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  1. #16
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    It does, though that is changing today faster than the perception of Epic Fantasy as literature. YA fiction is a broad and growing field, and there is a new cult rising among some authors and editors regarding the merits, literary and conceptual, of YA fiction today.

    Interesting artists are generally not snobs? You redeemed yourself there with the word 'interesting', though it did somewhat take the punch out of the statement. Have you been to many fantasy conventions in the US?

    What are those assumptions today, Alison? Morals have changed so much, and acceptable behaviour has a thoroughly different meaning now than even 15 years ago.

  2. #17
    Books of Pellinor alison's Avatar
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    Hi Gary - No, I've never been to a con in my life. When I leave my burrow by the sea, where I live a conventional family life with school, shopping, and all those relationships of everyday living filling my day, I generally hang out with artists. Theatre people, musicians, composers, a few writers. Beyond my friends, I move in and out of a variety of artistic communities in a random sort of way. I wear quite a few hats (why I'm a bit suss of genres with fences placed around them). What I'm saying is a fair reflection of attitudes I've encountered over the years. By "interesting artists", I mean people who are not hide-bound or riddled by prejudices, who are open to different ideas. No, on the whole they're not snobs; why should they be? They want to know what's going on, what's interesting; snobbery limits your horizons.

    Don't forget about reverse snobbery, either. It cuts both ways. Either way, it's limiting. I'd rather talk across boundaries myself, because I find it interesting.

    Writers of children's fiction (not just YA) still struggle with legitimacy, despite stars like Pulman or Rowling. The magic word in YA is "crossover", which I think is another way of evading the writing itself (what of stuff that doesn't "crossover"? Is it inferior?) Crossover excites publishers, because it means more sales, but I'm not sure it really indicates as mcuh as people say it does. Scrappy reviews in the mainstream press is the most obvious indicator fo what I'm saying, I guess.


    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner
    It does, though that is changing today faster than the perception of Epic Fantasy as literature. YA fiction is a broad and growing field, and there is a new cult rising among some authors and editors regarding the merits, literary and conceptual, of YA fiction today.

    Interesting artists are generally not snobs? You redeemed yourself there with the word 'interesting', though it did somewhat take the punch out of the statement. Have you been to many fantasy conventions in the US?

    What are those assumptions today, Alison? Morals have changed so much, and acceptable behaviour has a thoroughly different meaning now than even 15 years ago.

  3. #18
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    I happen to own a finance company in New York, and the strength and blood of my company for all the years that I have been running it, is to finance young, artistic entrepreuneurs, primarily in the fashion and design business. I actually have a number of Australian clients as well - Annabel Ingall and Rebecca Taylor, to name a couple. I have been immersed in the art world in NYC - art, fashion and music all run together here - and I have worked with some of the most successful desingers today. What I have learned is that I cannot generalize, ever! Some are incredible artists like the designer Yeohlee. Some are commercial and care only about the fame and the fortune. Some I love, some I hate. Artists should have better sensibilities, you expect it of them. They should be less crass and less materialistic, but that is not always the case. I look for sensitivity in a person first. I need to know that they can feel, and that when they do they cherish it, rather than run from it. I also need to be with people who respect honesty and are not afraid of it.

    I mentioned Fantasy Cons for a reason before. They can be odd experiences for many. On the one hand, you go to talk to other authors in your genre, to participate on panels and to do a reading of your own work, but once you arrive, it seems very much like one big promotion. I am very bad at self-promotion, so for me it can become quite uncomfortable. A con just proves that art and artists come in all shapes and sizes, and that perceptions and reality are never quite the same. Some people are wonderful and truly genuine, and many are as phony as they come, yet they all are artists in one form or another.

    I had a run in with a very famous YA editor in Arizona in October. Crossover was her 'big' word.

  4. #19
    Books of Pellinor alison's Avatar
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    It sounds to me that we're saying more or less the same thing - that one can't generalise. I don't deny that a snobbery about fantasy writing exists within the mainstream literary/artistic world, but I've encountered enough people who don't fit that rule to challenge that it's a general truth. (Nor was I hinting that fantasy authors are not artists). But maybe we're talking about different things: elective affinities vs public fora, like SFF cons.

    I don't expect that artists are better than other human beings, though it would be nice to think so. They're prone to all the human follies, maybe even more than most people. Sitting at a desk all day trying to write can be bad for the mental health: an argument for having a "real" job, I guess.

    I have to admit that the promotion stuff, although I do it dutifully if asked, on the whole interests me very little. I like being able to meet readers or other writers, and I love talking to children/young adults. When I do readings or appearances, as poet or fantasist, my primary motive is something else than selling books. I figure that selling is the publisher's job...!

  5. #20
    Space Cowboy Asraloth's Avatar
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    For the life of me, I can't understand the "literary" snobbery towards fantasy.

    fantasy, no matter what the sub-genre (epic, urban etc) requires a lot more work, when well-written, to bring to life entire worlds and show things about the human condition that can't always be shown by straight literary fiction.

    in addition to this, fantasy has more potential to be subversive.

    you might say, "bad fantasy is what gives the rest of the genre a bad name." but every genre contains works that are not as well-written as others, so why is fantasy any different?
    even if every fantasy novel ever written was trash, it should be recognised that fantasy, as a genre, has IMMENSE potential.

    but in the end, who gives a ****. i don't need the approval of literary snobs. i read and write fantasy (among other things) and i love it.

    now, if the literary snobs somehow take over the government and form a police state, and begin burning good fantasy books, then we'll have a problem.

  6. #21
    Books of Pellinor alison's Avatar
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    That snobbery puzzles me too, Asraloth. It doesn't apply, say, to crime fiction. Making any book is about making a whole, real world: it's just that fantasy is up front about it.

