I'm a devotee of the great science fiction writer Connie Willis. I mean, really devoted, as in I would like to be her, as a writer, if I could. No one is better at plot, at humor, at science blended with story, at high concept, low concept, romantic comedy or apocalyptic disasters, than Connie. She's also a magnificent teacher.
Locus Magazine has a lengthy interview with her in the current issue. Here are a few gems from this wonderful artist:
"One of the reasons we love history and literature is because we get endings. We find out what happened: they got married; they died; they were able to vanquish Evil. sometimes we don't even really care how it works out, so long as we know how it works out."
"All the genres are tools. One of my pet rants for years has been the idea that there's no such thing as a good western, or romance, or any other form. . . . I've seen science fiction people who look down on fantasy people, who look down on the romance people, as if one genre was inherently better than another. All genres are good--and bad. There is no genre that can't produce great art, and there is no genre so good that it can't produce garbage--especially mainstream literature, which is full of garbage!"
"I get so angry when people say, 'Plot is out, character is out, identifying with characters is out, sympathy is out, empathy is out," whatever. The same techniques are used by Nabokov and schlocky hack writers. It's like saying that as a painter you're not going to use green any more because green is used by the people who paint those pictures above your sofa! But the truth is, Van Gogh uses green, and Monet really uses green. They're all tools."
"My favorite story is one like 'Cinderella': the person who is in a terrible situation and there is really nothing they can do about it. They can't change the world they're in; all they can do is endure and be good, and try to find meaning and beauty and love in this dark, impossible elevator of life. They succeed, and because they have made something beautiful out of this awful thing, they deserve all of the good things that happen to them later. Nobody can accuse these stories of being sentimental, because the characters have paid so heavily and worked so hard . . ."