My sister is a mainstream/mystery/thriller kind of reader. (She is also a published author — her first children’s book will hit the stores this year.) She has, in the past, very graciously read some of my stories, but she is always careful to make it clear she doesn’t like sci-fi/fantasy. According to her, “that weird stuff,” is just too strange. It has its place, of course, but that place is nowhere near literary fiction which, on the whole, is correct and proper.
As a staunch reader (and writer) of “that weird stuff”, I often get frustrated with friends and family who deem such tales as something lesser than mainstream fiction. They mistake speculative imaginings for lack of depth in character, plot, or setting. How short-sighted.
Worse, some of them — my sister included I think — view genre fiction as a kind of bastard upstart, a Johnny-come-lately, come to feed at the trough of popular demand for a few decades only to slide back into oblivion — a strange island swallowed by the sea of reality. Likely some would melt a few icecaps to speed the process along.
Here’s the problem with that attitude. Science fiction and fantasy came first.
What are the earliest examples of human writing? What did people choose to save for future generations? Let’s think:
Pyramid Texts (2400BC): Basically a bunch of spells for reanimating the pharaoh’s corpse [The first zombie novel?]
The Epic of Gilgamesh (2200BC) — the story of a god-king (2/3 god, which is a cool, concrete fact) who slew the Bull of Heaven among other things.
The Old Testament (1400-400BC) — regardless of your religious beliefs, the stories related in this amazing text relate to fantastic events (dividing a sea, are you kidding, that’s awesome, Moses!)
And there are scads of other tales, but I don’t want to digress too far — those Vimanas rock! Suffice it to say “the weird stuff” was here first. Mundane stories about everyday life came later. That leaves me to wonder, who is the upstart here?
— david j.