A Change of Heart


I’ve had a change of heart. Surprise, I know, it’s not like the title or picture would have given it away. (I was also never a HUGE Yu-Gi-Oh fan, but I watched a bit of it back in the day. Now Pokemon though….)

Anyway, my last blog post was about how (specifically in that instance, science fiction and fantasy in the realm of) popular fiction essentially is not always literature.

I take that back.

See, I think I took that viewpoint for one main reason: scifi/fantasy often doesn’t feel the same as what we consider “literature.” We think of literature as an old wise saying almost, whereas popular fiction is like that kid who would never take off his spiderman costume. We give the former much credit, and the latter, not as much.

But I’ve been thinking about it a lot, because I enjoy reading popular fiction and “literature,” but there’s this stigma that exists around popular fiction to some, well, frankly pretentious “literature” scholars, or even to some laymen.

If you are one of those people, let me dispel your belief, and maybe even bring you to the dark side (we have cookies, so you should probably come anyway).

“Literature” seeks to teach a lesson. To have a moral. Now, this isn’t how one should start writing a book, but it is the end product.

“Literature” usually seeks to do so within our same realm. Earth, usually present time at the time it is written; essentially, in a world we know and love (or hate). BUT scifi/fantasy in pop fiction takes us out of our own world. While the story in that world probably can’t take place here on Earth, the characters undergo the same emotional journeys that we can undergo. I don’t know that I’ve read a book that isn’t either about people or personified animals or objects or what-not. So they’re all about people. Okay, that’s settled. Essentially the differentiation between the two then relies upon whether or not they use magic or the beach as a setting–some may use both. You may be starting to see that this is quite the gray area, and that there can be no distinct line drawn between the two “genres.”

In fact, I would argue that books set in other realms and geared toward the public can actually be more effective than “literature” (and yes I’m going to keep using the air quotes).

Take Harry Potter for instance. This article by Scientific American shows just the effect the series has: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-everyone-should-read-harry-potter/ A.k.a., if one reads Harry Potter, one becomes a better human (can you tell I strongly support reading Harry Potter?). An excerpt from the article:

…fantasy may be especially effective in assuaging negative attitudes because the genre typically doesn’t feature actual populations and thus avoids potential defensiveness and sensitivities around political correctness.

I 100% agree with this, Scientific American. It is an incredibly effective writing tool to put someone in a different realm away from what are attached to and about which they already have preconceived notions.

I will take a step back now though and address the realm of popular fiction as a whole. Another part of the aforementioned article does the same, and uses this text (http://science.sciencemag.org/content/342/6156/377) from Science, to address the subject.

While I do not have access to the full paper, I would say that while I don’t disagree with them, I don’t agree, either. I would not be a scientist if I didn’t examine all the possibilities, after all.

My argument for scifi/fantasy in popular fiction, I think holds true for all of popular fiction. Popular and “literary” fiction are about people. I just think that some areas are more effective than others (scifi/fantasy), and that if one has not let go of their inner child, they should be able to reap all the benefits from each genre.

If I had to rank levels of effectiveness, I would do it like this:

  1. Popular Fiction
    1. General Fiction
    2. Scifi/Fantasy
  2. Classics
    1. General Fiction
    2. Scifi/Fantasy

So while Science is not wrong in the science of it, it’s their terminology with which I have problem. They essentially denote classics as “literary” fiction. But it’s all literature. Some are just more effectively written than others and target different audiences. Plus, one should keep in mind that what is effective for one person may not be for another. It’s all about perspective, people.

Okay, that’s it. Feel free to comment. I’d love to hear your opinions and start a conversation about it, because I feel like while to some this isn’t a big deal, to others it’s quite controversial.




Photo credit: Demurge at http://demurge.deviantart.com/art/change-of-heart-131409682