The Gateway Drug (on ‘escapist fiction’ and the beginning of a writer’s blog)

fairy

“Fiction is a gateway drug to reading… Once you learn that [reading is pleasurable], you are on the road to reading everything” – Neil Gaiman

 

This is my first post on this particular site; as a writer you may guess that I’ve written elsewhere. And that quote is one of my favorites from one of my favorites, addressing critiques of ‘escapist’ stories for children.

Writers of fiction, particularly speculative fiction, and even more so, children’s fiction (I am guilty of all three), regularly seem to come under criticism from snobs and intellectuals, who I imagine read nothing but Stephen Hawking, history textbooks, etc., and perhaps for some light reading, breeze over Plato’s Five Dialogues. Who needs stories, when we have facts, right?

For snobs, if fiction is to be tolerated, it sure had better be literary, whatever that really means (when I hear literary, I immediately think of my college lit classes, and blaring sirens go off, “Boring, boring, boring!“). For writer’s like me, (YA fantasy, specifically) it seems that we are constantly forced to justify our work, because it is seen as lower, dumber, etc. than aforementioned literary literature that generally has to have over-the-top dialect, which makes for an excessively tiresome read, as well as very little action (tension) present throughout. In my college writing classes (where I began my now-completed fantasy) my imaginative work was often thought of  as “B-movie” material, a plot about a race of humans with super-human abilities set in a rebuilding, post-apocalyptic earth had little literary value in comparison with the memoirs and largely boring scenes of dialogue, dealing with unwanted pregnancies, etc.

Granted, my writing probably wasn’t great. Actually, I know it wasn’t, but I was only beginning, give me a break. It took me years of lots and lots of writing to get to where i am now: decent. But for me, my idea was original, and it was mine. I was creating a world from scratch, and I was loving it, and I was getting flack from the ones whining about their childhood all day in their writing.

But there is something to be said about the real world in speculative fiction, I think. If nothing more, it is pleasurable, as Gaiman says, and as I discovered as a child. It is not escapist fiction. We may not be the best writers on earth (we speculative children’s authors), but our kind is widely read and enjoyed world-wide. And the snobs are probably just jealous that that sort of dribble is what sells.

I’d rather be read by ordinary folk anyway, than by the literary folk. Perhaps, another day, I will expand on the College Literary scene, which I find detrimental to YA/ children’s writers like myself. But those classes also got me started. They helped me waste a lot of time, trying to refine my writing, and make it more “literary, etc.” when I should have been completing the story (story always comes first, and then the writing can be made better — but NOT literary, when that is not your intended audience!). But I digress.

I’ve been writing for many years now, and I now have a project called “The Lingering Shadow” that is completed, after multiple drafts. I am currently revising and trimming it, and then it will be beta-reader time, and then, it will be querying-an-agent time.

Until now, all I’ve done is learn from others how to write and get better, but as I move into a new realm (seeking publication), I thought I would begin sharing what I’ve learned, and continue to learn along the way.

Stephen King was once asked why he wrote horror (and he is a master at it). He replied that he didn’t see why it was assumed he had a choice in the matter.

That is often how I feel with what I write. It is a part of who I am. I loved children’s books, and continue to love them to this day, particularly those of a speculative fantasy nature. I find they have more to say about the world than many other ‘higher’ forms of literature. How could I write anything else, but what I enjoy?

If I could begin this blog with any advice to other writers, it is this: Write what you love, and ignore anyone who would try to belittle it.

 

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