Literary vs Commercial fiction SMACKDOWN

Because I teach writing at a university, I'm on the front lines of some kind of war. Or battle. Or pissing contest. I'm talking about the divide between literary and commercial fiction. I'm talking about snobbery and entitlement. I'm talking about blood and guts vs. psychological realism.

Many of my colleagues disdain commercial fiction. They openly, actively, look down their noses at it, assuming it's less than literary fiction, assuming that the writers of genre fiction are "settling for" or "easily satisfied" with their trite prose. And if a literary writer does venture into the land of the supernatural, it's not called science fiction! Oh no. That's magical realism.

I understand the position. I went to graduate school. I have my MFA. In that milieu, genre is a dirty word. But my first novel (BRAINS!) is a zombie novel. That's genre. And you know what? I loved writing it. It was fun and it was liberating.

And it wasn't easy. It was as difficult as writing a sensitive novel about the psychological aftermath of a divorce and suicide.

And you know what else? I like both commercial and literary fiction. I don't understand why there has to be a divide. Let's love them both, like you love hamburgers and hot dogs. Apples and oranges. Kickball and baseball.

Romance writers: Embrace your inner Pynchon. Literary writers: Embrace your inner Harris. We can learn from one another.

You know what I feel like right now? Munching on a big juicy brain!
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9 Response to Literary vs Commercial fiction SMACKDOWN

March 12, 2010 at 3:29 PM

Writing a good novel of any kind is hard. Writing a good novel that is entertaining and fun, harder yet. I hope you laugh all the way to the bank!

March 12, 2010 at 6:23 PM

Great post. I was sent your book Brains: a zombie memoir to review... I am so glad I got to read it. It is awesome. I'm about to write a review for it now and I just had to find you to follow you on twitter and blogger. It was fun, refreshing and unique!

March 13, 2010 at 8:30 AM

I don't think there should be a line either! Call me Team No Lines.

March 13, 2010 at 11:30 AM

@Rex Robot--I'm glad you liked the book! Hooray!

March 15, 2010 at 8:29 AM

There is no line. The debate arises from insecurity, the desire to aggrandize and tear down. Just write the best thing you can and continually try to improve. Write what you love and enjoy the process, labels be damned. People who want to argue literary versus genre clearly aren't writing enough.

March 15, 2010 at 1:46 PM

Oh we just had a discussion on science fiction vs magical realism in my Sci-fi Lit class. Silly terms. Can't wait to read your book Robin!

March 18, 2010 at 8:41 AM

I'm so out of the loop. How the heck do you know if your story is literary or commercial? I still don't kow the rules. I haven't been querying my novel as literay fiction with magical realism, I've called it a paranormal thriller, but it's not quite thriller enough, I think. If I can label it as literary, that opens up a whole slew of new agents to bombard with my query. ;-)

March 19, 2010 at 12:57 AM

thank for share, it is very important . ̄︿ ̄

March 19, 2010 at 5:05 AM

@Mary--"a whole new slew of agents to bombard"! That sounds almost...evil ;)

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