About Genre, from Ursula K. Le Guin

« The Obligatory Bit about Science Fiction, Fantasy and Genre

There are dozens of definitions of what “science fiction” is; few are useful and none is definitive. Variations on the term, such as “speculative fiction,” complicate the discussion more than they clarify it.  …

Genre, a concept which could have served as a useful distinction of various kinds of fiction, has been degraded into a disguise for more value-judgment. The various “genres” are now mainly commercial product-labels to make life easy for lazy readers, lazy critics, and the Sales Department of publishers.

It’s not my job as a writer to make life easy for anybody. Including myself. …

For a writer, there is a genuine difference between fantasy and science fiction, which has nothing to do with the commercial branding of books as “genre” or the categorical imperatives of critics. The difference is in how you write it—what you are doing as a writer. In fantasy you get to make it all up, even the rules of how things work, and then follow your rules absolutely. In science fiction you get to make it up, but you have to follow most of the rules of science, or at least not ignore them. …

If you’re getting bored with this classifying, I’m sorry—I’m doing it to show that the whole vocabulary—“realism” “science fiction” “genre fiction,” and the rest of it—doesn’t give even a remotely adequate description of what I write, Or of what many other serious writers are writing. We need a whole new discourse on fiction. … »

–Ursula K. Le Guin. August 2012

The Unreal and the Real – selected stories of Ursula K. Le Guin

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