DT Project | S2 E7 | Popular vs Literary Fiction

DT Project | S2 E7 | Popular vs Literary Fiction

hello friends and constant readers my name is Emily and welcome back to season two of The Dark Tower series two things to address yes I cut my hair if you were not aware this series was researched and scripted over 2018 and filmed intermittently not in any particular order the second thing is that I am going to start a Stephen King book club if you are interested in learning more about that book club stick around to the end of the video let's get into the meat of the video today we're going to be talking about popular fiction versus literary fiction and what that means why there is a distinction between books so for those of you who are not aware I work at an indigo indigo is the Canadian book retail equivalent of a Barnes & Nobles in the US or a Waterstones I believe in the UK and one of the things that struck me when I first started working on the operations team is how arbitrary the sorting of books scenes why were the Hannibal Lecter books by Thomas Harris in with general fiction when every Stephen King book was in horror why is Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood in general fiction when parable of the sower by Octavia Butler is in science fiction why is the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon in general fiction when the Dark Tower series by Stephen King is in horror the books that I mentioned here are books that I feel like could easily fit either into a genre marketing category or into a literary category like they could easily flip back and forth and yet they have been put in these places for a reason I wondered why so I started looking into it it all comes down to who the book industry considers the book marketable to it's all about capitalism basically if the book is heavily rooted in a specific genre and does not deal with abstract cultural problems then the book is considered popular literature or genre fiction or categorized fiction popular literature genre fiction and categorized fiction are all books that fall into the following categories crime fantasy romance science fiction westerns inspirational and horror fiction are all considered popular literature genre fiction or categorized fiction these genres are more commercially oriented they actually hold the largest market shares and are generally dismissed by literary critics and academics because they are considered whether fairly or unfairly poorly written and gayest in contrast general fiction or literary fiction or uncatted rised fiction often fall into many of these genres but are placed into the general fiction section of a bookstore because sellers feel that these titles will appeal to a wider audience and that white audience is those outside of specific genres like I'm sure on booktube on YouTube you can find folks whose channel is specifically horror fiction I'm thinking chapter stacks science fiction and fantasy I'm thinking Elizabeth from crap I forgot her name but I will link her on the screen like there are folks whose channels are entirely niche based books that you could place in genre but have a high quality of writing or other special characteristics get put into general fiction so that separation between literary and genre fiction is at the end of the day all about selling books by putting a book in a certain marketing category sellers believe that they are making the best choice for getting that story into the hands of the correct reader before we specifically talk about genre fiction I want to talk about literary fiction which is fiction that is deemed to have literary merit huge scare quotes around that literary merit as in some sort of perceived artistic quality or value so literary fiction is concerned with cultural commentary it reflects on the condition of being human it is often introspective with in-depth character studies rather than being plot focused it's usually of a slower pace than popular fiction and it is deeply concerned with the style and quality of the writing so let's talk about my favorite genre fantasy literature is the lens through which I have been reading The Dark Tower series that is just my perspective because that is my academic background that is my research interest but as you will see in the next episode that's maybe not the only thing that we could look at but for today we're gonna talk about fantasy fantasy literature actually falls under the umbrella of speculative fiction and I'm gonna pop the definition on the screen right now speculative fiction encompasses any nerrit with supernatural or futuristic elements so fantasy science fiction fairy tale folktale and horror all fall under this umbrella of speculative fiction in scholarship I've also seen all of these genres fall under the umbrella of the fantastic fantasy has been largely ignored by critics and academics I encountered courses in romance in horror in science fiction they were the bird courses designed for science students or basically students who didn't have any essay writing courses to get an essay writing course easily and be considered that well-rounded student it was a requirement for a degree so it wasn't a course that was taken seriously it was more like a English 101 with a popular fiction focal point I guess the idea I guess being that these texts would be more fun and accessible to non English major students but I would like to argue that fantasy is perhaps the most literary of all literary forms as it by its construction shows the problem of creating a reality within literature genre fantasies create this wonderful secondary world and interact with the real world almost exclusively through metaphor quote specifically the fantasy world serves as a double to reality the secondary Dietetic realities creation requires a mixture of familiarity with an estrangement from the extra die jeddak one like dreams literary fantasies are made up of many elements recombined and are inevitably determined by the range of those constitutive elements available to the author and the dreamer continuing on fantasy is not to do with inventing another non-human world it is not transcendental it has to do with inverting elements of this world recombining its constitutive features in new relations to produce something strange unfamiliar and apparently knew absolutely other and different end quote and that is rosemary Jackson on page 28 of fantasy the literature of subversion and it's interesting to me given that fantasy is so packed with metaphor it's that it isn't taken seriously that it's seen as escapist and fluffy how many elements of horror can be read as elements of real-world things right like Bram Stoker's Dracula is a way of metaphor izing and touching on the Victorians fear of sexuality I remember reading an anthology