Genre and Boundaries

Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro have a great conversation about Breaking the Boundaries Between Fantasy and Literary Fiction over at The New Republic. They range all around the topic, looking at the history of genre and how literature with fantastical elements was viewed in the past.

Gaiman: When Dickens published A Christmas Carol nobody went, “Ah, this respectable social novelist has suddenly become a fantasy novelist: look, there are ghosts and magic.”

Very true. And there’s still some of that today. Some literary writers get a pass on fantastical elements; others are shoved into the genre mudhole while the rest of the literary artistes point and laugh. And of course, in Dickens’s day, he was pretty much considered a sentimental hack who catered to the ignorant masses, so there’s that; even though there wasn’t a genre mudhole to push him into when he published A Christmas Carol, he wasn’t exactly revered by the literary establishment of his day. That came later.

It’s a great conversation, with touches on Westerns and porn and musicals and improving literature. Go read it. 🙂


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Angela Benedetti lives in Seattle with her husband and a few thousand books. She loves romance for the happy endings, for the affirmation that everyone who's willing to fight for love deserves to get it and be happy with someone. She's best known for her Sentinel series of novels, the most recent of which is Captive Magic.