Friday, August 19, 2016

Why I Write: What is Fiction

I read a book on Subtext  and it took a rather disparaging view of genre books or the techno-thrillers and romance books one finds in airports around the country. Not that I'm against disparaging anything, much less a certain type of writing, but I just don't agree with what the author was saying about these genres. 

In fact, I think the author is way off base. The author's main point was that genre books were materialistic, commodifying, with characters that lacked a soul, all the while they focus on the greater world. Whereas books that are literary [1] focus on building up characters and displaying some metaphysical soul.

Here, I sense—in this all too common comparison of literary and genre books—lies what I face when I hear people speak of fiction as something frivolous. [2] So let me be bold enough to propose another view: that genre is in the realm of materialistic, but also in line with the moral wants of the powers du jour [3]. And literary books are much the same—in terms of accepting the moral wants of the powers that be—only a tad more complex. I'm being unfair. They do tend to question a small part of the status quo, but this is mainly ritualistic self-flagellation that may cause a slight bit of dissonance—they never think to usurp it. 

Meanwhile, truly deep books move further away from whatever morals the powers du jour dictate and come closer to the truth by doing this. [4] In my opinion, this worldview of mine allows fiction and non-fiction to merge in more areas than just the memoir. In all sub-categories, in fact, since both fiction and non-fiction are either about reinforcing the truth or slightly changing people's minds about it. 

In many ways, this is an answer to those who still ask why I write. And this is what I'm pushing my prose in that direction today with pseudoessays and the like. Thoughts?

[1] That in itself a genre, and also hard to define.

[2] For example, recently, I was told that thoughtful fiction was an oxymoron, while non fiction, from the technical to the creative, is held up as truly representative. In this world view, fiction is treated as escapist trope (those airport books) or flimsy metaphysical tripe (as the book I was reading leaned towards).

[3] Which means the morals of most readers and people.

[4] I'm being anything but post-modern in assuming that there's a truth. So let me say that I accept that it could be that the only reason it appears that deep books of the past are deep is that they have learned to judge the wind, so to speak, and lay their bets with the upcoming powers of the land.

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