of zombie fiction and how the zombie is a metaphor for queerness and the other if you look at some of Stephen King's works and those fantasy elements in there you can read them as a metaphor for larger issues within society it's just interesting that people don't take fantasy seriously because it's outside the realms of the plausible I guess that the difference between science fiction and fantasy is that science fiction might be far in the future what it is scientifically plausible and that is the hard line between fantasy and science fiction fantasy is entirely fantastic their magic doesn't exist vampires don't exist werewolves don't exist monsters of that variety don't exist telepathy doesn't exist all of those fantastic creatures are metaphors for real things they're not actually real whereas in science fiction the idea that there is life beyond our planet advanced technology computers the internet space all that jazz is plausible scientifically if not possible currently and I think there's something about the plausibility of science fiction that gives it academic credit it's why it's very easy to find academics who are studying science fiction the reason I wanted to start with this discussion of genre fiction versus literary fiction and general fiction is because I feel like there's an argument to be made that the Dark Tower series could be an incredibly valuable teaching tool in university settings in high school settings in this setting on the Internet this new wave of scholarship whatever you want to consider what I'm doing right now I approached the Dark Tower series as a piece of fantasy literature despite it being shelved in our bookstore in the horror section with the rest of Stephen King's works so when I started looking at it I knew that it was johner fiction you can see elements of westerns you can see elements of fantasy you can see elements of science fiction you can see elements of horror it has those like Keystone genre fiction elements throughout season one I was looking at it as a piece of fantasy literature looking at how it subverted tropes and how it followed fantasy tropes after the drawing of three I was fairly confident in arguing that the Dark Tower series is a portal fantasy set in a fantastic version of the feudal American West and I think that argument can be made that this is specifically American fantasy I can definitely understand why this is put in with genre fiction whether or not you agree it's a fantasy literature or not and we'll get to that in the next episode it's very much easy to see why this would be marketed to genre fans whether they be horror fans science fiction fans Western fans or fantasy fans however very early on the series gets metafictional and I have a whole episode devoted to metafiction coming up in the next few weeks metafiction is an aspect of post modernist literature it's very much a thing that we see in literary fiction think Paul Auster think Samuel Beckett pretentious assholes of the 20th century loved their metafiction and I mean that in the most affectionate way possible because of this meta fix aspect and this self-reflexive literary critique aspect happening in the series I very much expected the Dark Tower series to have a body of scholarship within academic databases this project I have been working on so long that I still had access to the McMaster student library like my logins still worked that's how long I've been working on this and researching this and I was pretty shocked actually to discover that there didn't seem to be any scholarship on this it seems that because of its marketing as genre fiction it hasn't been picked up by academics it hasn't had any scholarship devoted to it what you think is unfortunate I would argue that it's both accessible and fun while also opening up conversations about authorship the death of the author genre art intertextuality metafiction symbolism post-modernism and don't forget the modern conundrum of the brand of the author which is a whole thing to consider in light of social media in many ways I'd argue that this series has literary merit I mean it's why I've devoted so much time to it it's why it captured my attention most importantly to me its literary merit Ness comes out in its questioning and its discussions around the condition of being human because ultimately I think that is at the heart of this series Rowland's whole quest that journey to the tower our participation in it the repetition the gyre that's all getting back to the condition of being human and that is part of literary fiction so I'm opening it up to you guys remove money from the conversation because obviously booksellers publishers want to put books in the places that they will sell best they are businesses they want authors to succeed do you think this book series is genre fiction do you think it's horror because that's where I've seen it it ends up in horror fiction do you understand we're in coming from in arguing that it is an American portal fantasy if not have an episode explaining my point of view in the future keep an eye out for that and I think most importantly most interesting to me do you think there is an argument to be made for this series being literary fiction or here's another fun thought is the Dark Tower genre fiction that is poking fun at literary fiction so before we go I want to quickly talk about the Redrum book club which is a book club that I will be hosting for my patrons on my patron page we will be reading the first six books in Kings bibliography they are the ones behind me Kerry Salem's Lot the shining rage nightshift and the stand so we will read a book a month maybe not the stand maybe it will break the stand up into two depending on how we're feeling and at the end of each month we will have a live show where we can discuss the book together it will be sort of like the Dark Tower series season one where we just sort of spit ball ideas we talk off the cuff this first goal will be the first six books so when I hit fifty patrons the book club will start this club will be available to patrons at all tiers so for a dollar three dollars or five dollars a month you will be included in this club you will be included in the discussion in the live show and this will be patron exclusive content if you are interested in joining the Redrum club you are interested in reading along with us discussing with us patreon link is on the screen right now patreon.com slash Emily Kate the link to it will be in the description box down below and I would love for you to join us because more discussion is better right and speaking of my patrons we have to thank them for making videos like this and long-form content possible patrons I really appreciate the work that you enable me to do so until next time folks long days in Pleasant nights

