“People who write fantasy and science fiction, like you [Brandon Sanderson], J. K. Rowling and many others… you aren’t authors; you’re writers. And these books are definitely not literature because they’re not real.”
Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a panel discussion on the merits of children’s literature and how reading and a sense of curiosity and wonder should always be nurtured. The wonderful Brandon Sanderson – author of the Mistborn series – was there, and he spoke about his own experience with books and writing, and how – as a kid – he only became a reader when his teacher introduced him to fantasy. When all was said and done, one crusty critic blatantly told Sanderson that he doesn’t consider him or the likes of J. K. Rowling to be proper authors, just writers, and fantasy, science-fiction… that’s not literature, simply because it isn’t real.
A fantasy writer myself and a huge fan of Rowling and Sanderson’s work, I was seething. How dare he? But then Sanderson gave such a gratifying answer that left everyone clapping and the man looking around in defeat. He questioned this obsession with reality, what’s so wrong about things that aren’t real, what’s so wrong about imagining things? After all, there were many things that we currently have that weren’t real at some point, and would never have been if man hadn’t thought about them and imagined to be real. That power, that sense of wonder, is important to hold on to. Of course, he didn’t answer in so few words, but that was the gist of it.
His words really resonated with me. At some point in my life, I allowed people like that critic to make me think that all the fantasy books I read didn’t make me a cultured or well-read person. I felt like I had to read classics and stuffy old novels before I can say, hey, I’m a reader. I felt like I had to write something set in the Victorian era with Jane Austen-like characters before I could call myself an author. I was young. I was impressionable. It took reading Harry Potter to let me know that it’s okay to like what I like. I don’t have to force myself to read any classics (unless I want to). Without J. K. Rowling and her books, I would’ve never thought to consider that one day I would really like to make a career out of writing fantasy books, and for that reason – though there are many others – I will always hold her in high regard. People like that critic remind me of those who go to watch movie and end up talking crap about cinematography and other technical things that shouldn’t really detract from the overall experience of the movie. It’s almost as though they forgot what it’s like to just watch a movie for the fun of it… as though they lost their sense of wonder and have learned to be cynical towards everything.
That said… allow me a moment to describe how much of a fangirl I was during the event. I hung on to Brandon’s every word, I was so excited I was bouncing in my seat and totally red in the face and grinning so widely my lips should’ve cracked. Oh I wanted to ask him stuff, I did, but I was being very squeaky and thought it’d be better to just stick to, “Sign my book please!” Of course, I probably scared him when I returned ten minutes later – after scouring the book fair (which is where the event was) – with another of his books and asking for a second signature, haha. Oh, and the freebies he handed out were pretty cool! 😀
So – how do you feel about feel about fantasy and science fiction? Do you consider them to be literature? How would you have answered Mr. Crusty McCrabson?