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June 26, 2004


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Respect from whom? From the public at large? From the New York Times? Aren't sales figures the sign of a book's respectability?


No, they're indicators of its popularity and the success of its marketing campaign. I was thinking of critical respect from the academy, rather than popular acclaim.


What difference does academic respect make? Except to academics? Does academic respect mean a book is "good"?

In that vein, though, you're a little out of date in your description of academe. Science fiction has had its own journals, conferences and courses for at least twenty years now. Academic feminism has promoted women's writing since the 1970s, at least. And critical attention to fantasy and folklore (e.g. King Arthur stuff) goes back a hundred years. Maus was recognized upon publication as a major work, and opened the door for other graphic novels in the academy. It's true that much genre fiction goes unmentioned in academe, but because it's second-rate genre fiction, not because of its genre. Likewise ignored are most westerns, war stories, spy thrillers, and true-crime stuff.

What you have to say about these texts is interesting. But they're not "underdog" texts neglected by scholars. Scholars are generally more aligned with geek taste than not. After all, they live in that cozy "ivory tower" instead of in "the real world" of things that really matter.



Yeah, I think you're probably right that my view of the academy is dated. I've been out of it for ten years now, and I'm more or less harkening back to my undergrad days in the early 80's when it was a far less respectable area of study. The closest we got then was a class in "experimental" lit: Pynchon, Robbe Grillet, Borges, Fuentes, Vonnegut, etc.Even as a grad student at NYU there was an air of someone less serious about the people who taught SF. Unfortunately, I think academic respect does matter, if not here and now, then in what continues to be read in the future. For a lot of people, what they read in college is the last real exposure to books they get.

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