by Raymond M. Coulombe
When I write LITERATURE it’s capitalized for a reason. Picture the word pronounced with a haughty upper crust British accent. Of course, Science Fiction and Fantasy, are not “LITERATURE.”
So what’s the problem? Could it be that speculative fiction is actually entertaining? Oh Lord, we can’t have that! We need to have serious deep thoughts. Nothing current is any good either. Unless the tome has been written by dead white men, it has no value at all. Sometimes it’s hard to tell a LITERATURE critic from a grave robber.
The funny thing is, speculative fiction has been around for a long time. If age is a requirement we can look back to Edward Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany, H. G. Wells, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Mary Shelly who gave us Frankenstein. Oh wait, we have to disqualify Shelly for the crime of being female.
Not far enough back? How about William Shakespeare? You can’t tell me A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is anything but a Fantasy. Then again, we probably should disqualify old Shakespeare from the halls of LITERATURE for his other infractions. His works were entertaining and could be enjoyed by the common man. That’s totally unacceptable to LITERATURE experts.
Of course, they aren’t going to throw out Shakespeare, perhaps one of the greatest writers in the English language. Shakespeare is “different.” Well, he does have that dead white guy quality, so there is that.
Seriously though, who decides what’s important and deserves to be called LITERATURE? Usually it is tenured professors with a desire to look down upon the unwashed masses. The funny thing is, we have no idea what will stand the test of time. Some poor student in the distant future may have to write schollary dissertations on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galexy to get his PHD in LITERATURE.