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They’re still swirling in there, the memories. The days of parties on the porch, thought-provoking panel discussions, and writing like mad people. Oh, Lit Fest, we miss you so. Fortunately, our friends at Noir Nation have interviewed Nick Arvin about his astonishing new novel, The Reconstructionist. In the interview, I got to relive one of my favorite moments from Lit Fest: the robot controversy. Here’s a peek, but read the entire interview here.
Noir Nation: You are a literary writer and just on a panel at Lighthouse Writers Workshop called Death Match: Literature vs. Genre Fiction. Can you discuss the elements of that discussion to NN readers? What is your attitude towards “genre” crime fiction? Please discuss strengths and weaknesses.
Nick Arvin: Robert Greer, Connie Willis, and Nic Brown were also on the panel, and it was a great discussion, a blast. On the one hand everyone agrees that the literary/genre distinction is a false dichotomy, created by the publishing industry for marketing purposes. But on the other hand, literary writers can’t help feeling a little jealous of the popularity of stuff labeled genre, and genre writers can’t help feeling a little jealous of the perceived respectability of stuff labeled literary. So the division may have been created artificially, the way the colonial powers drew lines to make nations, but now the line exists and two sides still can’t help attacking across it a little, or a lot, depending on the personalities involved. (Our panel was quite congenial until the end, when Nic Brown suggested that the death of a robot will always be less meaningful than the death of a human, and then all hell broke loose.)
I think that the genre/literary distinction is arbitrary not because any fiction can be literary but because all fiction is genre. I can’t think of a book that doesn’t owe something to established conventions and tropes. Those conventions might come from noir or Sci-Fi, or they might come from romantic comedies or war stories or chick lit or westerns or domestic dramas or campus comedies or sports stories or postmodernism or etc. The question isn’t whether a book will relate itself to the conventions of one genre or another, but HOW it will address those conventions, or mix them, or update them, or thwart them.