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Self-Hating Fantasy Writers: Why Do They Exist?

People, as you’ve probably surmised by now after reading me gush at length about manga and shows like Hey Arnold and Clone High, I am kind of a dork. I know I’m a dork, nerd, geek, and so on and so forth (after all, I currently work for a company where I am literally in a Squad with other Geeks. It’s in my job title). This is a label I wear with pride, not shame. I learned long ago that I should not pretend to be something I’m not. If I pretended I was not a geek, it would be about as effective as pretending I was a lumberjack: pretending doesn’t make it true and succeeds in fooling no one except myself. Luckily, I have no desire to pretend I am not a geek (although pretending to be a lumberjack actually sounds a lot more fun).

One of the things I am most geeky about is the fantasy and science fiction genre. A good 90% of every novel I read is in those genres and I doubt I’d ever get tired of them. It’s the genre I’ve tried to write original stories in the most and the genre which contains most of my favorite stories (I have many favorites, but if you twisted my arm to give you my most favorites, I’d probably say they’re currently Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett). Although there are many people who don’t consider fantasy or science fiction as “literature” (which I personally consider to largely be nothing more than petty prejudice more than anything, but I ranted about that enough in my Bakuman review), I do consider it literature and a very respectable genre. I have absolutely no shame in reading or writing stories in that genre.

Now, I ask you, why are there authors who write fantasy or science fiction who feel ashamed of it?

Some of you may not know what I’m talking about, and I will admit that the authors who feel this way seem to be in the minority, but I’ve always wondered about that. There seems to be a tendency for a few authors who write a hit fantasy or science fiction story to hate being in that genre. Hate being compared to others in that genre and hate it when people say their book is in that genre. Brandon Sanderson (who is not by any means an example of someone ashamed of being a fantasy writer and seems rather awesome…which reminds me I should pick up Mistborn) once referred to people who expressed such an attitude “self-hating fantasy writers”.

There are a couple writers who express this attitude, but the main offender most people have heard of is probably Terry Goodkind, who really seems to hate his books being referred to as fantasy. He instead likes to call his stories “philosophical novels,” almost giving the implication that fantasy stories can’t be philosophical or have complex themes (yeah, try telling that to Terry Pratchett). Other authors are said to feel this way, such as Philip Pullman, but Terry Goodkind I think is the one most outspoken about it. Not to say that his work is bad or anything, but I find it odd he would dislike his book being considered a part of the fantasy genre. Especially when his first book is called the Wizard’s First Rule. I mean… the word Wizard is in the name. But he doesn’t want us to consider it a fantasy.

It would sort of be like if I wrote a book titled Encounter at Station Sedna: The Second Novel in the “Eric Fenrir, Space Explorer/Private Detective” Quartet, but said it wasn’t a science fiction or detective story. Like pretending to be a lumberjack, it doesn’t really fool anyone except me. And I’m not trying to say you should judge the merits of a book simply by its title or its genre. All I’m trying to say that fantasy and sci-fi aren’t genres to be ashamed of and many books in those genres are just as complex and mature as any literary novel you could find on the shelf. Just because a series can possibly considered a fantasy does not mean its dumb or that it isn’t worth reading. Authors shouldn’t feel that way if they write a fantasy and readers shouldn’t feel that way if they see its in the fantasy section.

Like I’ve said, most writers don’t have this problem. And, while there was a time when a lot of readers considered fantasy beneath them, more people have been warming up to the genre, especially in recent years (you could attribute that to a lot of things such as the rise of Harry Potter, the success of the Lord of the Rings films, and a lot more contributing factors that are probably to complicated and numerous to go into here). I just wanted to share that because I believe fantasy and sci-fi are respectable genres that nobody, reader and author alike, should be ashamed of enjoying.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go read some more of Storm Front before going to sleep. Which is a fantasy story that I find very awesome and engaging. If there’s a fantasy book you’ve had your eye on recently, maybe you should pick it up and do the same.

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  1. March 17, 2012 at 1:09 am

    You sure said it! Wonderful post 🙂 Absolute truth.

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