In my youth I got really irate if someone suggested that fantasy was, like, not real literature. Or that Forgotten Realms published fanfiction literature might not quite measure up to Wilde or Nabokov. Because goddamn it it’s serious business. Fuck you. How dare you.
Now this isn’t about Moff’s Law and the thing about saying “it’s just a book/movie/game/comic, stop overthinking the racism/sexism/homophobia!” Rather it’s about how some people will not rest until they browbeat people into humoring them with “yes, yes, fanfic certainly is a legitimate art form” (with the subtext of now can you please stop being an obnoxious cock?) and sometimes even that will not get them to calm the fuck down. Because suggesting that fanfiction is a thing of generally low standards shows you know jack-shit about it, how dare you insult all fandoms, my mom likes my fanfic damn you, and it doesn’t matter that the other party also reads and writes fanfic: you’re shaming mpreg! And fandom is kind of an oppressed minority or something, so don’t go making fun of it, mmkay.
I think we’ve all been there, barring possibly the “how dare you shame mpreg!” Hopefully most of us grow out of it. Because there comes a point, as you approach adulthood, when you realize that there honestly are better things to do and that flying off the handle at this kind of thing just makes you look ridiculous.
Recently it was “revealed” why Tolkien was passed over for a Nobel Prize in Literature (and also revealed that he was only nominated because his BFF C. S. Lewis threw his name into the hat):
The prose of Tolkien – who was nominated by his friend and fellow fantasy author CS Lewis – “has not in any way measured up to storytelling of the highest quality”, wrote jury member Anders Österling.
His fans, plus the usual Westeros troglodytes, naturally reacted with grace and digni–oh who do I think I’m fooling.
subliterate maggot: This speaks volumes of an tradition of art critique that is so far removed from the public perception of what makes a good book as to be utterly laughable. People talk of what makes good prose as though there were a rulebook, ignoring the fact that what one person finds highly engaging another finds mindnumbing. Matters of taste is entirely apt, as the Nobel Prize in Literature is nothing more than a load of pretentious arseholes deciding who to pat on the back.
The trouble with viewpoints such as yours is that you discern between the opinions of people “in the know” and those who aren’t. That’s just intellectual elitism, and I won’t stand for it. I’m not saying Dan Brown is better than [insert obscure but well reviewed author here] purely on the basis that Brown has sold more copies. What I’m saying is that there is no such thing as better or worse, at least in the objective sense.
The 5 year old wants something different from a book than you do. Your opinion is superior because….you’re older? You’ve read more? You’re smarter? So in short I think the 5 year old’s opinion is just as valid as yours.
That’s right. In his hysterical flailing to insist that no objective standards, or indeed standards of any kind, exist for works of prose this manchild actually said “yes, a five-year-old’s opinion on art is just as valid as anyone’s.” A good thing too, because this man appears to be reasoning at the level, indeed, of a five year old. Redditors, amazingly, actually come off as more rational until you scroll down and the fanboy comments start popping up.
Yeah, we should hand out literary prizes for people who make up conlangs, which are so useful and… wait what? Okay, we should hand out literary prices for people who make up fictional history for their self-indulgent zzzzz… hey, George Lucas totally deserves a fucking Nobel, amirite? Priorities, fanboys. Post the Fantasy Novelist’s Exam? Raise the hackles, boys, raise them.
And, of course, the explosion over a negative review of some shitty third-rate fantasy that wouldn’t be out of place under a D&D logo:
The real issue, as I see it, is that Strange Horizons has a track record of publishing attack pieces on works of core genre and this track record continues in the form of an attack piece by a haughty ivory tower intellectual who studies classics of all things.
Some asshat, Adrian Faulkner, cried about bullying:
What I cannot understand is why people would even consider approaching a review without respect for the subject matter?
I don’t know what happened to make some of these reviewers so bitter. Jealousy of the author’s success, a misguided thought that this will make a name for themselves? I wouldn’t accept racism, homophobia or anti-Semitism in a review, so why should I accept bullying? Surely, in the 21st century, we’re better than that? It genuinely shocks me that the genre community believes that type of behaviour is acceptable in this day and age.
Scathing reviews? Just like racism, homophobia and anti-semitism just so you know. Faulkner is a white man by the way, so it’s not like he’s ever experienced racism. Respect the subject matter please, by the way. You know, the subject of shitty third-rate sword-and-sorcery claptrap.
