I keep telling myself I’m going to read more literary fiction. So far, it’s been similar to how I keep telling myself I’m going to clear off my desk. Judging from the stack of notes on stories and essays I was working on in December, you can imagine how well that has worked out.
Though honestly, I do want to read more literary fiction and more literary short stories. I occasionally write literary fiction after all. But I go to the public library and in the short story shelves, I find myself lost (though really not lost at all) with my hands all over the books and books of collected sci fi, fantasy and horror. I could read the Nebula Awards Showcase through 2015 if I wanted to (and I want to!). I could pick up the Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women and never look back.
The stories of the bizarre and the alien feel more welcoming, as if only in speculative fiction will we find heroes who resemble us. This isn’t true. I know it’s not true. Speculative fiction is not inherently more welcoming of female writers or female protagonists, people of color, or queer people. Even in the realms of Elves or haunted forests, we must be like goblins searching for gems: we must work to find ourselves in the fiction we read.
Yet I look to speculative fiction as if it is a savior. Welcome me, I beg. Show me a mirror, I implore. Let this fringe genre, barely skirting the edge of the literary canon, be for me and those like me, so desperate for representation.
And so, foolish or not, I came to the library intending to find literary fiction to inspire me to work on my non-speculative stories. I left the library with the following titles:
Snow White, Blood Red, ed. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (a collection of adult fairy tales)
The Mammoth Book of Vampire Stories by Women, ed. Stephen Jones
The Best American Short Stories 2015, ed. T.C. Boyle
I will let you know if these stories yield the inclusion I seek. I will let you know if these stories offer up the gems of a favorite female character.