Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Twilight Anonymous

At the beginning of this year I went to a writing conference where Brandon Sanderson was speaking (if you want to know more about who he is, check out his link on the right side of my blog). One of the things he talked about is the elitist attitude we have as writers towards popular fiction. If a book or series reaches pop culture status (Harry Potter, Twilight, etc.) then we automatically assume it can't be good. Because, let's get real, if the lay reader finds it worthwhile then it obviously is missing academic merit, right? Right?

This phenomenon fascinates me. If Stephanie Meyer were to make an appearance at a writing conference, the crowd to see and hear her would no doubt be gigantic. But don't you dare admit you like her work in those same circles when she's not there. Oh no, that kind of confession must be made in dark rooms (preferably inhabited by vampires) and whispered conversations. And it's not just with Stephanie Meyer. J.K. Rowling went through the same thing when her books first made it big.

Why do we do this? Why do we assume that if a book has mass appeal, it must be junk? Brandon Sanderson had an interesting theory. He didn't believe it was because we were so confident about writing, but because we were so insecure (that's often the case with arrogance, isn't it?). As fantasy and writers, we have such a low opinion of our art that if it appeals to the population as a whole we want to disown it. We're used to being the underdogs, the black sheep, the... sorry, I can't think of another outcast animal metaphor. But you get the idea.

In his lecture, Sanderson gave the audience a gentle rebuke. We ought not do this to each other. We ought to be more supportive and grateful for those who are opening doors for the rest of us.

So that's my goal for the day. I will try to give more praise for the good things that have come from those uberfamous novels, and have more gratitude for what they've done for the business.


My name is Melinda Carroll. I'm thirty (something) years old, and I'm a fan of popular fiction.

1 comment:

  1. Bring on the Mockingjay! Me too. (But I do think vampires aren't my thing. Read 2 1/2 of the Twilights. Is that the same thing as not liking popular fiction? )
    I read a post about this on J Scott Savage's blog yesterday. He talked about envy--that all writers feel it. No doubt this is a corollary.
    It reminds me of the phenomenon at my high school in the 1980s with music. To be cool you had to listen to bands that never got played on the radio, or bands no one else had heard of. Echo and the Bunnymen, anyone?