Realists of a Larger Reality: Teaching Genre Fiction Writing


Celia Brayfield, Bath Spa University – Realists of a Larger Reality: Teaching Genre Fiction

Matthew De Abaitua, University of Essex – Author of IF THEN and The Red Men

In her acceptance speech at the 2014 American National Book Awards, Ursula Le Guin called for writers to stand up against the tyranny of commercial publishing, saying “Right now, we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art.” She called for writers to be poets and visionaries, realists of a larger reality. At the same time, genre writing demands creative response to powerful and evolving context. The traditional imperatives of literary fiction, which call for adventures in form or stylistic experiment, can be over-ridden by the need to reach a large international readership and develop a powerful narrative. And at the end of the process the writer must navigate the commercial fiction industry, which is often more willing to clone last season’s bestseller than commit to innovation. Genre writing, be it fantasy, science fiction, crime, thrillers or romance, is inspirational and students are eager to be part of a writing culture they know well. How can we, as tutors, focus their passion and help them fight successfully for their artistic freedom?

Dr Celia Brayfield, novelist and Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, and Matthew De Abaitua, novelist and Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Essex, discuss approaches to teaching genre fiction.