I had a professor in college who thought all genre fiction was fluffy nonsense with no purpose or depth beyond the entertainment value. Actually, most of the English professors at the college I attended felt that way.
What gives a story literary value? Political or social commentary? References to other writers and stories? Inside jokes that only the well-read would understand? Multiple layers to the story or multiple stories within the one story? A moral or theme?
There are plenty of “literary” works that could just as easily fall into a category of genre fiction. Did you know that Shakespeare, well-known today because his writings are taught in schools, wrote what would have been considered the equivalent of genre fiction in his day?
My favorite genre is fantasy. I like being swept away to a magical world where life is full of possibilities. It is a journey of hope and encouragement that can help motivate us to achieve our dreams in the real world. It is also easier to reach people in a fantasy world because they aren’t expecting anything more than a story. But along the way in the story, you can express the same things any other writer could express; except in a fantasy world, the distance from reality makes readers more open to receive the message of your story.
I’m currently reading a series about vampires and werewolves and all sorts of fantasy creatures. The real story is what happened to the characters I love so much. Yet along the way, there is commentary on vampire rights and politics and truths about the nature of humans all wrapped up in a bow of fantasy. Many of these parallel issues in our modern society. I don’t think the critics give this genre writer enough credit for the literary aspects to her “fluffy” stories.
No matter what I write, I’m sure someday some critic will say my fantasy stories are just fluffy entertainment. But I want to strive for my writing to be so much more than “genre fiction”. Maybe my novel will be the first piece of fantasy fiction that my previous college professor reads. Maybe literary means something different to each generation. What do you think?