Whenever you look for articles on writing SF and fantasy, you always get an article on their subgenres. And those always start with "When you say 'science fiction', everyone thinks of rocket ships and aliens" or "When you say 'fantasy', everyone thinks of epic sword and sorcery". And then they say, "But the genre is so much more." And then they list the subgenres like Alternate History, Dystopia, Cyberpunk (for SF) and Magic Realism, Dark Fantasy à la Martin, Moorcock, or Mieville, and Comic Fantasy à la
Well, to me, I must confess, that's a bit like saying, "When you say 'society' everyone thinks of office workers and skilled laborers, families, couples and single people. But society is so much more. It's also drug-dealers and assassins, pedophiles, rapists, bigamists, and assorted pimps and human traffickers!"
Because seriously, there are two kinds of not-shit SF: space opera and hard SF. There are two kinds of not-shit fantasy: high and low.
Here's a hint. Dystopias, Alernate History, and to a slightly lesser extent Cyberpunk, are all praised by the mainstream literary press. Pratchett got knighted, and Martin's crap has been made into a miniseries on Showtime (the fact the network itself is fee-based means each individual show is partly exempt from market forces—thus anyone who subscribes to follow one show is subsidizing the Sturgeon's Law of the rest of it). If you'd suggested, even at the height of LotR's popularity in the 70s, knighting Tolkien, there would've been another English Civil War; huge swaths of Airstrip One's litterati expressed their dismay when LotR was voted for various "best book" lists at the end of the last century.
What's my point?
Those people avowedly don't like science fiction and fantasy. They like alternate histories because even they learned about Byzantium and the Civil War in school; not so much, fusion rockets and orbit mechanics. They like comic fantasy because it lets them jeer at real fantasy that takes itself seriously. They like Magic Realism because, for all the trappings, it's still about their oh-so-precious present, and the petty infidelities of the bourgeoisie. They like Cyberpunk because even they have computers (not so much rocket ships), and Transhumanism because it appeals to the Gnostic sensibilities of all art elites. They like Dystopias because even they know a little social "science" (also because dystopias generally make whoever the critics disagree with the cause of dystopia—when they don't, the work's reception is nearly always significantly cooler). They like Dark Fantasy (in the Martin-Mieville sense) because it feeds into their chronological snobbery, never mind that the World Wars and modern Africa make even the Hundred Years War look like a quilting bee.
More, they like those subgenres because each and every one of them has no sense of wonder or adventure. It also goes for Mundane and Naturalistic SF: how dare you think, for one moment, that there's anything interesting beyond the sky. They're like the bear in Toy Story 3—they want us all trapped here with them. They're like the villagers in Gurren Lagann—don't worry about the sky, stay down here in the caves forever. They're like the Green Witch in The Silver Chair, insisting that the better, brighter world Puddleglum and the children remember is only a silly dream.
It is not a dream. It has never been a dream. Troy once stood, and the black ships bore the Achaeans to destroy it, and Priam, and the sons of Priam, and the people of the good ashen spear. We have found a tomb of an Arturus Rex, and there really was a knight named Roland who died in Charlemagne's service at Roncesvalles, against an alliance of pagan Basques and Muslim Moors. Given that that—and Audie Murphy and Napoleon Bonaparte and Hijikata Toshizô—are our past, why shouldn't our future be the same? Given that our real world has held such men—and women like Jeanne D'Arche, Maria Theresa, and the Teresas of Avila, Lisieux, and Calcutta—why should our fantasy not contain things even grander?
I understand, of course, why literary critics are convinced that only small, petty, contemptible people ought to be the focus of fiction—they believe that to be the human condition. Only, generalization from the self is a logical fallacy.
They insist that this soul-rotting uninspiring garbage is "realistic" (which in itself isn't a term of praise anyway) because they are fundamentally pessimists. People not failing in the last clutch, families that aren't warrens of incest and abuse, religions that aren't corrupt: those things break their suspension of disbelief because they think evil, failure, ugliness is the world's true nature.
Or to put it another way:
"There again," said Syme irritably, "what is there poetical about being in revolt? You might as well say that it is poetical to be sea-sick. Being sick is a revolt. Both being sick and being rebellious may be the wholesome thing on certain desperate occasions; but I'm hanged if I can see why they are poetical. Revolt in the abstract is—revolting. It's mere vomiting."Why are a bunch of spiritual bulimics running our art world, anyway?
"It is things going right," he cried, "that is poetical! Our digestions, for instance, going sacredly and silently right, that is the foundation of all poetry. Yes, the most poetical thing, more poetical than the flowers, more poetical than the stars—the most poetical thing in the world is not being sick."
—G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday