I didn't understand her point TBH, and wish she'd
at least offered a minimal survey of the field.
ETA: Elizabeth Moon offers her thoughts:
Mostly agreement: yes, dark/twisted/angsty/gloomy/cynical does seem to dominate some areas the very broad genre. And yes, I agree that the relentlessly sour & bitter has a limited appeal. Tired of it now.
But...the same attitudes had been at the forefront of literary fiction--critically praised, taught in schools & colleges as a virtue for writers--for over decades before the New Wave brought them into SF/F, along with the idea that science fiction (not, originally, fantasy) should be treated with respect by critics, taught in schools and colleges. To the extent that this genre is a subset of all writing, it will be affected by what's going on out there beyond the (now very porous) wall. So we have editors who favor the gloomy and dystopic, critics and reviewers who favor the gloomy and dystopic, and readers who grew up being taught in schools and colleges that anything worth notice is...you guessed it...dark and dystopic. (And along came Terry Pratchett and kicked that can across the street.)
Has the genre sold its soul for literary recognition (and then got only a wizened sour apple, not the golden one?) Not really, because the other kinds of stories are still there...and, like hard SF by women, or strong women characters, or characters of color, or characters of various gender identities, they're there, but regularly dismissed as not being there, or not being...something that the reader/critic/reviewer recognized, the way they wanted that kind of character presented.
The failure of The Hunger Games readers to notice that some characters were black (and thus be shocked by the movie) is instructive here. The prevailing standards emanating from literary fiction tended to give the "serious" label only to SF/F that was dystopic, bitter, sour, twisted (by whatever definitions were in hand) and dismiss other works as trivial, shallow, and obvious. If the book didn't end in grimness--it was supposedly a cop-out. That's not just in SF/F...that attitude began long ago in literary fiction. When I was in college, the one creative writing class at our university turned out uniformly unpleasant works--and admitting to writing SF was anathema..."not really literature" I was told.
So just as Rowling has been dismissed by some serious critics, many works in science fiction that combine seriousness, humor, and (gasp) even a moderately happy ending do not get the critical mention of the next dark exploration of human misery. Yet even in a tragedy, humor has a place. Rollicking has a place. Many more writers than have been mentioned so far are writing works that combine serious examination of a society or human psyche with something more than relentless misery.
To see more of that in the marketplace (and in reviews, for instance) will require convincing editors, reviewers, critics and readers to leave their comfortable black-painted mental cubicles--and their concern for what the literary side will say--and go outside to the books they consider "non-serious".
Edited by sciborg2, 02 May 2012 - 08:13 PM.