Monday, August 25, 2003

interstitial writing

One of the things that has piqued my interest of late is writing that falls in the grey areas between genres.

For example, for the past several years (actually, since I was in early twenties), I have acquired a less than thrilling reaction to genre fiction, in particular, fantasy. It seemed that everything I saw was an Imaginary World creation ripped-off from Tolkien or Lewis, poorly thought-out Historical or Alternative Fantasy, sup-par Magic Realism, trendy Modern fantasy or simply disjointed and "trying-hard" Mythic Fantasy (usually set in Seattle and featuring elves and people who play lutes).

In the past three or so years though, I have noticed a wonderful tendency for fantasy writers to borrow tropes and styles from Realist fiction and vice-versa, leading to the creation of a melange that has elements of the fantastic but has a powerful capacity for truth, character and resonance. It is as if the walls surrounding fantasy, previously relegated to the ghetto of "non-serious" writing, have collapsed or become permeable, allowing for crisscrossing of unprecedented degree.

This is all great, whatever it is called (New Wave Fabulists, Outsider Writing, Mixed Genre), because previously restricted (and restrictive) genres contribute their best elements to create something different, something new. And it's a kick in the balls for the hack fantasy writers to improve their silly derivative writing.

It challenges my assumptions of what fantasy is, opening a wide expanse for my jaded eyes to explore. And more importantly, beyond critical considerations, it allows new stories to be told in fresh ways. Speculative fiction is alive and well, and wait until you read what its adherents are writing now.


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