- Genre writers complain about chosen genre being ignored by the mainstream literary establishment.
- Mainstream literary establishment responds by saying that genre fiction is never submitted to major literary awards by its publishers.
- Genre writers sulk and go "at least we have plenty of readers unlike mainstream literary fiction"
- Mainstream literary establishment snarls: "[genre fiction] is in a special room in book shops, bought by a special kind of person who has special weird things they go to and meet each other."
- Blogs pick up on spat.
- And I weigh in with an essay-length comment on the history of the Man Booker Prize because I've been commenting on the Man Booker prize and its ways since the beginning of time.
My comment in expanded format:
Booker prize winners have had fantastical elements despite claims to the contrary. Keri Hume's the bone people (1985) springs to mind with its fusion of quasi-religion, magical realism and utopian vision. David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas got very, very, very, very close to taking the prize in 2004 while Atwood's The Blind Assassin took the prize in 2000. Both novels use science-fiction as part of their mise-en-abyme structures. Both authors have written other books which both arguably belong to the speculative fiction genre.
Personally, I am not a huge fan of the Man Booker prize for various reasons: I think it promotes a certain type of literary fiction which does not reflect the myriad of exciting literature being produced in the Commonwealth; I think it has become too focused on easily-marketed books (the Kelman win in 94 really was wretched for booksellers and the Man Booker has taken great care not to alienate the High Street since); I think too much importance is being given to the Man Booker over several other literary prizes; I think the idea of a literary prize is, by its very nature, somewhat dubious.
But the Man Booker does not exclude books with fantastical or science fiction elements more than, say, the Hugos ignore David Mitchell (who is one of the best young novelists working in the English language) or Margaret Atwood (who is one of the best novelists working in the English language, full stop). The Hugos have their Neal Stephensons, their China Miévilles and their Neil Gaimans just as the Man Booker has its Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes and Salman Rushdie. Same difference. Same sense of ghettoisation.
Now I'm going to go have dinner, curl up with the last rows of my Ishbel shawl and have a lazy Friday evening with my partner. But I'll probably rant about the Man Booker some other day. The award is rewarded shortly, you know, and I will have Opinions.