There is a major schism that exists in the writing world. The two sides are usually called “literature” and “genre”. Literature is usually that which gets taught in English classes and genre usually means any important genre, ie. western, romance, fantasy, science fiction or mystery.
Literature pushers have snubbed all the genres for years and years. That’s why there are separate awards in each genre for writing excellence. Before the genre awards, literature would not exalt any genre piece to even be in long lists for awards.
So you end up with people like me, being reverse snobs, liking genre and ignoring literature.
It’s true that some books are not obviously genre or literature. Occasionally I read these. But listed for the literature awards? Ha, ha, ha, ha. Awards sometimes have the opposite result of their intent.
It was with great shock that I heard of a literary neophyte that had plagiarized many of the passages in her new book. That’s right Helene Hegemann, 17, of Germany copied and plagiarized passages as long as a page with just a few words changed.
Instead of being completely demonized, after the scandal she was listed for a German award. Her defence? “there’s no such thing as originality anyway, there’s only authenticity.”
First of all the word is novel. If she can’t think of new things to write about, perhaps she shouldn’t be writing.
Secondly, perhaps over here closer to genre, especially near science fiction and its love affair with tech, we can see more clearly.
Isn’t a new thing in technology original? There are new things all the time. I come from the regime of the cathode ray tube. Now we have plasma or LCD screens everywhere. Something changed. Want to say “I’ve been in space”? Used to cost you 20 million dollars. Virgin Galactic is set to change this to a few hundred grand and soon. Instead of buying a house, you can buy a space trip. Something the common person may soon enjoy. Original things are coming down the pipe every day.
Indeed, engineering and science students are the most worried about their education becoming outdated. Because they see the changes coming and they’re fast, too.
So if you’re writing about the future, and most science fiction authors are, you at least have to keep up with tech, even be a bit ahead of it. So original things get said in many sf stories.
There is novelty in the other genres, too, for instance, mysteries will sometimes have new ways to do a heist or catch a murderer, sometimes even both in the same story.
If you are wondering, my nose was planted firmly up in the air for the writing of this piece. Thank you for the feeling of superiority, Helene Hegemann. Go genre, go!