If I could dish out any single piece of advice it would be to never be ashamed about what you like.
This week the Speculative Scotsman got a lot of shit because he argued that Fantasy was a bit crap and should be more literary. For the record I disagree with him, and it seemed a lot of people did too.
The problem, as I see it, isn’t that Niall hates fantasy, it’s that I think, deep down he’s ashamed that he likes it.
Let me tell you a story about my own family that I think demonstrates this. I was round my parent’s house with my brother, and I was enthusing on my brother what a great book Peter V Brett’s Painted Man is. Both my mother and brother are crime lovers, and whilst my brother has read a few fantasy novels (I think he likes Trudi Canavan), he admitted that he isn’t a great lover of Fantasy.
“Well,” I said to the pair of them. “You better start getting use to it. When my book gets published…”
Yes, I used ‘when’ instead of ‘if’, how pretentious!
To which my mother replied, “Well I suppose I’ll read it if you wrote it. But I won’t like it!”
I think me becoming a writer is my mother’s greatest pride, the fact I write fantasy, her biggest disappointment.
Years of therapy aside, I would love dearly for my mother to love my chosen genre, that the genre was good enough for her to respect.
But you know what? The problem doesn’t lie with the genre, it lies with my mother. She’s closed off to it. I lent her The Prestige to read and she liked it, but she hates speculative fiction (go figure!).
I love her dearly, and she’s entitled to her opinion, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s her loss if she’s decided to close herself off to SFF. I can sit here and wish that genre was of a quality that she’d respect it all I want, but it’s never gonna happen.
That doesn’t mean that genre is bad or crap or needs to change. It is what is it, and if people don’t like it, be they readers, critics or even my mother, then so be it. I don’t need the stuff I love to be externally validated.
There’s a wonderful blog post by Sam Sykes, but the thing I was most interested in was the person who in the comments talks about discrimination. Yes, there will always be people who say “What you like comics? At your age?” but look at how the medium of the graphic novel has grown to the extent that it is now respected even by the critics.
I think that’s what Niall wants to happen with fantasy, so that China Mieville or some fantasy novelist is on the Booker shortlist. But you know what? A fantasy novel could win and my mother is still not going to like fantasy.
So what do you do? The answer is nothing. You just keep loving and supporting your genre (and beyond). Be as enthusiastic about those tie-in novels you secretly love, as much as the important new fantasy release. Stand your ground and argue the case for Twilight, if that’s what you love, and never be so cheap as to dismiss another’s comments by calling someone a fanboi. We’re all fanbois here, the argument is mute.
Because I guarantee you one other truth. If people see others congregating and having fun, sure as hell they want to investigate what all the fuss is about