Cultural snobbery and the genres

As synchronicity would have it, I ran into two different bits today that have to do with cultural snobbery and the genres.

The first is a blog entry by Mike Dunn, who is an aspiring writer who was literally chased from his love of Analog by the culture of friends he hung around. The second is a video made by Patrick Rothfuss (one of our time’s preeminent practitioners of the fantasy genre), in response to learning that a student who attended one of his readings was not going to get credit for a creative writing assignment (that she would have otherwise) because he wrote fantasy rather than some other more appropriate form of entertainment.


I would like to say something deep about the subject. I would like to say how strange it is that us humans seem to crave the need to separate ourselves into factions that not only take glee in the things we find in common, but also that wantonly enjoy looking down our noses at those in the other camps. We all do it to some degree, don’t we? I mean, I’m a Louisville guy, therefore, if you love the Big Blue of UK, you’re insane. It fills our lives. Politics is the most natural place it comes up. And music (heaven forbid anyone actually see art in every form of music). The high school grounds are cliché for their cliques. Unfortunately, I have no grand words of wisdom here beyond the idea that all people have some degree of douchbaggery in them, and I figure the best we can do is to work hard to bring our own db level to zero.

“Okay, Ron,” I hear you say. “How do we do that?”

I postulate that a person’s individual db level is directly proportional to the basic open-mindedness they display to other people and their points of view. And in that light, I suggest you can do worse than start with the basis behind what Rothfuss says in the video. I mean, the guy hit that batting practice fastball clear out of the park. Look for the best in every idea, or every form of “X” that you’re dealing with.

Here’s the Rothfuss video.

Here’s the link on Fantasy Faction, assuming the comments will be interesting.

This is somewhat relevant to me and my work, in particular, because I go counter to a lot of the Standard Wisdom of the Day, and don’t limit myself to one genre. When all the work I have lined up to see print in Analog hits the stands, I’ll have 17 appearances there. Can anyone say Hard Science Fiction? I thought you could. Yet, Glamour of the God-Touched, the big indie project I’m sweating blood over right now, is true sword and sorcery with a certain metaphysical twist.

Some folks I know tell me this is not too brilliant.

They think I shouldn’t confuse readers. They think I shouldn’t alienate readers in one genre or the other. They think it will hurt me in the end because they think readers can’t or won’t jump genres. And, you know, they may be right. There are folks inside the sub-genres that had db levels greater than 1.0 when it comes to assessing fans of other sub-genres.

But, I digress.

At the end of the day, perhaps the best thing to do is listen to Rothfuss, take it to heart, and then read what Mike Dunn says, and realize that it’s got to be okay to come out of the closet and stay out of the closet. And then, maybe, realize that there exists no human being on the face of the planet whose db level is zero, and ask yourself if the way you’re acting somewhere else in your life is robbing another person you care about of something that’s valuable to them.

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  1. – “The Iliad” is a fantasy.
    – “The Odyssey” is a fantasy.
    – Most of the tales of the Brothers Grimm are fantasies.
    – “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” are fantasies.

    Great works of literature can be in any genre.

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