This hasn’t passed without comment, but I wanted to add my own thoughts. In a Guardian article on the Man Booker longlist, Mark Brown notes the lack of genre fiction, and reports the comments of Andrew Motion, chair of the judges: “Motion said they had not consciously set out to exclude genre but stressed that the Man Booker prize was an award for literary fiction and there were plenty of prizes for crime and sci-fi.”
I’d agree with Niall Harrison that this comment doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. I’d agree with Cheryl Morgan that it paints ‘literary fiction’ as just another genre. Most of all, though, I think it needlessly cuts people off from good and interesting fiction.
The view expressed by Motion just doesn’t reflect what I see when I look at the fiction being written today. I see literature of quality in all categories of fiction (that’s what I think ‘literary’ should mean). And the boundaries are blurred (I’ll focus here on fantastic fiction, as it’s what I know best): even on the Booker longlist, there are at least four books that seem to be to have been written to some degree with a fantastical sensibility (Donoghue, McCarthy, Mitchell, and Murray).
Look at the Edge Hill Prize for short fiction, which happily reaches across the spectrum – and which, for the past two years, has been awarded to collections with fantastical stories. The Booker is impoverishing itself by not taking a similarly inclusive approach – and, as a result, people are missing a chance to hear about books that may well be of interest to them.