Great Writers Trapped in Genre Fiction

Schrodinger's Cat
I’ve been reading Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and it’s just wonderful. Just a delightful brain twister. But more than that, it’s as well written a book as any piece of literature. It’s as witty as anything Vonnegut ever wrote. Yet Vonnegut is someone who transcended science fiction, and Robert Anton Wilson is mired in science fiction. He’s probably almost unheard of by anyone but hardcore sci-fi fans. It’s kind of interesting in that Schrödinger’s Cat is about infinite possibilities of multiple universes, and in some universe (unfortunately not this universe) Robert Anton Wilson is considered the voice of a generation.

Genre fiction is just considered the wasteland of literature. The problem is a lot of it is legitimately crappy. Most of these guys can’t write. They can’t put together two scentences let alone the many sentences required for a full length novel. If Isaac Asimov didn’t write about robots, he wouldn’t have published at all. But some writers get trapped in the perceived limitations of their genre.

Here are some who should have been larger than their genres:

Philip K. Dick
– Dick is without a doubt one of the biggest names in Science Fiction, but he should be known in any college literary class as well. He was a sci-fi philosopher whose work mirrored more a hard boiled Bertrand Russell than the rocket fueled space operas popular in his day. Unfortunately, Philip K. Dick was just a tad ahead of his time. The rest of his career may have been ruined by heavy drug use and possible schizophrenia.

Patricia Highsmith – Probably one of the best thriller writers of all time, but is more known for Matt Damon than anything else. She was smart, funny, and little twisted… the perfect tools for a great crime writer, and any great writer of anything really. However, she had a troubled personal life: a mean alcoholic, she was also labeled as an antisemitic, an Anti-American, and a lesbian. And like Philip K. Dick, Highsmith was also suspected of having several mental disorders. Her biggest problem though was probably being female in a male dominated genre.

Both Dick and Highsmith should be considered literary greats in the vein of Kafka and Nabokov, and perhaps in the universe next door they are.

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