BBC defends genre fiction coverage

BBC defends genre fiction coverage

The BBC is broadcasting an item on “The Culture Show” about science fiction next month, in the wake of a row about the broadcaster’s approach to genre fiction.

HarperCollins author Stephen Hunt wrote a letter to the BBC this week, attacking it for its coverage of science fiction, fantasy and horror during "Culture Show" special “The Books We Really Read”. The programme, hosted by Sue Perkins during its World Book Night coverage last month, looked at commercial fiction in the UK. However, Hunt’s letter, which has now been signed by 85 authors including Michael Moorcock, Iain M Banks and Greg Bear, said the programme ignored genre fiction.The letter complained of a "sneering derogatory tone levelled against commercial fiction" and a "narrow focus on a single genre".

Quercus’ Jo Fletcher said she felt the areas have been dismissed by many among the mainstream press, not just the BBC. She referred to the likes of Justin Cronin’s The Passage, Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones and Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth, all of which have science fiction, horror or fantasy tropes.

Fletcher said: “We go straight back to Terry Pratchett here of course. This country’s greatest satirist is cordially ignored by the literati because he uses the trappings of fantasy to explore the ludicrosities of our world. If it’s got elves or goblins in it these days it can’t possibly be literature.”

HarperFiction publishing director Jane Johnson said: “The area is completely overlooked when it comes to literary prizes; but then so (until last year) was historial fiction and crime fiction. In fact, all the sorts of books that people really do like to read.”

However, Julie Crisp, editorial director at Tor, defended the BBC’s programming. She said: “If you looked at The Big Read programming [in 2003], The Lord of the Rings was the best-loved book, and there was a good selection of science fiction and fantasy in the top 20. Even now, the BBC broadcast the sci-fi show “Seventh Dimension” on Radio Four Extra. So I think there is support among the mainstream media, but it may not be as much as the fans would like. They are a passionate bunch.”

A BBC spokesperson said it was committed to a broad range of books programming, and furthermore defended “The Books We Really Read” as “an irreverent but enthusiastic authored film”.