I have recently finished reading Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro which is a great work of dystopic science fiction that reminds me a lot of John Wyndhams novel the Chrysalids. Both are novels about genetic modification or cloning of human beings for medical purposes which is a concept that i find deeply fascinating and is a technology available in the Science Now which makes books like Never let me go infinitely more disturbing.
However the real thing that got me thinking is that Ishiguro is considered to be a great of Modern Literature (he has won the booker prize) and Never let me go is a book that you buy from the Fiction section of your local bookstore, which is quite acceptable to me as it is a masterpiece, but what makes Never let me go be considered as a literature (which it is) and not the Chrysalids (you have to go to the separate science fiction section for this).
When you start really considering this idea you realise that it happens a lot more than you think, I wouldn’t classify myself as a Sci Fi reader in particular in fact it’s a genre that i very rarely buy from, or do I. On reflection my bookshelf contains or has contained quite a lot of dystopic literature but it’s normally bought from the fiction section.
So I started to break the concept down a little more and considered some more great books and authors, I recently read and loved the Circle by Dave Eggers which is a look at how internet companies could take over society as a whole and is found you guessed it in the literature section. I also read and loved Ready player one by Ernest Cline which is of a very similar concept to the circle and is found in the Sci Fi section, now ready player one does have a lot more 80’s pop culture references in it but it is no less of a literary masterpiece than the circle so why is it marketed so differently.
Another author I love is Margaret Atwood she writes great works of slightly feminist science fiction that again are considered to be excellent works of literature, there is no shame in reading the Handmaids tale or Oryx and Crake, she did win the booker prize after all. Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 is considered to be a masterpiece of modern literature and can be bought downstairs too, but any of his other works including the follow up to slaughterhouse 5 don’t merit that honour and you have to browse through sci fi for them, what makes one of his books fiction and the others Science fiction.
I wonder if the rise in popularity of Dystopian fiction in the young adult section (i’m looking at you the Hunger games and Divergent) could be one of the factors that is making sci fi more acceptable. Publishing companies are seeing the popularity of it for kids and are now trying some more mainstream marketing strategies for some adult dystopian novels, although they still need to on the whole be from a recognised author. Another factor that may affect the choice of marketing is how seriously they take the theme of their novel, the difference between Ready player one and the Circle for example is that Ready player one is far more irrevent and funny. It may also be down to the authors viewpoint of themselves, Ernest Cline is an unashamed Geek he owns a Delorean that he’s lent to George R R Martin, publishers may well look at him and classify him as a sci fi writer because of this.
For more on ready player one check out book corner Tuesday on this great bookshop page https://www.facebook.com/CazbouncesBooks?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
Perhaps the moral of this rant is that we shouldn’t judge books or readers by their Genre maybe good writing should just be celebrated for being good writing and we should be proud of reading and enjoying great books no matter where in the bookstore we find them.