Edinburgh Companion to Twentieth-Century Scottish Literature

By Ian Brown; Alan Riach | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Scottish Contemporary Popular and
Genre Fiction

Marie Odile Pittin-Hédon

Popular literature is a volatile notion, involving marketing, publicity and sales figures, but also the more literary, abstract concepts of genre, sub-genre and the shift of our conception of those in the last thirty years. In the case of Scotland, many of the authors of ‘popular fiction’ make it to the top of best sellers’ lists on a regular basis: Iain M. Banks (1954–), Louise Welsh (1965–), Val McDermid (1955–) and, increasingly in later years, Denise Mina (1966–), not to mention the hugely popular Ian Rankin (1960–) and Alexander McCall Smith (1948–) and the worldwide Edinburgh-based literary marketing phenomenon J. K. Rowling (1965–). All those writers contribute to shaping a contemporary literary landscape described by David Lodge in 1992 as ‘the aesthetic supermarket’, while retaining characteristics of the backgrounds they have chosen to write from, about, or simply to ignore, but which is part of their common vantage point1 described by Ben Okri in 1986 as ‘another country’.2 The additional issue of genre versus mainstream fiction, the blurring of whose limits prompts comparison with the Scottish Borders’ sub-region, the ‘debatable lands’, affords a unique perspective. This adds to the social and literary dimension yet another one, the broadly political, as those writers operate, in Kevin McNeil’s words, from ‘the very heart of beyond’.3 This chapter is situated at the crossroads of mass-market publishing and literary issues and debates. It endeavours to chart the shifting borders of the ‘debatable lands’ of Scottish popular fiction from the fairly stable definition of the 1960s and 1970s to the 2000s, characterised by crossover and hybridisation, justifying Roger Luckhurst’s claims (about science fiction) that it has become ‘a central cultural node, less a genre than a mode of apprehension’.4 By examining the works of authors traditionally categorised under the label of genre fiction the chapter will look at the various ‘modes of apprehension’ to come out of the popular Scottish novel in recent years.

We see through a glass, darkly

Iain Banks pursues two very successful literary careers, publishing both mainstream and science fiction novels whose themes transgression, duality and


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Edinburgh Companion to Twentieth-Century Scottish Literature


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 264

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?