander at the photo above for a favourite page from my much-thumbed copy. Hardly a surprise given the Pop Magic! central both to the comic and Grant Morrison’s philosophy.
Let me know some other exciting interpretations of higher planes of existence/experience, I’m always on the lookout for more.