I've just started reading Maps & Legends, Michael Chabon's collection of essays on reading and writing. Not only does he write about Philip Pullman, M.R. James, and Ben Katchor—any and all of which topics would have predisposed me to like the book—but he also won me over completely with the introductory essay, which introduces a defense of the literary merits of genre fiction with the following paragraphs:
Imagine that, sometime about 1950, it had been decided, collectively, informally, a little at a time, but with finality, to proscribe every kind of novel but the nurse romance from the canon of the future. Not merely from the critical canon, but from the store racks and library shelves as well. Nobody could be paid, published, lionized, or cherished among the gods of literature for writing any kind of fiction other than nurse romances. Now, because of my faith and pride in the diverse and rigorous brilliance of American writers of the last half century, I do believe that from this bizarre decision, in this theoretical America, a dozen or more authentic masterpieces would have emerged. Thomas Pynchon's Blitz Nurse, for example, and Cynthia Ozick's Ruth Puttermesser, R.N. One imagines, however, that this particular genre—that any genre, even one far less circumscribed in its elements and possibilities than the nurse romance—would have paled somewhat by now. In that oddly diminished world, somebody, somewhere, is laying down his copy of Dr. Kavalier & Nurse Clay with a weary sigh.
Instead of "the novel" and "the nurse romance," try this little thought experiment with "jazz" and "the bossanova," or with "cinema" and "fish-out-of-water comedies." Now go ahead and try it with "short fiction" and "the contemporary, quotidian, plotless, moment-of-truth revelatory story."
Suddenly you find yourself sitting right back in your very own universe.
(Michael Chabon, Maps & Legends [San Francisco: McSweeney's Books, 2008], 17-18)
As one who grew deeply weary of that type of short story years ago and never un-wearied of it, I say: amen, brother. Much of the fiction I've most enjoyed in recent years has been "genre" fiction of one type or other, often as remote from the contemporary quotidian short story as I can find. There's more to this essay, and to the book (including an essay on Sherlock Holmes that ends with the tantalizing claim that all literature "from the Aeneid onwards" is fan fiction), but that was the part that I had to quote.