Bleh with Barry

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Archive for the ‘Awesome’ Category

[Guest Post] Literary Worth in Genre Fiction

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Today’s blogpost comes to us from B. J. Keeton, who writes adamantly on his blog professorbeej.com and continues to work on his fantasy / science fiction and steampunk series. By day, he is a mild-mannered college professor in Tennessee, and at night when the world isn’t watching, he tweets, writes and many other things…which I know a lot of you also do. Now, let’s lend our ears and support as he tells you all a little more about his awesome series that he’s about to publish (with our help of course). So without further ado, Mr. Keeton. 

Cover art by Falon Yates

As an English major in college, I was taught how to read and appreciate literature. I was taught how to recognize.  literary worth–how narrative pacing and structure, character development, and thematic depth all added up to make a text great.

As an English teacher, I try to do the same for my students. I want them to be able to get as much from literature as possible.

As an author, however, I can’t help but find the idea of so-called literary worth a little overwhelming. In a move totally and completely unlike James Joyce, I did not set out to write something great.

I wrote Birthright because I wanted to tell a good story. A fun little sci-fi/fantasy story that people would want to read.

And if folks find literary worth in it, all the better!

But what I find interesting is that as I’ve done this blog tour to promote the Birthright Kickstarter, I’ve begun noticing a few things I didn’t intend to notice. I started thinking about themes and deeper issues present in the novel, and I have to admit that I surprised myself.

I mean, Birthright is genre fiction. There’s no doubt about it. There are laser guns, technomages, fiery swords, hyperspace travel, and ten-thousand-year-old former gods.

Ulysses, this is not.

So why then, in my guest post for BioBreak, did I end the article like this?

I want to explore the real-world implications of [humanity playing the roles of gods, and] not just [through] the creation of artificial intelligence like in I, Robot or virtual reality like in Neuromancer, but full-on synthetic universes made of real-as-you-and-me organic matter. I want to explore the question that when the very foundation of your reality is both [natural] and created, is there even a distinction anymore?

Genre fiction isn’t supposed to be that heavy, is it? I mean, I didn’t set out to write a SF/F trilogy that dealt with humanity grasping at divinity. Yet I somehow managed to.

According to an editor I worked with earlier in the year, though, that’s exactly what good genre fiction does. She said that “SF is at its best when it tilts and expands” the reader’s worldview and understanding.

I would add something to that, though. In addition to tilting and expanding, it must also be interesting and engaging. In genre fiction, storytelling is paramount. All the worldview tilting and expanding the writer can muster is for naught if the story is lackluster.

And I think that’s where Birthright shines. Because as an author, I put the story first.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Birthright is great (though it is pretty darn good, if you ask me), and I’m not saying it will ever be a literary classic. What I am saying, though, is that it’s a prime example of how genre fiction can tell a good, fun story without the overbearing weight of literary worth hanging over its head like the Sword of Damocles.

And to me, that’s what makes genre fiction great–not that it must have worth, but that it can.

B.J. Keeton is currently running a Kickstarter campaign for Birthright, the first book in The Technomage Archive series. He is is a writer, blogger, and teacher. When he isn’t trying to think of a way to trick Fox into putting Firefly back on the air, he writes science fiction, watches an obscene amount of genre television, and is always on the lookout for new ways to integrate pop culture into the classroom. B.J. lives in a small town in Tennessee with his wife and a neighborhood of stray cats, and he blogs about pop culture, geek media, and awesomeness at www.professorbeej.com.

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Written by barryr22

July 5, 2012 at 10:48 am