I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but I think I might be a bit bored with speculative fiction. Or perhaps, speculative fiction is a bit bored with me.
Could it be that we’ve just been seeing too much of each other during lockdowns one through three?
“It’s not you, it’s me,” spec-fic might say on our regular date night held in the corner of a friendly tavern (built beneath the shadow of towering rocket-ship).
Certainly, I seem to have read a lot of speculative fiction lately that simply moves the genre furniture around the house rather than adding a new wing (or preferably) trap-door to it.
It’s a thought that reminds me a little of what Robert Eaglestone thinks is genre’s birth defect. For him, literary fiction is really where it’s at.
“It says everything,” he says. (Which is the whole point apparently.)
From his perspective, genre fiction, too-often, is only ever talking to and about itself.
And while I think this observation does articulate some of my own weariness, how to square this with his rather contradictory special pleading for lit-fic itself, which he regards as a non-generic type of writing whose tendency to be in conversation with its own history is validation of its uniqueness rather than a flaw.
As an aside, I wonder if beneath some of the slightly sniffy attitudes expressed towards spec-fic in literary circles lies the fact that it often sells a lot better than literary fiction.
Having all that filthy lucre smeared over your tentacles means that genre cannot be art at all, rather it is something commercial, hybridised and degraded. That said, Dickens and Cervantes both turned out contemporary best-sellers and you can’t get much more canon than little Davey Copperfield or the Madman of La Mancha. (It’s possible then, that perhaps critics will even regard Stephen King a little more kindly in a hundred year’s time.)
So, I’m not entirely sure where this slightly circular and self-indulgent post has got me.
Perhaps, I should start seeing other genres?
I’ll be honest about it with speculative fiction. We’ll go to the usual place on date night, drink half a bottle of chianti and work out some ground rules. Without them, in this sort of situation, someone will always get hurt. (Most probably be me.)
Or perhaps, after all, it really is just as the picture below says: Hulk is tired and Hulk should have a nap.
Philip A. Suggars is a British writer with a single yellow eye in the middle of his forehead and a collection of vintage binoculars. His work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Persistent Visions, Interzone, MIROnline and The Best of British Science Fiction anthology series as well as being performed by Starship Sofa, Far Fetched Fables and Liars’ League. He’s won the Ilkley Short Story award, been runner up for the James White Award and longlisted for the BSFA short story prize. He lives with three hairless primates and an imaginary cat called Schrödinger. Visit him at http://philipasuggars.com or @felipeazucares on Twitter.