Tuesday, August 31, 2004

I like genre fiction better...


... in fact, I'm giving up defending it at all. I think it's better.

I was watching The Lost World, the BBC adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's, well, The Lost World, and it got me sort of solidifying this notion.

Genre work is the medium of Homer, Sir Thomas Malory, Christopher Marlowe, at least half the plays of William Shakespeare, Voltaire, The Brothers Grimm, Edgar Allen Poe and many works of Mark Twain, not to mention frickin' Beowulf.

Ok, there I didn't touch works which might be argued as below greatness in any supposedly reasonable circles nor did I include anything that could reasonably be disputed as being fantastic in nature somehow. And yet I've managed to include a substantial part of the Great Literature that has managed its way through the generations.

Why? Because it's better.

Sure, there's the fact that most of us enjoy a good yarn a lot more than we enjoy a story about people essentially like us who experience events much like we experience.

Ultimately, though, as an intellectual, there's little to chew on when you're done with a rather straight-forward story. The moral lesson, the meaning, etc. is right out there, front and center. Once you're finished, there's little left. Genre work is almost entirely about the subtext. The part the resonates deep in your subconcious, attacking your brain and making it go to work, process...

Sure, lots of genre work is garbage. It wastes its magical powers on banal and even dangerous messages like "Good always triumphs over evil" or even "Might makes right". But there is plenty of middling "literary" and "art" work that is just as much garbage for the mind, but its messages are almost exclusively as dangerous and even nihlistic, but they don't have nearly the entertainment value while feeding yourself garbage. It's like eating a crap-flavored Twinkie.

Ultimately, having some secret part of yourself that asprires to be Frodo Baggins, or even a third generation rip-off of the idea, is healthier for your spirit than aspiring to be Randal from Clerks, or even worse a third generation rip-off of him. No offense intended to Kevin Smith, who I like and admire.

I suspect he agrees with me.

There's a time and place for everything out there. I'm a huge fan of Ingmar Bergman, who actually has a fantastical element or two hiding in his work, and probably whatever other person you're going to throw out.

But ultimately, I feel I'm best served as a human being and an intellectual by the steady diet of fantastic stories in my life. Pound for pound, I think they're actually better.

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