John Howell wrote a long and interesting piece titled "Why science fiction authors just can't win." Here's a brief extract:
Science fiction authors have long been outcasts from the literary world, in some cases critics using the worst examples of the genre as ammunition against it. Unfortunately though, at times even science fiction authors themselves can turn on their own kind: "Science fiction is rockets, chemicals and talking squids in outer space,” mocked Margaret Atwood (The Guardian, 28 January 2009), one of her many attempts to convince people that she is not a science fiction author, even though one of her most famous novels, A Handmaid's Tale, is exactly that.
More recently, in an article in the New York Times (4 October, 2009) publicising her new novel The Year of the Flood, Atwood declared that her dystopian novels are not science fiction. The article described The Year of the Flood as a novel set in “a violent future society created by a man-made plague" with "genetically-engineered humans and animals amid a ruined environment”, which sounds a lot like science fiction to me.
Taking even the narrowest definitions of science fiction, I’d suggest Atwood would have trouble arguing that some of her novels are not part of the genre. Apparently though, as long as you persist, you can convince the established order that your heart and mind is in the right place. Just keep insisting that everything science fiction is tacky, silly and sad and ridicule its creators at every opportunity. Disown the genre as emphatically and publicly as possible. As a writer there are tremendous advantages to avoiding the label science fiction, and Margret Atwood has successfully done that throughout her career and gained literary credibility in exchange.
In her defence, Atwood's apparent fear that once the label "science fiction" is attached to a novel the literary establishment will treat it differently seems well founded.
You can read the whole article here.
Lou Anders posted a link to Howell's piece on his blog, and he tempers everything with a quote from James Enge: I believe that the greatest danger to genre fiction nowadays is not the denial of respect from some notional group of literary tastemakers but the very real likelihood that sf/f may become respectable. Those who thirst for the foamy gray poison of respectability should consider the fate of jazz, once a popular medium, now respectable, ossified and ignored.
That post generated a good discussion with SFF pros such as Joe Abercrombie, Tim Akers, Joel Shepherd, Mark Chadbourn, Stephen Deas, and Phil Athans.
Check it out, and add your two cents if you feel like it!=)