It’s been a while friends, since we’ve had a Book Twitter controversy.
While I was thinking about what to write this week, an American author wrote out a quote-tweeted thread giving her opinion on the differences between science fiction and fantasy.
Now as a humble reader of books, my thoughts regarding the difference between science fiction and fantasy had always been if it’s futuristic, has outer space, ships, way too much technical jargon, deals with things not yet discovered and or aliens, chances are, I’m calling it sci-fi. If it is an alternate world where magic and mystery and mythical creature’s reign or is fairy tale like in its execution, I would call it fantasy. Mind you, these are my novice interpretations.
But no, all a story needs, according to this author, is a plot involving a special birth, a magical birth, or any savior trope to be called a fantasy. Stories like Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, the Star Wars series, (although there’s a case for it to be called space opera), Dune by Frank Herbert, or even the entire Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold would be considered fantasy. Subsequently, this genre is also (by her) considered YA.
Miles Vorkosigan would like to have a world with you.
By this definition, that would make the entire George R.R. Martin Game of Thrones series YA. I’m not sure about you but I’m not comfortable letting a child who read the entire Hunger Games Trilogy read Game of Thrones. Not without some sort of conversation before, during and after the series. While I am not one to deny anyone the opportunity to read anything, I wouldn’t hand my hypothetical thirteen-year-old the first book and tell them to have fun.
Hypocritical, I know, especially from a person who read the entire Flowers in the Attic series at that age. The 80’s were a feral time, what can I say!
This person also mentions that readers who enjoy horror/fantasy cannot enjoy mystery/detective/police fiction. One look at my Goodreads can tell you that is incorrect. One look at most horror readers Goodreads can tell you that’s correct. Horror blends an air of mystery by definition into the story. If two tropes were destined to easily go together like chocolate and peanut butter, it would be the horror/mystery genres.
Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe, and Arthur Conan Doyle would like a word on what “traditional mysteries” are and are not.
I stepped into this planning on swinging low. Looking up this author and finding out what they wrote. And while I did do that and am, frankly, a little queasy once I realized I had heard of one of their stories. Ultimately, it’s not worth it.
Nobody should be gatekeeping stories or tropes. Nobody should make you feel bad or try to redefine what a genre is for the sole purpose of infantilizing a genre and the group of people who read it. Books are gateways to places we’ll never see. Far off lands, colonies on planets, dystopian games, Victorian or early 20th century culture. Even dark undergrounds where terrifying creatures lurk around corners.
Fiction is escapism. Fiction is education. And nobody has the right to poo poo on your genre choices. So go re-read Dune, pick up Murder on the Orient Express, relive Dracula, or Lord of the Rings. Enjoy your books.
As for me, I’m going to find my comfy spot and curl up with a good book.