Monday, June 25, 2007


Alternative music and speculative fiction are two sub-genres of popular culture that share many adherents, not the least being, and I'll swear it was Pete Townshend who mentioned this somewhere, defined as reactions to entropy (I already googled and couldn't find the quote).
In other words, they're pushing against the status-quo when done right. Of course, within each, a status quo takes hold, and those who are the most passionate towards each look for further boundaries to be broken.

No coincidence that both rock music and fantastic literature use "punk" as a term for the moment that the genres split into new directions. The anthology format also is a way to take stock of envelope-pushers: the beloved C-86 cassette from NME for example in terms of indie music; Ellison's Dangerous Visions and Sterling's Mirrorshades, for SF.

While not reinventing the wheel, Interfictions, the new anthology from the Interstitial Arts
Foundation and the beloved Small Beer Press is a manifesto of sorts as well. The term "interstitial" seems to be the current term for what had been previously called "slipstream" or "fabulist" or whatever you'd like to point at, literature that had fallen through the cracks so to speak. For those readers who were looking to go beyond some of the genre's increasingly stale conventions, it was manna.

Bottom line is, it's a simply lovely anthology, a justification for those who no longer wanted to pigeonhole. Theodora Goss and Delia Sherman, outstanding authors (and interstitial artists) in their own right, show a great knack for editing too. The stories are arranged in an ebb and flow that rewards careful reading in the order of the book. I'm not about to go tale by tale, but it's telling that the book begins and ends with the strongest stories: Christopher Barzak's is-it-really-a-haunted-house opener, "What We Know About the Lost Families of _____ House", and recent Tiptree winner Catherynne M. Valente's "A Dirge for Prester John" as the wind-up. If pressed for a favorite, I surprised myself by loving Csilla Kleinheincz's "A Drop of Raspberry" a love story involving an anthropomorphic lake that choked me up (and I normally don't go much for fiction in translation either).

But high marks also go to the introduction that could act as a manifesto all its own, by Heinz Insu Fenkl, that makes you think more about interstitial writing than the dozens of essays out there that have attempted to explain it. Who would have dreamed, for example, that my favorite Reese Weatherspoon movie, Freeway, would fall under this category? Almost worth the price of admission alone.

But then that would short shrift the other excellent stories herein. Chances are your local Big Box Book Store would ask you to special order this, so why not go directly to Small Beer above and grab a copy?


This interfiction has not arrived sui generis; there have been numerous little gems of small press publishing that have been sustaining the offbeat for awhile now. Here's four of my favorites that I look forward to and devour with great regularity (much more so than the bigger name mags):
1. Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet Small Beer Press' flagship publication and the godparent of this whole movement. Every pub that follows owes them a debt right down to the layout. Order yours with a chocolate bar every issue like I do.
2. Electric Velocipede Edited by a librarian, no less; possibly the most traditional of the small press mags; like a real good, left-of-center issue of Asimov's. John Klima is looking for subscribers, which I should get off my ass and do forthwith (I've been buying individually for the last few issues).
3. Flytrap Hugo-nonimee Tim Pratt and his wife Heather put this one out; this is the mag that had a story about me a few years back. As of their most recent issue (#7), probably the most experimental of the bunch.
4. Sybil's Garage A lovely little mix of clip art, interviews, poems, vignettes, and song suggestions. Feels like some long lost mag you may have found in a library's stack space somewhere.
And I haven't even gotten to Say..., Alchemy, Grendel's Song, Trunk Stories....this is where the cutting edge of speculative fiction lies, IMHO.


As long as I'm in a recommending mood, you simply must track down I Shall Destroy all the Civilized Planets! from Fantagraphics, a collection of truly deranged comix from Fletcher Hanks, an outsider artist if ever from back in the late 30s and early 40s. It doesn't get much more interstitial than that.

More playlists:
7/9: Charlotte Hatherley, Barbara Manning, Cherry Gun
7/16: Caribou, Pantha du Prince, Gui Boratto
8/6: Absolute Grey, Young Marble Giants

Whew! How's that for an update, Adrienne?


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