Author Alison Littlewood has no time for genre snobbery
Have we done with genre snobbery yet? I’d love to think so. After all, I’m writing this in the week when Stephen King received the National Medal of Arts from Barack Obama. And don’t we all roll our eyes when we hear something like, “That can’t be sci- fi/ fantasy/ horror. It’s good!”
Well, no, of course we’re not done. ( I just enjoy these flights of whimsy now and then.) Jonathan Jones can still think it’s okay to dismiss Terry Pratchett in The Guardian, without troubling to read any of his books. And there’s plenty of snobbery within genre fiction. Some are sniffy about monsters: zombies, vampires, werewolves… ugh! But it is possible to breathe new life into old tropes. Look at The Girl With All The Gifts by MR Carey, or Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist.
The thing is, we tend to forget that writing should be fun. I’ve been guilty of this. Sometimes the words won’t flow, but I’d still rather wrestle with them than do anything else, because hell, this is what I love. If I’m not enjoying myself, I deserve a damn good arse kicking. I’ve recently been immersed in monsters. I’ve written about Satan ( hey, got to start somewhere), and indeed zombies. I had a blast; I’m feeling refreshed.
As a reader, I love it when I can feel the fun the author is having, burning off the page. Westlake Soul by Rio Youers springs to mind. Or Tim Lebbon’s The Silence. The Haunted Book by Jeremy Dyson, and the Lucifer Box novels by Mark Gatiss. I have no idea if the authors actually enjoyed writing them, but I know what impression I got, and I really want to think they were grinning as they typed.
I’m not saying that writing shouldn’t have serious intent. Of course it should. It’s a means of trying to get to grips with the world, to comment upon it, to make us empathise with people we can never be. But give me a novel, not a sermon. I want to be entertained, to forget that time is passing. Reading and writing should be celebrated for what they are – a joy – rather than have the life crushed out of them and risk becoming as dry – and dead – as dust.
Alison’s latest novel, A Cold Silence, is out now. www. alisonlittlewood. co. uk
Author of more than 50 novels meets the President.