Not so long ago Kate Elliot wrote this great article about women in SFF and highlighted something that I completely relate to:
"Even now, when I announce that I am an avid fantasy reader, I often find myself on the receiving end of comments from my non-genre counterparts along the lines of, ‘oh, like elves and stuff?’ and the explanation of why this is a ridiculous way of understanding the genre usually takes more time than we have ."
This is very close to a conversation/argument which I have had several times in the past few weeks. One particular comment was especially annoying and went along the lines of 'but I always thought you read really deep, important books not these fluffy entertaining genre things.' Yeah, I'm making that sound worse than the original comment but it was the gist of it.
I am currently compiling a list of quotations/sections of books that I can point at to prove my point. My point? That genre books can in fact be intellectually stimulating. Fantasy can be a wonderful lens through which we can more accuately see reality. There has been a lot of talk of genre and genre-bashing recently and I'm not getting into it. One simple reason for that, I don't know enough. If you want a genre argument, google it, there's plenty by people who know much more than I do. I read the classics of children's fantasy when I was a kid but I only really got into it four or five years ago. All I am trying to do here is undo a little of the snobbery because it shocked me that people really couldn't see how amazing all literature is.
So I have a request for all of my genre-based friends, if you have any especially good examples of philosophical, deep or just plain amazing sections of genre books please let me know - either in the comments section here or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). For my non-genre friends hopefully I'll soon have a list of things for you to pore over and decide where you're going to start reading.
I used to use quotes from literature to open my essays in University. Partly because I really was an English student trapped in the body of a Politics student and partly because I thought it would put my tutors in a good mood before reading (and more to the point, marking) my essay. They were always relevant and quite often from genre novels. My favourite was an essay on democracy in the Middle East where I used this quote from Witches Abroad by Sir Terry Pratchett:
"You can't go around building a better world for people. Only people can build a better world for people. Otherwise it's just a cage. "
And now I'm off to start making a list to prove that I am right, because some people still aren't clued in to the fact that I'm right most of the time.