Books Genre

Nicely done.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden takes on Charles McGrath’s recent column about Philip K. Dick in the New York Times, which features — you guessed it — the greatest hits of condescending clichés about genre fiction. Nielsen Hayden concludes:

Dick is definitely a major SF writer, very much worth reading, and some of the standard cliches about him are surely true. But McGrath’s essay is an impressive example of the kind of normative blather dubbed “bookchat” by Gore Vidal, writing whose main purpose is to explain to anxious readers whether it’s socially acceptable to like this stuff or not.

I won’t be teaching my planned course on the rhetoric of popular fiction in the fall, but if I were, this would be added to the ever-increasing pool of material on anxiety about literary taste and the “genre ghetto.” See also: Colleen Mondor’s recent and equally great post about Wired’s article on the subject.


  1. I’m unclear — was Colleen Mondor upset about the subject of the Wired article or the article itself? I thought it did a pretty good job of presenting the unfairness of the genre ghetto, but her post appears to be attacking that article as if it endorsed the POV.

    And man, if I see one more article referring to BSG as not really being sci-fi, I am going to rip it to shreds, because what part of “…set in *space* on *spaceships*” doesn’t seem science-fictional? I’m looking at you, EW.

  2. I’m pretty sure she was peeved about the material in the article, not the article itself (but I think that is unclear in a few places).

    And yeah, refusing to call BSG sf is a particularly egregious example! Odd how this kind of anxiety crosses media lines; I would’ve thought sf might be seen as a less damaging label for TV shows or movies than for books, especially for a show that’s remaking a science fiction classic, but apparently not…?

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