As I suggested in the column, I think that definitions can have a social role, telling people what kind of tradition a work draws from as well as inviting other people to play off of them as in the case of movements. SFFH simply is not as monolithic a culture as mainstream lit. It's similar to the way that people from Boston will identify themselves as "Irish American" despite the fact that they probably have to go back 150 years to find an actual Irish person in their immediate family. If America was not as monolithic a culture as it is, these people would most likely be happy to consider themselves as Bostonians.When I read that, my first response was a skeptical, "It is?" Too often, I've heard authors, reviewers, critics, and general readers of SF/F/H/speculative fiction express a belief in a counterforce, some "literary mainstream." From the tenor of their discussions, it always sounded more as though this "literary mainstream" were some stolid, solid, vaguely dismissive entity. But as someone who came into reading genre literature (outside of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and a couple of others) at a relatively late age (my mid-20s, just over a decade ago), I never was quite convinced by this. I recall well the cultural histories talking about polarizations between "high" and "low" cultures and the semiotics of each, but I was never given this impression that either branch was a stable, monolithic entity, but instead were dynamic forces that represented values and world-views encoded in forms recognizable to its members, similar to the secret handshakes of fraternities and so forth.
But perhaps there's something more to this that I'm missing. Why do many, especially genre fans, envision this "literary mainstream?" If it doesn't really exist (or maybe it does, but I'll need some convincing), then what is the purpose of trying to bring it into existence? Are there sets of codes/values embedded in its form(s), whatever that might entail? Just something I'm curious about, little more than that.