In a thread over at the Sword Review forums, we discussed briefly the legitimacy of fantasy and science fiction as a genre (link here). We mentioned that the genres are often disparaged and not considered "literary." Then this past week, I exemplified what I would call "genre shame."
My now brother-in-law's family was over and we were at my aunt's house having desert, and we were talking about my major or something, and my aunt quips up, "Amy writes faan-tasy." (That's how she pronounced it, or at least that's how she pronounced it in my mind.) I got all flustered and hastily interjected, "And science fiction." Slight pause, realizing that's not always much better in non-genre-fans' eyes. "And literary sometimes." His family was very polite about it and stuff, but I was frustrated with my aunt. I considered going to my aunt and asking her to, please, if she was going to mention my writing not to mention what genre I write.
It was an act of genre shame. Unfortunately, genre shame isn't so easy to conquer. Many speculative writers are considered not "real" writers. Their pieces are considered sub-quality. Unfortunately (again), most writers struggle with gaining recognition from their friends and family. Often, they're not "real writers" until they're published. There's even prejudice among writers, those who think they're more of a writer than someone who only "claims" to write (I confess, that's me sometimes. I'm actually going to put up a post about the different kinds of writers sometime).
There needs to be some kind of reconciliation. Writers need to toughen up and stick to their genre no matter what the pressures there are from other people (which isn't easy!), remembering that there are many fans of their genre (otherwise there wouldn't be a genre, right?). As for the non-genre people, they need to respect the creative efforts of their friends and family that write, no matter if they write literary, fantasy, horror, romance, etc.
But, to appease my genre shame, I'm going to start saying I write speculative fiction.