“When I was a kid I got no respect. When my parents got divorced there was a custody fight over me… and no one showed up.”
Somewhere, even as I type, there is someone wearing a tuxedo who is looking at a piece of sf/f with an expession of scorn so intense that it hurts all genre readers everywhere. Isn’t there?
No. This person (variously called “the Establishment,” “the literati,” “English professors,” “the critics,” “your mom,” etc.) is largely imaginary and his power to hurt genre readers with his contempt is wholly imaginary. I’m not saying that no critic, no English professor, no mom has never expressed a hurtful opinion towards some genre or genre work. I am saying that markets for fiction are too diverse to be controlled by any centralized network of opinion.
[Sail the whine-dark sea beyond the jump.]
There are two problems with whining for somebody’s respect. One is that it never works. Whining is indeed a powerful force: it can compel harried parents to buy stuff for their kids; it can get people money, political influence, fame, and money (not necessarily in that order). But it can’t get you love, since it works by annoying the person it targets, and it can’t get you respect, since it emphasizes the whiner’s subservience to the person whined at–the whinee, I guess.
But, apart from the method, there’s something wrong with the goal. (I’ve beaten this drum before, but there’s no fun in beating a drum or a dead horse only once.) Respect comes in a package deal with respectability, and that’s good for bankers, accountants, physicians, attorneys, academics, civil servants. But it’s not good for clowns, jugglers, butter-sculptors and other creative types. Respectability sets limit; creativity has to push limits. Respectability counts pennies; creativity “capers in the marketplace for pennies” (to steal from Ursula Le Guin–not for the first or last time). Respectability turns the key on the lock of life to keep it safe. Creativity may break the lock or make it, but isn’t interested in using it or being constrained by it.
If genre fiction wants to go on being creative, productive of new ideas and new dreams and new stories, it should steer clear of the respectable. That way blandness lies.