Good… whatever time of day or night you are reading this!
They say those who do not read live but one life. Those who read live thousands.
Reading is one of life’s few, small pleasures. It can also be incredibly frustrating, particularly if you want to share your excitement for any particular tale with the world.
It seems that I am once again seeing discourse floating around the interwebs about books and genres and weird superiority rankings. It’s tired and tiresome, and I can’t believe we are having this discussion again. Really internet? Really?!
Luckily, this time around, it’s nowhere near as vitriolic as the argument has been previously (that I’ve seen thus far), but it seems there there are some really pretentious knobs out there eager to try and elevate themselves by disparaging what others enjoy reading. I just don’t understand that mentality at all.
There are the usual snobberies that readers and writers of genre are very used to. You know the ones. Literary fiction is on a pedestal and ‘genre’ is some sort of dirty word that immediately brands its readers as somehow vapid and unintelligent.
Never mind that some of the gems that literary fiction claims as its own are, in fact, genre. The Portrait of Dorian Grey and Frankenstein, I’m looking at you.
Never mind that much of genre actually deals a great deal with heavy philosophical questions about humanity, our history, our destiny and our relationships to ourselves, each other, our world, and our history and destiny. That they do it in settings drawn from our imaginings of distant history, myth or wrapped in the deafening silence of deep space somehow disqualifies these musings as trite or childish is one of the most febrile arguments I’ve ever heard. And yet, I keep hearing it over and over again.
Perhaps it’s because they’ve been made to feel so low, writers and readers within genre are not innocent of the same behaviors. We see the science fiction crews go after the fantasy hordes, and it seems they both have found a common enemy in romance, despite both of those genres falling back on romance as major and minor plot points in their own narratives.
It is the insidious nature of the beast, I suppose. In order to make themselves feel better, each faction has taken up arms against another in a quest for… what, exactly? Acceptance? By whom? The fools who stomped all over them for their own genre preferences? Superiority? Over whom? Other writers or readers? To what end?
The whole thing is, frankly, stupid.
The number of fools I’ve seen on BookTok (the bookish corner of TikTok) proclaim they don’t read romance because it’s silly and entirely frivolous is quite astounding. It’s even more astounding how they got on their pulpits and preach this nonsense while openly admitting they’ve never actually cracked open such a book. I shake my head at the willful ignorance of these people.
Look, I’m not a romance reader. I have neither read nor watched Bridgerton. The same is true of Outlander. It’s not a genre I gravitate towards per se. But I do read a lot of fantasy and science fiction with a heavy dose of romance in them. Hell, my own writing does that. Why this is acceptable, but romance itself is not requires a lot of dissection, and is not at all divorced from the manner in which society treats the things by and for women specifically as inherently inferior or vapid or beneath consideration. I do not have the time and energy to discuss that here.
What I do want to tackle is the idea of something being ‘merely’ entertaining, and therefore somehow without worth or value. Genre is not, and never has been ‘mere’ entertainment. However, even if it was (it’s not, not for the last time, I’m sure), that still has value. A lot of value.
Look, we’re living through incredibly difficult times. There is war in Europe. Military coups are cropping up. Nazis are somehow making a comeback. Women’s rights are under attack — corpses have more rights in America at present. Once again the LGBTQA+ folks are bearing an unimaginable burden of societal hate for no reason whatsoever. We’re still in a pandemic, even though we would all like to forget about it, and it is still claiming millions of lives. Another pandemic appears to be looming large on the horizon.
The world is variously on fire, or flooding, or at risk of having the entire climate system collapse in maybe two years. We are watching mass extinctions take place.
We are suffering beneath an oppressive cost of living crisis, which billionaires seem to be thrilled by (there’s a terrible video of one such moron happily proclaiming that ‘a nice little recession’ would cure the workforce of their desire to work from home. A ‘nice little recession’ would claim thousands of lives and destroy countless more, but that doesn’t matter as long as it gets butts back into some random heartless billionaire’s buildings). I have had to make peace with the fact that unless I am somehow wildly successful with my writing career or I get that the (what feels like) equally likely (but still impossible) lottery win, I will never own a home. My retirement plan is to die.
Anything, and I mean anything, that gives someone space and time away from the worries, the fears and struggles of life in this time is inherently valuable. The value of time, that space, that escape cannot be understated. Even if there was no examination at all in the text, even if there was nothing but ‘good vibes,’ even if it was all vacuous and frivolous and trite, if it brought but a fleeting moment of joy in this bleak world, it is still inherently valuable and is, as such, worthy of consideration respect. Even if it’s not your particular cup of tea.
Can we all just leave it alone now? Alright? Alright.
Now go read a book.
When S.M. Carrière isn’t brutally killing your favorite characters, she spends her time teaching martial arts, live streaming video games, occasionally teaching at the University of Ottawa, and cuddling her cat. In other words, she spends her time teaching others to kill, streaming her digital kills, teaching about historical death, and cuddling a furry murderer. Her latest novels are Skylark, Daughters of Britain, and Human.