There are quite a few authors today (admittedly, more so in the United States than in the UK for the Anglosphere) whose works go back and forth through various tropes, modes, styles, and bents. Atwood is but one of several, ranging from Chris Adrian, Matt Bell, Blake Butler, David Anthony Durham, Brian Evenson, Rivka Galchen, Bradford Morrow, Téa Obreht, to Karen Russell, just to name a few, whose works move in and out of the realist approach toward literature toward something approaching the speculative.
Sure, some of the authors might feel unease at being associated with such an appropriated typology such as "genre fiction" or "SF," but that is not necessarily because they are unaware of SF (if you read the bios of several, including those of Obreht and Russell when they appeared in last year's The New Yorker's "20 Under 40" list, the intrepid reader might discover certain influences and narrative preferences that show at the very least an awareness and appreciation of non-realist fictions and even major influences on their own fiction.
But these sorts of things aren't often talked about in such articles. No, I fear the aim of articles such as Rayner's is for the article writer to beat his/her chest, bellow out "Me like genre! Genre goooood! Lit-ah-rary baaaaad!", and then proceed to talk about some nostalgic look at old artwork or SF fiction from an era that often is castigated for its sketchy characters, firm belief in a quasi-Positivist outlook, and whose fiction is not often imitated by contemporary writers in any genre. Sure, it's a "throw red meat to the rabid base" sort of gesture that certainly will generate a lot of rah-rah, hell yeah! responses, but really, is there any real thought put into these sorts of statements?
Anecdotal evidence from reading several such screeds over the years indicates that this is usually not the case. No, the exploration of "literary fiction," whatever that might mean in the eye of the blog-writing beholder, is relegated to the dustbins of historical criticism, which is not something to be entrusted in the hands of polemical bloggers who appear, on the surface at least, to fail to show any curiosity at all outside of what is occurring in their genre clan cave. Those neighboring genre clan cave lights might as well be the ignition of dried moose dung for all that these type of readers seem to care. Whatever it might be, the myopia in articles such as Rayner's leads me to wonder if it might be worthwhile to highlight such drivel every time I stumble across it, in order to get a counter-opinion out there so such posts will not be accepted as received wisdom. Not that I aim to convince all readers of the many fine points of realist and other narrative fictions, but it might be past time that those readers like myself who enjoy the "literary" as well as the "genre" state that blanket dismissals of one or the other is short-sighted at best and moronic, imbecilic rabble-rousing at its worst.
P.S. Just after I post this, I see SF Signal has posted something similar to Rayner's article. It's a bit more thorough, but ultimately, I am unconvinced at Stevens' claims. There just isn't enough specific examples to bolster his points, which are argued more cogently than Rayner's (which, as I re-read it, isn't saying much at all).