Conversation from the Shadow Lands
Charles Yu Interviewed by Lev Grossman
LEV GROSSMAN: People describe you (as they do me) as a writer who works in the shadow lands between literary fiction and science fiction. Is that how you’d describe yourself?
CHARLES YU: As much as I like the idea of being some kind of creature lurking in the shadow lands, I can’t say I do think of it that way. I wish to politely yet firmly deny the premise of the question. There’s a kind of “implied map of fiction” embedded within the whole way of thinking about this—the idea that “literary” is Norway and “science fiction” is Sweden. Not only do I not think those two sovereign nations are mutually exclusive; I don’t think they are even well-defined territories, right? I don’t believe in the genre distinction.
It’s not as if I sit around classifying myself. When I sit down to write, I don’t think, Today I shall write fabulist-inflected literary fiction, etc. It’s more like, Unnngggh, and, Grrrrr, and, I can’t believe I squeezed out 150 words today and they all suck. But maybe that’s just me.
I’ll flip the question back to you: how do you describe yourself?
LG: I once thought as you do. Lately I’ve been getting more interested in borders. I get a lot of enjoyment out of playing the different conventions of literary fiction and fantasy off each other, and I feel like you can’t do that unless you’re committed to the idea that somewhere out there there’s a line between them. Though I wouldn’t want to have to actually point to it.
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