For some weeks now the digital channel BBC 4 has been running Battle of the Books, squaring up two contenders at a time from the list of 100 books in the BBC Big Read. Tonight it was The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy versus Terry Pratchett, who has four novels in the list, which ties him with Jacqueline Wilson for the most titles nominated by a living novelist.
Although some folk did do the usual excuse thing of saying “I don’t like SF, but this isn’t really SF because: it’s good; it talks about contemporary issues and culture; it is actually for grown ups (delete as applicable).” Non SF folk just have so much difficulty in admitting they enjoyed a piece of SF or Fantasy or the fact that perhaps other writers in the genre may indeed also be good, deal with contemporary issues and write for grown ups.
However one of the champions of the Pratchett camp was the newly appointed director of the Bath literary festival. Compare this to this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival – the world’s largest – which has not a single SF author for adults in this summer’s programme (for which they received a strong letter from me and from fantasy author Mike Cobley). One literary festival director championing fantasy – comic fantasy at that – while another shuns the entire SF&F genre and the indigenous Scottish genre writers too. I wonder if we can get them to swap?