I have an author friend who told me that when he was a judge on a panel to award literary grants to Australian authors he immediately weeded out all entries that were written in the genre of fantasy or science fiction, discounting them as being non-literary.
I was dismayed.
Would he have tossed out Lord of the Rings? Would he have tossed out a novel by Ursula Le Guin?
On Monday I went to listen to China Mieville and Scott Westerfield at the Melbourne Writers Festival. Both authors create new worlds to place their stories inside. Both authors bemoaned the fact that fantasy and science fiction were not highly regarded amongst literary circles.
But it is acceptable if you write ‘literary fiction’ first, as Doris Lessing did. The Sirian Experiments, the third volume in her celebrated space fiction series, Canopus in Argos: Archives was shortlisted for the 1981 Booker Prize.
Just as many childrens authors have people asking them, when are they going to grow up and write an adult or ‘real’ novel, so too do sci-fi and fantasy authors get similar comments aimed at them.
Perhaps those people who poo poo speculative fiction have lost their ability to dream, to imagine, to be inspired.