Here’s an insightful comment from author James Morrow, from a 2000 interview by Nick Gevers posted on The SF Site, talking about the literary qualities of speculative fiction.
James Morrow has been described by the Washington Post as “the most provocative satiric voice in science fiction” (his work encompasses the fantasy genre as well). His writing has been compared to that of Kurt Vonnegut, Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain, and other literary satirists. He is a two-time winner of a World Fantasy Award (for novels Towing Jehovah and Only Begotten Daughter). He is also author of The Philosopher’s Apprentice, The Last Witchfinder (historical fiction, Starred Review, Publisher’s Weekly), and other impressive books.
When I first entered the field, it was just beginning to lose the provisional respectability it had acquired in the seventies via the New Wave and the rise of SF Studies in academia. At the time, I couldn’t perceive this incipient loss of prestige. If I had, I might have fought to avoid the stigma of being labeled a “science fiction” or a “fantasy” author — the same fight that Vonnegut had waged and won in the sixties, and that Jonathan Lethem has waged and won in recent years.
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What’s frustrating about “the speculative genres” is that they are essentially marketing categories — they tell librarians and bookstore employees where to shelve their inventory — not formats for artistic expression, but the public doesn’t see it that way. Say “science fiction” to a mob of readers who regard themselves as connoisseurs of serious contemporary literature, and an attitude kicks in that I can only call bigotry.
I wish the world’s snobs understood that quality is where you find it – but if they knew that, not only would they have to work harder, they would lose their status as snobs.
– James Morrow, from interview with Nick Gevers