    Not that it matters, as you say. Maybe it's because fantasy tends to sell better.

  7. #22
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    Crime fiction is 'acceptable' because it has a long history, which gives it a 'camp cache' - that's my experience anyway. The primary reason literary types dismiss fantasy is that they think it's informed by commodity, as opposed to aesthetic, virtues. Stuff like reliability, ease-of-use, and stylishness.

    but in the end, who gives a ****. i don't need the approval of literary snobs. i read and write fantasy (among other things) and i love it.
    I agree with the sentiment entirely, Asraloth, but the problem is that these people hold a lot of keys, especially when it comes to reviews, book festivals, art council grants, and so on. And what happens is that the biases get internalized on both sides of the institutional divide. I've personally felt the sting of this several times. The Globe & Mail, for instance, which is Canada's paper of record, won't touch my books because 'they're too genre.' At the same time, the big US fantasy imprints pass on the mass market paperback rights to my books because 'they're too literary.'

    The attitudes themselves tend to do a lot of policing.

  8. #23
    Books of Pellinor alison's Avatar
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    Crime fiction is a mere babe compared with fantastic literature, if you trace it back to epic poetry...and as far as modern fantasy, there's William Morris and all them way before Tolkien and much more camp even than Sherlock Holmes. Much more arcane, much more high seriousness, much more everything!

    Scott, your dilemma, falling between two stools, sounds like a very good sign to me, as far as your work is concerned. But I can absolutely see the problems, and also what you say about the internalised biases. How to change the critical terms in which fantasy is talked about?

  9. #24
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    Let's just stop calling it fantasy and call it speculative fiction.

  10. #25
    Books of Pellinor alison's Avatar
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    Let's just stop calling it fantasy and call it speculative fiction.
    No, I'm not suggesting that at all (do I detect some irony?) I write high fantasy, the full secondary reality stuff, epic quests and all; I'm as interested as anyone is in what that is, and how it is discussed. Speculative fiction is a useful term for the whole sff genre, but that term includes Phillip K. Dick, Mary Gentle, Pulman, Le Guin, Pratchett, Asimov, even to Borges and Bulgakov - all vastly different writers doing vastly different things. And as you know, fantasy itself gets easily subsumed, and that's part of its marginalisation. I guess one question might be how to identify it as a genre without limiting it by definitions.

  11. #26
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    Of course I was being ironic. High Fantasy or Epic Fantasy are descriptive enough terms for most people who are not familiar with the distinctions between the various types, or who are not at all familiar with fantasy, to realize you are not talking about pornography at the very least. But the terms still do not get the respect that they deserve. It has never mattered very much to me, I must be honest, but I can imagine how it must upset you, Scott, as I too was once immersed in the same type of community that you are. Professionally, it must be difficult at times. But it's all just foolishness. I used to be somewhat embarassed after I left the academic world for the business world and I had to tell people what I did professionally. I felt that if I was not pursuing something artistic or intellectual, then what I was doing had less intrinsic value. But I realized quickly that in any field there are artists and there are pundits. I am fortunate in that I have always been involved and connected to the more artistic side of my field, and I have had the good fortune to work with many musicians, artists and generally creative people. But the laymen's assumptions can be very frustrating, adn they can also be hurtful. My skin has gotten thicker over the years.

  12. #27
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    I rarely feel wounded or ashamed of it anymore. It's the professional obstacles that make me grind my teeth now. Take The Globe & Mail, for example. Given that we are inundated by American media up here, they - like that other grand institution of Canadian communication, the CBC - pay particular attention to Canadian authors. I've actually made a couple of bestseller lists in Canada, and though I'm a relative unknown elsewhere, my books are coming out in six different languages. The content of my work at the very least pretends to be literary. And yet as far as they are concerned, I don't even warrant a read, let alone a capsule review, let alone a full-blown review. Penguin even went so far as to take out an add for TDTCB in their weekly "Books" insert, hoping this might stir their interest. Nada. Nothing.

    I'm convinced it's because they 'just don't do' epic fantasy. I've certainly never seen one reviewed in their pages, and I read it religiously (which is one more reason to gnash my teeth!).

    Sorry for the rant. But I do feel like I'm caught between 'stools' - only of the 'sampling' sort!

    The prejudice runs very deep, primarily because it's simply automatic to so many that epic fantasy is not 'serious literature.'

    I got some chips to brush of my shoulder.

  13. #28
    The Globe and Mail? Is that thing important? Hand me The Toronto Star please. How is the Canadian literature scene these days anyway? There's that Life of Pi guy and who else? Those Booker aspirants just get lost in the ill defined crowd. Is your only competition in the Canadian fantasy realm G.G. Kay? No need to fret just dominate your niche. By doing so you're liable to outsell the rest and be more well known by the end. You'll also be more original. How many Canadian epic fantasy writers are there?

  14. #29
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    The scene is pretty vibrant as always - literary writers still routinely dominate the bestseller lists. I hear what you're saying, B, it's just that I've been a huge G&M reader for years and years, and for some reason I have it in my head that 'making it' means getting their thumbs up. And for some reason getting snubbed by people I know I can mess up in a one-on-one debate rankles my excessive pride! But it's the principle more than anything else. Most literary types make lots of noises about 'openness to marginal discourses' - so much so I was actually naive enough to believe I would be welcomed with open arms. I now know they mean it the same way Bush means 'freedom' - as privilege-entrenching double-think.

    The Star is a good paper, but too partisan editorially for my tastes. Like a left version of the National Post.

    Steve Erikson is Canadian. As are Tanya Huff and Charles deLint.

  15. #30
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    What bothers me more is that authors, and I am not criticizing the authors for this at all, like King and Crichton are front page news. Horror and sci/fi is more legitimate as a literary form than fantasy?

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