THIS JUST IN: Paranormal author Rachel Caine's Glass Houses, from the Morganville Vampire series, is now a must-read at Harvard University. The first book in Caine's Young Adult series has just been added to the university's course "The Vampire in Literature and Film." We tracked down Rachel Caine to see what she had to say about this collegiate turn of events.
RT BOOK REVIEWS: Any words on your first reaction when you heard that you were required reading at Harvard?
Rachel Caine: I believe I summed it all up in a very proper, authorial way when I blurted "No way!" Followed by fainting.
RT: Where did you go to college? Does it feel good to make it into the classroom of the most distinguished University in America?
RC: I graduated from Texas Tech University, which is a fine school, but far from the hallowed halls of Harvard ... so I think I feel a bit like Claire right now, taking my first awkward steps into a very new world. It feels extremely flattering to be included in the course curriculum, and I think it's delightful that there's an actual course, on vampires, at Harvard. Couldn't be any cooler.
RT: If you were putting together your own 'must-read' list for students, what would be on it?
RC: For college students, I'd love to see a course analyzing stories that are about survival in a strange world -- things like Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games, Mira Grant's Feed, Cormac McCarthy's The Road ... I think it'd be a fascinating look at dystopian fiction and how people adapt to it.
RT: What do you feel students (and readers in general) can learn from the Morganville series?
RC: I certainly never intended the series to be a teaching tool, but I suppose my themes throughout the series have to do with the strength of friendships and the need for understanding between very different groups. So maybe that. But the idea of analyzing my own books in that way is an odd idea for me.
RT: Do you think courses like this show a trend towards taking genre fiction more seriously in academics? While we probably can't ever replace Shakespeare, Joyce and others, does this prove that there may be room to expand the literary cannon?
RC: Absolutely! After all, every book that's included in course curriculums today as classics were new once, and probably not very highly thought of in many quarters. Looking back at the reviews of much-loved (now) classics can be very interesting ... after all, Bram Stoker's Dracula (unmistakably genre) was panned as "highly sensation, but wanting in the constructive art as well as in the higher literary sense," after all. I don't believe we can, or should, replace lasting classics, but adding to that group is inevitable, and I think every year, new books have the chance to make it to that list.
I think that it's the readers who make a book classic ... after all, it was the readers refusing to give up on Dracula that kept it being reprinted, and reprinted, and reprinted since 1897. And it's ultimately the readers who determine what is a classic, by what they hold on to and refer people back to when asked.
There are many, many classics-in-the-making out there right now, and I can't wait to see what -- eventually -- is made of them in academic circles.
Although as a writer, I think all we can do is keep our heads down and focus our eyes on the next book we're writing/editing/proofing. Analysis is for everybody else, thankfully ...
RT: Anyone from school that you want to give a shout out to? (No need for you to wait for a class reunion to brag, we will do it here for you.)
RC: A big holla for my old hangout buddies from Tech: Andy, Mona, Elizabeth, Marcia, Bruce, George, Dineen ... and especially Scott Chase. Wish we could all get together again! And thank you for putting up with my strange writing obsession, too.
Now it's your turn: Which genre books (if any) would you include in a college course? Leave your answer in the comments.