World Book Night & the Disgruntled Fantasy Fan

There’s been quite a bit of hubbub online recently over the BBC’s coverage of World Book Night, particularly concerning a certain author’s blog post comparing the BBC to Nazis because the science-fiction, fantasy and horror genres were pretty much treated as though they didn’t exist. I won’t link to the post here since I’m guessing most of you will already have read it or will know where to find it, and any online soapboxing that veers over to Nazi comparisons just makes me twitch anyway.


Talking about it on twitter with other SFF fans and writers, I found that I was torn over the issue, much as I was when watching some of the coverage on the night itself. Yes, it felt insulting and ridiculous that science-fiction, fantasy and horror were all conspicuously absent, even from the bit supposedly about “books we really read”. Particularly when so many of the big sellers are genre writers- but then I guess no one really reads Harry Potter, Terry Pratchett or Stephen King? Yeah, right.


But on the other hand, does it actually matter? I mean, does it make much difference to me that some researchers on a TV programme decided to go with a horrendously embarrassing bit on chick lit rather than cover any books at all I’ve ever read? Maybe I’m just glad that we got a couple more programmes about books, since they’re as rare as hen’s teeth, and I find things like OMG with Peaches Geldof vastly more offensive (why the fuck does that even exist, while we’re at it?). So why do we get all bent out of shape over stuff like the Booker Prize ignoring SF when, let’s face, I’ve only ever read one Booker anyway and that was practically fantasy (Life of Pi, it’s brilliant). Do we need the Literary establishment to bestow some glittering gold badge of worthiness on our vast and meaty genres?


Nah, not really.


I think I just don’t appreciate being ignored. I don’t like that we’re treated like we don’t exist. It makes me sad. Even though it doesn’t really matter and let’s face it, I’d probably hate it if everyone was a huge SFF fan- it’s like when you love that really cool indie band* before everyone else and then they go mainstream and it’s not as shiny anymore- I think from an emotional point of view we still want a little respect for the genres that are so close to our hearts. Because science-fiction, fantasy and horror kick the collective asses of, well, everything else. With giant Viking boots on.




*I should probably point out that I have never had by any stretch of the imagination what you would call a respectable or trendy taste in music, and wouldn’t know a “cool indie band” if they came round my house and bit me on the bottom.

2 thoughts on “World Book Night & the Disgruntled Fantasy Fan

  1. I would personally say look at that list again… Philip Pulmans Northern Lights, David Mitchells Cloud Atlas and as you mention Life of Pi are all SF / Fantasy or Fantastical in their concepts. As for the rest of the selection there seems to be 3 Spy thrillers, 3 historical novels and a few randoms that I suppose could be classed “Chick Lit” but over all given the relatively small size of the list 3 fantasy books out of 25 which had to cover a complete gamut of genres isn’t bad.

  2. Well those three normally all get shelved in General Fiction, so I suppose they are the “acceptable, non-pointy eared” face of fantasy (and I said Life of Pi was “practically” fantasy- what takes place in the book is very open to interpretation) – Philip Pullman gets huge amounts of respect from all quarters (rightly so) but I still don’t think it’s a very typical representation of the genre. Science-fiction fares even worse…But like I said, it doesn’t really matter, other than it puts people’s noses out of joint and gets everyone talking about genre snobbery again. 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *