Spike of traffic on my “What well-funded* schools should a genre writer apply to” post. Probably got posted on some sort of MFA applicant forum? I’m almost tempted to add a disclaimer to it, though, because probably no post of mine has steered more people wrong than that one. I’m certain that every year since I got in, at least a half-dozen science fiction writer types have applied to Hopkins with the notion that it’s a particularly genre-friendly program. Which it’s really not. It’s not hostile to writers whose work has genre elements. But if you were to go there and be like, “I want to write fantasy novels, and that’s what I’m going to workshop,” then I don’t even know that they’d have the tools to understand that statement. They’d be like…okay. And they’d give you workshop comments.
But you have to understand: most people in the world of literary fiction–particularly those who teach within the creative writing academy–haven’t read Asimov and Heinlein and Bester and Clarke and Russ and Tiptree and Zelazny and Brunner and Gaiman and Marion Zimmer Bradley and Elizabeth Moon and Robin Hobb and David Gemmell and Terry Brooks and Terry Pratchett and Terry Goodkind and Guy Gavriel Kay. They probably haven’t even read Stephen King. Maybe they’ve read some Delany or Dick or Le Guin. And they’ve probably read Frankenstein. Perhaps too a little Wells and Verne. But that’s it.
And if you go into a program without the understanding that you’re entering into a foreign environment, then you’re probably going to be a little disappointed. I feel as though some speculative fiction writers intuitively understand these things and are able to navigate both worlds, and others find themselves a little bit adrift. More likely, though, you just don’t get in through the door of an MFA program unless you seem like the kind of person that MFA programs admit. For instance, in my personal statement to Johns Hopkins, I said I liked Willa Cather and Emile Zola and Sinclair Lewis. And for ‘speculative’ writers, I put Aimee Bender and Stacey Richter. Probably the only writer I put down that an SF fan would recognize would be Kelly Link–and I put her in there because she’s got an MFA and publishes plenty of stories in literary journals.
*Heading this off at the pass, since many genre writers will point right now to programs that are genre-friendly, like VCFA, Stone Coast, Seton Hill, etc. But those are low-res programs. And they’re a little pricey. They offer a good education–probably a better one than most fully-funded schools…but you also have to pay for it. Hopkins, in contrast, offers tuition remission and a 30k / year stipend.