From the Guardian: (You can read the entire article and contest if you visit the link)
One doesn’t want to decry authors who are certainly outstanding in their field (constructing a page-turner requires narrative skill); neither does one want to sneer at the tastes of book-buyers, for whom reading at all in this age of distraction is an increasingly fought-for pleasure. …….But genre fiction is, by definition, generic……The genre writer’s first responsibility is to the genre itself: they must fulfil readers’ expectations for convention, or they have failed. It’s easy to see how this becomes part of a capitalist enterprise, which requires market ‘product’ and fears innovation as a ‘risky sell’.
To my mind, neither side would win, and neither should. Fiction will always enlighten as well as entertain, and if it does too much of either, we have trouble on our hands.
There’s a lively discussion on this very topic over at Darcknyt’s blog. While I sympathise with my friend Darc’s confusion over transient and literary, I have to admit that I favor both types of fiction. I am an avid reader of fantasy and mystery, and then I also consume books that are somewhat “high-brow”. Books are books, and if they keep me reading, I keep reading them.
It is important to know your genre when you query an agent, but before you reach that stage, it is much too early to worry about what sort of shelf your work would fit into.
Since I haven’t reached that stage (i.e. do not have a manuscript handy), I’ll do what an honest aspiring writer ought to do, get back to my daily writing.
To those who would like to get in on the argument however, I looked up Nathan Bransford’s post on the topic (someone mentioned it on Darc’s post, and I remembered having read it), which gives a very well-thought-out opinion on the whole issue.