When I was younger, I loved science fiction and fantasy. Fantasy most of all. I read Dragonlance, Rewall, and The Immortals. I never thought my love for these genres would end. But that changed when I hit high school.
I always knew that I would end up going to college. I actually enjoyed being a student, so college was always my plan. Once I got to high school, I started to think about what I wanted to go to college for. My choosen profession varied. At some point I wanted to be an English teacher, then a librarian. I actually went into college with this plan. It wasn’t until my junior year of undergrad that I decided I wanted to edit books for a living.
Either way, I knew that my undergraduate degree would be in Literature. I love books, and I love talking and writing about books. What better major for someone like me. However, knowing this, I started to read less SF and fantasy and turned more toward classic literary fiction. I had concluded that there was work that I should have under my belt if I’m to succeed in this major. My love of fantasy and SF never died, it was just put on hold.
In college, I read a lot of classics. Dickens, Shakespeare, Austen(who remains one of my favorites today) and others. It wasn’t until my senior year, when I took and Neil Gaiman/Margaret Atwood class (yes that class existed!) that my love for fantasy and SF was rekindled. While I knew the merits of SF and fantasy before, actually reading and discussing these genres in a college classroom further validated my love for these genres. These genres also have something to say. A fact that I feel many forget, or don’t understand.
It’s so common for SF and fantasy to be belittled as lesser literature by critics, by I say that this is because they haven’t read it. There’s no way that somebody could read Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower or Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness and not see the importance of these books to our culture.
Of course, things are changing. Fantasy has been embraced by many of those who have never considered it before with the massive success of Game of Thrones. Science fiction is finding it’s place in mainstream work with movies like Ex Machina and The Martian. Slowly, the general consensus on these genres is changing. Science fiction and fantasy are becoming more popular as people realize how broad and varied these worlds are. When I tell people that I am the co-founder of a science fiction/fantasy press, I generally get a, “That’s really awesome” instead of a condescending, “Why would publish that?”.
Granted, there are still those out there who aim to belittle these great genres, and there probably always will be. But my advice to anybody who loves both or either of these genres is to never stop reading it. Read what you love. Even if you’re going to college for a literature or similar degree, never stop reading them. I made the mistake of not reading what I truly loved for years because I fell prey to the idea that the classics and literary fiction are more important. They’re not. Read what you love, and never apologize for it.