I think of myself as an academic, it's part of my identity, but it's a lie. I'm not one. I don't have a graduate degree of any kind...
I replied as follows:
This. What houseboatonstyx says.
You research life and you read both fiction and non-fiction, I am sure. You write papers and theses (short stories and novels) that are in the form of fictionalised truth - merely a writing style less seen in "academic" circles. More people read your writings that those of "pure" academics.
Your papers and theses are studied and learned from. They inspire further research and writing. You are an academic in all but name. I do think that a fiction writer is as much an academic as an English professor, rocket scientist or neuro-surgeon. This is your day job. It consumes you as much as mathematics consumes Charlie Epps (fictional maths professor on Numb3rs on TV, if you don't watch that).
The world is a much better place than it would be without your writing. Just sayin'.