How to tell genre-snobs to f- off in 3 glorious phases

This week:

  • I am not happy that I was genre-shamed
  • It takes me less than a minute to think of three examples of fantasy in ‘great classic literature’
  • It’s weird boiling Hamlet down to ‘man is haunted by the ghost of his murdered father until he goes on a homicidal rampage’

Guess who had someone try to genre-shame her today!

You guessed right – it was me.

For all my fellow Fantasy-lovers out there who have had people look down their noses at you, here are three quick come-backs for the genre-snobs who try to make you feel small.

Oh, you only like the Classics?

I take it you’ve read The Iliad in the original Greek, then?

No?  Me neither.

Still, I love those stories.  All those cursed women with snakes for hair and half-bird women luring sailors with song to their island piled high with skulls…  All those men chatting with gods and riding winged horses…

Can I draw your attention to:

  • Gods meddling in the lives of mortals
  • Gods turning into animals
  • Gods turning mortals into animals or half-animals
  • Centaurs
  • Harpies
  • The Minotaur
  • Sea monsters
  • Men with supernatural strength
  • Women leaping fully-formed out of their fathers’ heads

The list very much goes on.

Oh, you mean British classics?

I guess the most famous British (English) author is Shakespeare, huh?

I’m so glad he didn’t dabble in Fantasy.

However, may I draw your attention to:

  • The king of the fairies sending his fey servant to pour nectar from a magical flower into the eyes of four young mortals in order to make them fall in love (AMSND)
  • A half-man, half-donkey (AMSND)
  • Witches (Macbeth)
  • Potions that make the drinker appear dead when they’re not (R&J)
  • A magician summoning a storm to ship-wreck the treacherous brother who usurped him (The Tempest)
  • A spirit that had been trapped in a tree by a witch (The Tempest)
  • The ghost of a murdered king haunting his son in his quest for vengeance (Hamlet)

Oh, you mean only serious literature?

You mean literature which explores serious themes such as social injustice, poverty, morality, lost love, the wasted lives of men, and their immortal souls?

Like literature by Dickens, perhaps?

Like A Christmas Carol?  That story in which a ghost haunts his old business partner before supernatural being transport Scrooge off on a magical adventure for him to learn a moral lesson?

Would you like to consider:

  • Ghosts drifting round, weighed down by chains forged of their own selfish acts (ACC)
  • The ability to travel back in time and forward into the future (ACC)
  • The spectre appearing to haunt the railway, warning of impending disasters (The Signalman)


Magic and fantastical elements have long been a way for great writers to explore key themes.

Magic has fascinated people for thousands of years and there is part of us that gets a thrill from hearing about the cool stuff that witches and shape-shifters and prophets can do.

It’s also a safe (and effective) way for writers to present ideas in an enjoyable, understandable and relatable way for wide audiences.

The tale of Little Red Riding Hood is a much more interesting experience than an authority figure simply stating outright ‘don’t go into the woods’.

The greatest (most recognised) writers throughout history have utilised our love of the strange and inexplicable to captivate us.  The fact that they have also presented this fantastical element in an intriguing, structured and beautiful way is testament to their writing prowess.

Therefore, don’t try to tell me that it is easier or less worthy to write anything with magic in it.  The skill and craft and understanding of form, audience, structure and language is inherently the same.

Fantasy has, and continues to be, a popular and richly-developed genre which explores some of the most pressing concerns of the age in a new and imaginative and digestible way.

So check your genre-snobbery at the door if you want to chat to me about ‘great literature’.

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