A Matter of Taste: Preferring One Genre Over Another
I was mulling this over after spending yesterday visiting relatives. After some enthusiastic conversations about my family, my kids and my job, I happened to mention my shiny new blog. I told them the title. I told them “it’s exploring children’s SF and Fantasy”. And their faces went slightly blank and perplexed–the conversation stumbled. Finally, my great aunt said “I’ve never really liked science fiction. All that Harry Potter stuff is too unreal for me.”
Fact is, I’m used to this response. If you’re a fan of SF and Fantasy, you might have run into this too. Or maybe you are someone who doesn’t care for science fiction and fantasy. I’m delighted to have both types of readers here. Now, usually when I get that response from someone, I quickly make some light hearted statements and move on to another discussion topic.
But it got me thinking. Since I’ve started this blog, I feel the need to be a little more direct, and offer a little more food for thought. So, a few responses here to the SF and Fantasy non-fans out there.
1. I’m not going to try and change your tastes.
Liking a genre is a bit like enjoying a certain flavor ice cream or preferring a certain color. It’s personal taste. And if you like vanilla but don’t like strawberry I’m not going to be able to convince you to stop liking one or start liking the other by arguing about it. If someone doesn’t particularly like a reading genre, I accept that–and I don’t expect to change those reading tastes. This blog isn’t about insisting everyone read and love science fiction and fantasy.
2. Every genre has value
Here’s where I will be insistent. You can dislike SF and Fantasy all you want, but please don’t do fans the disservice of assuming because you dislike it you can dismiss it as worthless. This simply isn’t true. Check out my post Why Read Fantasy? for more on why fantasy fiction is important. And Robots and Rocketships: What is Science Fiction? for more on science fiction.
Everyone makes certain assumptions about genres they don’t like: Science fiction is all aliens and rocket ships, fantasy is all talking animals and wizards, historical fiction is dull and boring teacher stuff, mysteries are too confusing, Horror is all sparkly vampires . . . If anyone uses these assumptions to argue that a genre has no value, then I’ve no patience for their assumptions. All reading has value and what people like to read and enjoy reading should never be judged as “better” because it’s one genre or another. Each book should be held up on its own merits as to whether it’s worthwhile. Whatever people are reading, whatever the genre.
3. I am going to challenge assumptions
My family member said she didn’t like fantasy. So I asked her if she liked fairy tales. “Of course.” was the reply. I pointed out that those are fantasy. I asked her if she liked The Wizard of Oz. Again yes. So . . . what my family member really meant is that she didn’t like particular fantasy. And that’s perfectly fair. There’s no rule that says if you like one book in the genre, you have to like them all.
So if you’re a non-fan, think about what it is you don’t like about the books you have read or tried to read. And think about the fact that you may actually read more of a genre than you actually realize. I’m fine with a person not liking chocolate ice cream–but if they tell me what they really don’t like about the chocolate ice cream was the marshmallow swirl, then I can point out that there is chocolate without that swirl.
4. There is a difference between liking something and having a solid understanding of it.
I used to edit romances. I am not a huge fan of romances. I tend to think there are too few sword fights, not enough quests and a certain over use of kissing and relationship issues. That said, I know what makes a good romance and I know how to edit a book to that standard. I’m hoping that readers who come here might be interested to learn more about and discuss and comment on different aspects of fantasy and science fiction for kids–because I don’t have to convert you or even convince you to like something to help you understand why others do and what the genres are all about.
So . . . let’s not stop the conversation at “oh, I don’t really care for that stuff.” Let’s continue, let’s discuss. And let’s have fun doing so!