The Guardian is a delightful newspaper, and one that tends to go a little further afield than the usual books section; they’re well into genre fiction, and I delight in reading some of their publishing-related articles.
So I was fairly pleased to see this article on taking a critical look at science fiction and fantasy. Should the genre be held to a standard higher than “mere entertainment”? Of course it should! There’s nothing wrong with just wanting a rollicking good adventure, but there’s also nothing wrong with wanting said adventure stories to be well-examined – don’t just shrug off huge problems with, say, a lack of women, or non-whites, or non-vanilla-heterosexual main characters. Don’t give the genre a pass just because it’s entertaining; there’s nothing that says entertaining can’t also be accurate, or thoughtful, or beautiful.
Hell, that’s what Candlemark & Gleam is about, in large part – proving that there are wonderful stories out there waiting to be told and devoured, in which people of all shapes, colours, creeds, genders, persuasions, etc. can flourish and play a role.
I’m doubly pleased by the article’s acknowledgment of the term “fantastika,” too. As you can tell by one of our slogans – “Purveyors of Fine Fantastika,” I’m a fan of this term – I find it more musical and more applicable than the alternate “speculative fiction,” and both of those terms encompass far more than “science fiction and fantasy” or “sf/f” ever will – and we certainly publish things that fall outside those strict subgenres.
I quite dislike the idea, quoted in the article, that history “began in the 1800s,” however. Not only is it pretty darn Anglocentric (not just Western-focused – ever hear of Greece and Rome?), it’s just plain wrong. Even if you’re looking at it as “the history of fantastika began in the 1800s,” you’re wrong. I would really like to take John Clute out back and thwap him with a copy of Lucian’s True History now, please.
But overall? Nice article. More fantastika. And yes, please, let’s hold authors accountable for expanding out of the “middle class white heterosexual male rut” that so many – regardless of genre – find themselves in.