There's a built-in contradiction at work here, of course; no one is a bigger critic of how crappy a lot of comics are than I am. Likewise, a lot of other things I am passionately devoted to -- country and rap music, genre fiction, baseball, postmodernism -- are hovering right around 90% bullshit. A lot of it is just utter garbage. But that doesn't mean I won't start throwing blows when someone who's obviously ignorant about those things starts talking smack about them. I will write endless entries on my site about crappy comics, but if someone who clearly hasn't read them starts dissing the funnybooks, heads will fly. Likewise when people say they like "all kinds of music, except (rap/country)" or yammer about pomo when they transparently don't have any idea what it means. It's like yo' mama: it's okay for YOU to dis on yo' mama, but best believe that if someone ELSE disses on yo' mama, they better come strapped.
This went through my head when I read this entry by Brian Hogg on his Inelegant weblog. Unlike Mr. Hogg, I have read a fair amount of Margaret Atwood's books; unlike Mr. Hogg, I still have a lot of respect for her. But like Mr. Hogg, I find her comments pretty appalling.
Look, the idea that certain genres of art are inherently worthless was discredited long ago. But the good work being produced among all the dross in those genres is going to continue to be ignored as long as critics and, more importantly, talented creators keep promulgating the notion that the genres are juvenile, retarded, sub-literate nonsense for people who aren't classy enough to handle 'real' art. Comics, sci-fi, noir, etc. are going to be as good as their creators let them be. And as long as people like Margaret Atwood -- who, let us be perfectly clear, has written several very good science fiction novels -- pretend that what they're doing ISN'T genre fiction just by dint of the fact that they're doing it, they're going to be worse for it. Or, in other words, her admission that what she writes is sci-fi would make sci-fi better for her presence and makes her better by her diversity; her denial that what she writes is sci-fi makes sci-fi worse by her absence and makes her worse by her arrogance.