Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Define 'Define'

The problem I have with this series on literary definitions, and Anita Mason's article in particular, is not the clickbait idea (and perfect example of circular logic) that genre fiction somehow lacks one or more of the essential qualities that elevate literary fiction above all other categories. Or even that literary fiction is the center from which all else radiates (and if it is, it must have sunk there, displacing everything that came before it, because literary fiction, like science fiction, is an invention of the twentieth century). No, what's problematical is the idea that there are boundaries between different types of fiction that exactly map onto the narrow range of publishing categories defined by labels on bookshop shelves.

Those labels can be a useful guide to browsing customers, but as taxonomy not so much. There are too many exceptions to pat definitions like Mason's. As far as I'm concerned, there are no boundaries. Everything's a continuum. Or maybe a series of strange-attractor vortices in n-dimension space. Who knows? Who cares? That last, perhaps, being a more important question than how to fit divots of the vast, wild landscape of fiction into a numbered series of sterile pigeonholes.
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