18 thoughts on “DT Project | S2 E7 | Popular vs Literary Fiction

  1. I'd agree that DT is genre/spec fic. I also think that "literary fiction" is a very arbitrary category that is used to exclude certain content from "serious" discourse as snobbery against unworthy texts.
    I look forward to watching more of this series as I've been discussing similar issues on my blog: https://tysonadams.com/tag/worthy/

  2. Thank you for this interesting conversation! I think it's very difficult to classify books in one genre or another. I haven't read the Dark Tower series yet but as soon as I do I'm planning on watching your videos with spoilers about them! I'm also excited for the book club you're starting! Soon I'm going to start reading Duma Key for the first time.

  3. There's a quote in one of the dark tower books where Roland says something along the lines of "why would people only want one flavor in a book?" I think Stephen King purposely made the dark tower to fit under a bunch of different genres. It could sci fi, it could be horror, it could be fantasy, but it's not one, it's all of these things.

  4. I have noticed Walter Mosley has this problem: booksellers have shared with him that a number of people have asked where his new books are during publication week. The expectation is that if he has a new novel, it should be in the mystery section. I think a prolific author like King is probably best served with a thoughtful shelving: he is cogitating on connections between the mysticism of his worlds & the illuminations to be learned in ours, we should have his books shelved outside horror & in the appropriate fantasy shelves. I would think Seanan McGuire would also be best served sharing a shelf with the dark tower series.

  5. So looking forward to this series Emily! The Dark Tower series is one of my absolute favorites and I followed along the first series and loved it.

  6. Hey Emily! What do u think of Murikami? I found him very well written but kind of indulgent & not very interesting… have u checked out any of his stuff??

  7. I’d definitely teach the Dark Tower series in the college classroom when and if I become a professor!

  8. There is no scholarships devoted to The Dark Tower because Stephen King is looked at as a 'hack horror writer with no merit to his writing'.

    I don't believe the Dark Tower is a horror series at all, i believe it is a complete deconstruction of fantasy as a whole.

    Great video as always Emily!.

  9. These videos are very informative. Sometimes I have to rewatch to understand what you mean but that just makes them better cause it means I'm using my brain haha. Fantasy is not my cup of tea (HP and ASOIAF aside), but a few years ago I found I really like sci-fi. And in my personal experience at university, my professors have always given fantasy more credit and treated sci-fi as bullshit (unless it was dystopian lit). Maybe it's a cultural thing: Argentina does not have a sci-fi tradition, whereas it does have some fantasy and a lot of magic realism lit. I'm not trying to contradict what you said, though. But I was thinking how I felt the other way around about how these two genres were treated in my social/educational circle. Anyways, we don't have courses for any particular literary genre here. I wish we did.

  10. I definitely think that dark tower is genre fiction, I would categorize it as dark fantasy. At Barnes and Noble, King is actually in the general fiction section. I don't even think there is a Horror section, which is strange. I would say that King writes like a literary author, in that he puts more emphasis on characters and their development than the actual plot of the novel. Some of his books are more horror, some are sci-fi, some are literary and some are fantasy, but I think it makes more sense to just have all of his books in one place in the store, it would probably be more confusing for people trying to find his books if they were in all of these different sections. Great video as always!

  11. Ooooh I LOVE this video! I never understood the categories on libraries and book stores – you opened my eyes! Now it means I have to watch everything you ever posted, that's weekend sorted 🙂

  12. The dark tower series is one of the most interesting books Stephen king has ever written the TV adaptation was awful because the books have many details that it's difficult to be on a movie with 120 minutes duration well done Emily I find your videos very interesting and it's nice to see a Stephen king fan beside me ha ha 😉😁

  13. You really should read some Dan Simmons novels.
    The terror and Drood are outstanding historical fiction.
    His horror novels like Summer of night and Carrion comfort are outstanding.
    His si fi series the Hyperion cantos is amongst the greatest si fi novels ever written.
    Dan Simmons excels in all genres.

    …and I've never seen you cover a single book of his…

  14. Love this video. I remember when I was an assistant manager in a bookstore in the 80's, I'd be subversive and shelve 'fiction' books in genre sections (esp. Vonnegut). I think Dark Tower is a fantasy series personally but if you're looking for a Stephen King novel, you'll look in the horror aisle so I understand why it's shelved there.

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