What do you think: genre or literary? 

Next weekend, several of us will be on a panel at the Lesbian Lives: Lesbian loves conference in Brighton. The overarching title of our panel is Permutations of Lesbian Love. 

We’re each discussing a different topic. Mine is about genre fiction as opposed to literary fiction, and the concept that genre fiction is viewed as ‘less than’ literary fiction. Meaning lesbian authors are marginalised further by literary elitism; this was made clear in an article published in 2012 in Mslexia which suggested there were no lesbian writers on the scene anymore (other than those with big names–Waters, McDermid, Winterson). 

So here’s my question to you, readers: why do you think the many, many lesbian writers out there aren’t recognised? Is it simply because they haven’t made it to the ‘mainstream’?  Is it because they aren’t generally with the big corporate presses? Or is it a genre vs literary thing? Or is it something else all together? 

I’d very much like to know your thoughts! 

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8 thoughts on “What do you think: genre or literary? 

  1. How does one get labeled a lesbian writer? Are writers who are lesbian singled out as lesbian writers? Are lesbian writers labeled so because they write lesbian themed fiction or non-fiction? What makes one specifically a lesbian writer? Once this is answered, I can ask if there is a breakdown in classification of writers and their work?

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    • For the purposes of this discussion, it’s someone who identifies as a lesbian writer; the person making the claim began this assumption based on the fact hardly anyone had submitted to the lesbian category of the Polari Prize. So a lack of entrants led her to “research” and she found there were no lesbian writers out there TO submit writing. It was an asinine claim, but one which made me think she was disregarding any writers who weren’t mainstream.

      I identify as a lesbian writer; the lesbian identity, for me, is important in my writing. I write lesbian characters who don’t have to suffer miserable deaths. 🙂

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  2. To moeason … ya pays yer money and yer takes yer chances 😀 … One labels oneself a lesbian writer, I suspect … I’m a lesbian, I write stories with lesbians at the main and usually secondary characters, ergo, I’m a lesbian writer.

    As far as I’m concerned ‘literary’ is just another genre, which is as it should be. The whole elitism thing is a dinosaur holdover from the ‘big 5’ traditional publishing ‘house’ gatekeeper-ism that hasn’t quite met its Waterloo yet.

    Recognition? It’s a many-headed hydra …
    Partly the ‘not being recognised’ thing relates to my last point. Partly I think it’s because we’re not that comfortable promoting ourselves, and so miss opportunities. Partly it’s a lack of financial resources to promote big. Partly, we tend to limit our marketing to the ‘community’ (whatever that means these days) and not market wide as well as deep. Partly, it’s that at the moment, ‘lesbian’ is getting lost inside ‘queer’.

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    • Always great points, Widders. 🙂
      I think what baffles me is the certainty with which she declared there were No lesbian writers anymore. It instantly suggested that all those writers who were writing didn’t count; that they didn’t have big, mainstream names, and therefore weren’t to be considered. But then I wondered if it also had to do with genre writing as opposed to lit writing.

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  3. “There are no lesbian writers on the scene” – this sounds an awful like “there are no lesbians, just women who haven’t met the right man yet.” There’s a big difference between a panelist not paying attention to the lesbian writers who are absolutely there, and there not being any lesbian writers.

    That comment says much more about the panelist than about the number of lesbian writers. (You can’t see, but my face is all scrunched up in a “you didn’t turn in your paper on time” look for that panelist.)

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