I haven't wibbled on about Robert W. Chambers for some time, but while reading an essay on him, I found this lovely point:
"A complete account of so versatile and prolific a writer would discuss [his novels] as his significant achievement. If his admirers belong to a class of readers who seek sensation or revel in romance pushed to the utmost bounds of credibility, it is also true that his disclaimers belong to a class that objects, on principle and on hearsay, to reading him at all. The truth about his work lies not in extremes, but it is conceded that the extremist speaks with greater apparent force and picturesqueness." - Blanche Williams, Our Short Story Writers (1920)
This seems particularly relevant to the recent discussion surrounding my DGLA shortlist reviews - and, to get all lofty for a second, this also encapsulates my (ideal) approach to genre fiction as a whole. On one hand, we have a 'class of readers who seek [only] sensation'; if they enjoy it, they love it, and can see or read no evil. On the other hand, there are critics that object 'on principle and hearsay' to the very existence of such work.
What's in the middle? Hopefully, a willingness to try something with an open mind, and think about it as something with the potential to be both loved and liked - something that can be both enjoyed and criticially surveyed. I'm far from perfect, because, as Ms. Williams notes, taking an extreme view does allow for great 'picturesqueness', and I find that hard to resist, but, hell, at least I try.
(Ms. Williams goes on to say some very sensible things about Chambers' short stories, by the way. She concludes, much the same as S.T. Joshi does in Evolution of the Weird Tale (2004), that his supernatural stories are his best work. However, unlike Mr. Joshi, she does not dismiss the rest of his work 'on principle'. Perhaps it is because Ms. Williams is one of Chambers' contemporaries and living the wake of his fame, but she has more empathy for (appreciation of?) his more commercial fiction about struggling artists, financial ruin, etc. Anyway, I'm sorry I didn't have this when I was doing research for my introductions to Lost Souls - we seem to see eye to eye. Or 'eye to pdf', as the case may be.)