Thursday, 22 October 2009

Guy Gavriel Kay slaps down anti-SF Booker judge

Interesting article by Canadian fantasy author Guy Gavriel Kay over at The Globe and Mail, in which he comments on some of the recent squabbles about genre books not been recognised for prestigious literary awards, and so forth.

Pleasingly, he picks up on Kim Stanley Robinson's rant about the Booker prize, ridiculing John Mullan in the process (remember -the clown that said SF was "bought by a special kind of person who has special weird things they go to and meet each other.")

Mullan's response to Robinson's criticisms is, according to Kay, "Hall of Fame-quality idiocy." He goes on to say, "I do admit to wondering what size shoe Professor Mullan wears, and how it fits between his teeth, and whether he teaches grammar."

Kay is surprisingly optimistic when it comes to contemplating the future of the genre with regards to prestigious literary awards:

"I'm optimistic. I've had, for some time, a sense that demographics will (as so often) have their way with us, this time leading in a good direction. Speculative fiction (SF and fantasy) is simply embedded in the culture and world view of too many younger writers (from Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon to Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz). I have an sense that this is already eroding many of the barriers thrown up by prejudice and assumptions in the literary world.

We'll find ourselves working away from category and genre debates and toward the question worth asking about any novel: Is it any good?

Here's a prediction: One day soon enough, someone may wear double-pleat pants and a bow tie to accept the Man Booker Prize for a science fiction or a fantasy novel. It will start an uproar – among the fashionistas."

I'll be among the first to raise a toast to such an uproar, if it ever happens. Interestingly, Kay remarks on the same point that Mark Charan Newton made a while back - that the genre really needs to move away from debates and bitchfights about categories and the attitude of the mainstream, and focus more on the important questions - like whether a book is actually any good or not.

Anyway, pat on the back for Kay as I think he's spot on. Must check out some of his books soon...


Val said...

Hilarious. The Mullan Shoe Effect is a keeper. Can we nominate it for the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary? :P

Iain said...

Haha! Fantastic comments from a fantastic author. If you are looking for a place to start I cannot recommend Lions of Al-Rassan, Tigana and A Song for Arbonne highly enough.

All of them are tremendous -- very romantic and I mean romance in the epic, heart-rending, action packed, exciting sense of the word not the Mills and Boon defintion. His novels are rousing, the characters he creates to people them are wonderfully realised and you find yourself investing real emotion in the books. In my opinion you can't ask for much more than that from an author.

He sets his novels in fantastical settings that are mirror images of medieval/renaissance European historical periods. A Song for Arbonne -- medieval France around the time of the Cathar heresy. Lions of Al-Rassan -- Spain during the Reconquista and Tigana --renaissance Italy.

You really cannot go wrong with those three although any of his books are worth a look.

Memory said...

What a great article. It's nice to see someone as respected as Kay speaking out about the awards situation in a more positive way.

Glenn K said...

I see the Times Online have just published their 100 top books of the decade. One fantasy story in there: Harry Potter.