Addendum to “Are they going to say this is fantasy?”
At a Guardian event held at the Royal Institution in London on Sunday, Ishiguro said that veteran author Ursula K. Le Guin was “a little bit hasty in nominating me as the latest enemy for her own agenda,” after she had written a blog post accusing him of “despising” the fantasy genre.
“I think she wants me to be the new Margaret Atwood,” he said, referring to the criticism the Canadian author and poet has received from Le Guin for distinguishing her writing as “speculative fiction” and for saying science fiction was about “talking squids in outer space”.
“If there is some sort of battle line being drawn for and against ogres and pixies appearing in books, I am on the side of ogres and pixies,” he said. “I had no idea this was going to be such an issue. Everything I read about [The Buried Giant], it’s all ‘Oh, he’s got a dragon in his book’ or ‘I so liked his previous books but I don’t know if I’ll like this one’.
“[Le Guin]’s entitled to like my book or not like my book, but as far as I am concerned, she’s got the wrong person. I am on the side of the pixies and the dragons.”
I am delighted to let Mr Ishiguro make his own case, and to say I am sorry for anything that was hurtful in my evidently over-hasty response to his question “Will they think this is fantasy?”
I still don’t quite understand why he asked it, but I only questioned it because it appeared to me to be drawing the kind of “battle line” that he deplores.
Indeed I wish I hadn’t flown off the handle at what I took for a sneer at the literature of fantasy, offending him so that I suppose he and I will never be able to discuss such issues as his remarks make me long to ask him about. For instance: If I said I was “on the side of” dragons, but not really “on the side of” pixies, would that interest him at all? Would he be interested in talking about the various definitions of the word “fantasy” as inclusive of most imaginative literature (as I use the word), or as limited to a modern commercial development in fiction and the media (as I think he was using the word)?
I certainly had no intention of nominating Mr Ishiguro as “the latest enemy for my own agenda,” and regret very much that my clumsiness led him to take my words so much amiss. I have no agenda that I’m conscious of, and I certainly don’t want to nominate any enemies (and least of all Margaret Atwood, whom I have long been honored to consider a wonderfully unpredictable, admirable friend). My enemies must nominate themselves; I have no interest at all in making, finding, or knowing them.
Many sites on the Internet were quick to pick up my blog post, describing it as an “attack”, a “slam”, etc. They were hot on the scent for blood, hoping for a feud. I wonder how many will pick up this one?