A new person started working with me a couple of weeks ago who's also a writer. Let's call her Miss Dramaturgy. Athough she's a playwright and holds a very different perspective, we've have some pretty good chats on issues of writing: work ethics, building ideas, how to make a living and still make time to write. A fellow soldier in the literary army, I suppose.
I shouldn't have been all that surprised when she finally asked, "So what do you write?"
I launched into my standard answer. "After growing up on a rather (un)healthy diet of comic books, I moved up the chain to mythology and then sci-fi/fantasy novels. I got more interested in literary work in college, and then into experimental material. At my best, I try work all of it into a story through a variety of ways".
"Interesting," said Miss Dramturgy. "What are you working on now?"
And I told her about the current sword-and-sorcery style piece I'm working on now. The celtic society, the lion-worshipping religion I have yet to name, the werewolves.
She peered at me through her narrow glasses for a moment and said, "Oh. You do genre work. I just assumed you did something more literary."
I wanted to scream at her. I wanted to rant and rave, to pull her up into the stars and see the spaceships and fabulous future worlds of Samuel Delaney and Octavia Butler. Or maybe hop on a dragon and fly to the imaginary lands of Ursula Lequin and China Mieville. But instead I just looked at her and said, "Yeah. I guess I'm genre guy."
I went home that day a little miffed. Not mad enough for mass murder, but mad enough to glower at people who stood a little too close to me on the sidewalk while we watched for the crossing light to change. I finally made it to the metro station and tapped my foot impatiently while I stood waiting for my train. A woman stood a little to my left, and she was a typical D.C. worker. Late 20's or early 30's, conversative black business suit with a blue shirt, hair pulled back behind her head nice and neat. She was a reading a John Grisham paperback, and I caught myself scowling at her, wondering why she'd waste time reading that crap when there's so many better books out there.
So, little lady on the metro platform. I'm sorry I had some bad thoughts about you. I've never been a big fan of Grisham, and I caught myself putting a box around this poor woman just for reading his book. I read as much crap as the next person, it's just a different kind of crap. I guess we all have our own little literary prejudices.