Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Crazy Ambition

You know, I hate the fact that every critic praising the new Battlestar Galactica makes such a point of saying that it is "not really science fiction", as if they need to prove to their readership that they are too cool to watch science fiction, because, you know, no one cool likes science fiction. At least, that is the fiction of American society, that only loser geeks like science fiction. We have to stress that Star Wars, The X-Files, Star Trek (all its incarnations), Quantum Leap, and now Battlestar Galactica, are all "not science fiction" in order to maintain the fiction that "no one cool likes science fiction".

Yeah, I totally hate that. Except I am having problems of this sort myself right now. Not with regards to my television viewing, but with regards to my writing abilities and what I plan to do for NaNoWriMo.

My problem is that I want to be the next Salman Rushdie. Or A.S. Byatt. Or possibly Mary Gordon. Or Alison Lurie. Or a whole bunch of other writers who write what could be referred to as "serious fiction." In addition to the writers I want to be, there are a whole slew of writers I do not want to be: Stephen King, Anne Rice, Agatha Christie, to name a few. Why? Well, because I suspect that people wouldn't respect me, that they would call my work stupid and facile, that they would make a great show of telling people that they were too "smart" and "cool" to even bother reading my work, that the opinions of anyone who read my work were less valid because of their declasse tastes.

Except for one thing. All those writers have written many books and have tons of fans. Yeah, it's true, the literary community doesn't respect them, but is that so important? Isn't that just the literary version of "I'm too cool for Doctor Who"? Why wouldn't I want to be one of them? So there would be a lot of people (many of whom will never actually write novels of their own) who looked down on me and said I wasn't a "real writer", big deal. Is writing "genre fiction" such a bad thing? Do I really care if literery snobs think they are too good for my work? Wouldn't I just love being Terry Pratchett, Ursula LeGuin, J. K. Rowling, Holly Black, Sara Paretsky, Douglas Adams? In fact, wouldn't I pretty much sell a limb to be any of those people?

If I could deal with being a chubby, ugly, brunette, sci-fi fan in high school, I can deal with being the writer of genre fiction.

All this assumes I can actually complete something, and that is a pretty gigantic assumption at present.

For those of you who are just desperate to read more of my work, I wrote this piece of Harry Potter fan fiction awhile back (around 35,000 words). Let me know what you think.


Anonymous kim said...

I just had a conversation about this with my 10 yr old on the way to school. I think we decided that it is better to be comemrcially successful and reach more people than to be considered "Literary" and have no one, but a few uptight professors read you. Of course, I really just want to finish the stupid book, get published(huge task that I'm not sure I'm up for)and have someone read the book.

1:22 PM, October 26, 2006  
Blogger Stuntmother said...

I am completely with you on this, and in fact, I think one of the things holding me back has been that I want to be Salman Rushdie, but I like to read Terry Pratchett. Which would I prefer to write, in that case? And what is better? To write the stories I think people want to hear? Or the stories in my head?

7:59 PM, October 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have asked myself these questions, and I can't imagine trying to produce anything under the concern of other people's perceptions. Having studied literature, I have to say that what is cannonized as utter literary brilliance and what isn't can be perplexing and changeable.

Ursula LeGuin is taught in college - I had to read her for a class on American utopian lit. So she's crossed over. And you know that during their own times, many writers were not thought nearly as profound as they were later (in many cases, sadly, after they were long gone). It's all a big crapshoot!

Write what you know. Write what's in your head. Because when it comes down to it - I'll bet that's exactly what Rushdie does.

5:57 PM, October 29, 2006  

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