Then we have this entire goddamn post.
The Arthur C. Clarke Award is a good example, of one that seems to nominate a lot of the same type of books year in year out and books that are written quite “pulpy” or present as “too genre” seem to be overlooked in favor of the stuff that pushes some sort of boundaries, or crossed some level of weird to make it stand out. Does that mean the paperback urban fantasies ought to be overlooked?
That the formulaic urban fantasies or the third-rate sword-and-sorcery that Liz Bourke rightly eviscerated do not deserve awards, or that they deserve to rot, doesn’t occur to these people.
You can see the trend: whiny, childish foot-stamping directed at what they perceive as haughty ivory-tower types (even though Liz Bourke is anything but seeing that she reads and reviews SF/F all the damn time) while, at the same time, desperately trying to gain the mainstream approval that the “ivory-tower types” enjoy. It’s a honking inferiority complex. Much like that suffered by fans of young adult, romance, tie-ins and fanfiction. Nobody very much wants to contemplate whether mpreg fanfic actually deserves to be taken seriously, or whether the latest variant on “rape to love” M/M is anything but mindless dreck: they see someone with shinier toys and, like children everywhere, want toys just as shiny.
At some level people aren’t entirely secure about what they like. SF/F has a reputation for being kind of shit, substandard, and racist/misogynistic/homophobic. YA is the go-to genre for writers of perpetually stunted skills who can’t finagle a tie-in writing contract. Tie-in fiction is shit. Fanfic is… well, it’s beneath discussion. So when people do say things like “SF/F is quite the cesspit, isn’t it?” you are sure to become defensive because you recognize it is true to an extent lesser or greater (and no, Racefail ’09 didn’t “fix” the genre; haha, you wish). No, fanfiction will not be taken seriously; why should it, when most of it is centered around hideously written slash, high-school AUs, and read/written by people who make YA authors having meltdowns look professional? No, YA won’t be thought of very highly because most of it is–like fanfiction–mindless dreck, written at an embarrassing reading level. No, video games won’t be taken seriously because… have you noticed the writing in popular AAA titles lately?
What you need to realize, if you aspire to some kind of adulthood, is that it doesn’t fucking matter.
I no longer give a shit what “the mainstream” (lol) think of SF/F. Neither do I care to combat generalizations largely because they are very often true (e.g. the matter of standards, subpar prose, shitty tropes, misogyny, racism, homophobia, dominated by straight white men): and when they are not, I don’t feel that there’s anything to prove. Writers like Nalo Hopkinson, Ursula le Guin, Catherynne Valente and more exist, and they are justifications unto themselves. I don’t need to defend the genre because these writers are not some kind of genre collective, and let’s be frank: they don’t need me, or you, to ride to their rescue.
Of course, if your schtick with defending SF/F is something like “avant-garde, amazing writers like Joe Abercrombie, Jim Butcher, R. Scott Bakker and Steven Erikson write fantasy!” then you are probably a hopeless cause in any case and deserve only to shut the fuck up.
And even putting that aside: does it honestly, honestly matter if I tell you I think all Star Wars tie-ins are shit? That I think YA is puerile and worthless, and has no purpose in existing as a genre? That I tell you Joe Abercrombie is a talentless hack and will never amount to anything more than hackery which appeals only to lovers of hacks? Of course on one hand fanboys will huff and puff and make noises along the line of “crazy feminazi bitch with obscure blog nobody reads/listens to” but judging by all the lengthy threads and continuous whining (still going on here) they care oh so much, in the same way that the fanfic defenders care, and YA writers are supremely defensive and throw shitfits at the slightest criticism (let alone scatter-shot generalizations like what I just made).
But I’m telling you: stop caring. Stop giving a shit. It makes you look ridiculous. What you enjoy is between you and the book, or the game or whatever. It doesn’t mean you should ignore criticism of the “there’s no woman with agency here, not a single one” or “why are all the gay people dead”: those are different, and should make you push together a few brain cells and think. But if you are provoked enough to rabidly defend something for six pages on a forum thread simply because someone said, unspecifically, “all things of [this type] are kind of shit, so I don’t read them” you should probably reevaluate your life choices. Recognize that what you enjoy is probably quite shit, and the generalizations may have some merit to them, or just stick to the ones that disprove those things and breathe.
Calm the fuck down. Stop being so defensive; all it shows is the hurt on your butt.