Culture? Am I being pretentious?

‘Culture’ means different things to different people. For some it’s all about The Arts: fine art, the theatre, opera, ballet, and, of course, serious writing, mainly literary fiction. In other words, not all forms of expression count as culture and within those approved areas your works have to be ‘Good’ to count. You will have no trouble deciding that my efforts do not count.

Aren’t all novels part of culture?

Is literary fiction different from mine? Yes! Mine is part of a genre. Genres are categories such as science fiction, horror, fantasy, mystery, crime, romance and… historical. Literary fiction has to be none of those. In fact, it must not be ‘about’ anything in particular. Of course, some books are counted as ‘classics’ even though they fit into a genre. They tend to be old. Dickens, Conan Doyle, Jane Austen all wrote in their genres but age has given them a certain respectability. That doesn’t apply to people, only books. I’m no more respectable than I ever was.

So what is the other meaning of ‘culture’?

Culture is about a way of life. Every society and sector of society has its own. There’s Asian, African, Welsh, British working-class and student culture. You’re bound to be part of one, whether you know it or not. You could argue there is an overall British culture and a lot of subcultures, but that doesn’t affect my main point. Popular novels (if only mine were!) are part of our popular culture.

What are culture wars?

There seem to be two kinds of culture wars. The first is the artificial (in my view) battle to decide whether a book, painting, film or something is acceptable as Art or Literature, or is in any way worthy. This war includes battles over the acceptability of new words or phrases into the English language. Personally, I think language has to evolve. However, I do think words and phrases should not move too far from their original or literal meaning. Writers love metaphors, but the metaphor should stay in touch with its literal meaning. People can always invent new metaphors to refresh the language and make it relate better to the present world. By the way, my pet hate is the use of ‘literally’ when you don’t mean it. Flying is not literally the only way to travel.

What is the second variety of culture war?

The second kind of culture war is where culture is (also artificially in my opinion) politicised. Some people accuse anything critical of the status quo or re-evaluating our history of being left wing, Marxist even. I have written before about Karl Marx as a historian and about the teaching of Black History.  My novels in the Highwaypersons series. especially Book II The King’s Justice, mention social injustice and the slave trade in the 18th century. You might see parallels to present day issues, but the books are not political treatises. They are swashbuckling adventures which include murder mysteries. I hope you enjoy them.

The cover of The King's Justice. Does it contribute to culture wars?

Does it contribute to culture wars?

Do culture wars affect my writing?

I do not want to be afraid of writing something that may offend one side or the other. Historical events need to be seen in relation to the period in question. They may not be politically correct by some modern standards. Equally, my interpretation may differ from the traditional one. Historians disagree and novelists are free to do so too. I hope we will always be!