Britain's BBC 2 had a whole evening of book-related programming in celebration of World Book Night, including the promisingly titled The Books We Really Read: A Culture Show Special. So why did the featured books not include genre fiction?
That's what a host of writers, including genre authors like Michael Moorock and Iain M. Banks, are demanding to know. They signed onto a protest letter, authored by fantasy author Stephen Hunt, who wrote:
The sneering tone that was levelled towards commercial fiction during The Books We Really Read was deeply counterproductive to the night's aims of actually encouraging people to read novels. The weight that was given to the single sub-genre of literary fiction in the remaining programmes was unbalanced and unrepresentative of all but a small fraction of the country's reading tastes. And closest to my own heart, the failure to feature a single work from the three genres of horror, fantasy, and science fiction was a disgrace. The official World Book Night list included Philip Pullman's fantasy novel, Northern Lights. It is a shame the BBC could not...
There have been weeks when one in three books sold in the UK were Harry Potter novels, or more recently, Twilight novels. The sweeping under the carpet of the very genres of the imagination which engage and fire readers' minds shows a lot more about the BBC production team's taste in fiction than it does about what the general public is actually reading. If the BBC really wishes to support reading in this country, then they should produce a literary version of The Film Programme, or commission a modern updating of the Bookworm show that had Griff Rhys Jones as its lead presenter in the '90s. A series with a mainstream slot. Then perhaps the BBC can do what it said on the tin the first time around: cover the books we really read.
[More details at SFX]