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Thread: Definitions, recommendations, and answers

  1. #1
    Sick and absent Shweta's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Definitions, recommendations, and answers

    ...Or some attempt thereof.


    Interstitial arts:
    From the online etymology dictionary:
    1603, from L. interstitium "interval," lit. "space between," from inter- "between" + stem of stare "to stand" (see stet).
    From the Interstitial Arts Foundation:
    What is interstitial art? It is art made in the interstices between genres and categories. It is art that flourishes in the borderlands between different disciplines, mediums, and cultures. It is art that crosses borders, made by artists who refuse to be constrained by category labels.
    The IAF also has a number of essays on the interstitial arts. I haven't read 'em all, but I mean to; those I've read so far are fantastic. And... while of course AW is our wonderful beloved home planet, they also have a forum.
    Oh and, wikipedia sez:
    Interstitial art is a term first coined in the 1990s, and increasingly popularized in the early 2000s, that refers to any work of art whose basic nature falls between, rather than within, the familiar boundaries of accepted genres or media, thus making the work difficult to easily categorize or describe within a single artistic discipline.

    Slipstream (from wikipedeia, because it's a good starting point for the conversation, not because I think it needs to be definitional)
    ... a kind of fantastic or non-realistic fiction that crosses conventional genre boundaries between science fiction/fantasy or mainstream literary fiction. The term slipstream was coined by cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling in an article originally published in SF Eye #5, July 1989. He wrote: "...this is a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange; the way that living in the twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibility."
    It is debateble whether "Slipstream" has been subsumed into the [[New Weird] movement, among like-minded authors, or a new label that has been applied to them after the fact.

    New Weird (ditto wikipedia)
    The New Weird is an avant-garde literary movement or literary genre that began, nascent and unnamed, in the 1990s and culminated in a series of novels and stories published from 2001 to 2005. The writers involved are mostly novelists who are considered to be parts of the horror and/or speculative fiction genres. The author all critics agree on as a "New Weird" writer is China Miéville, who self-describes as such. Other writers who have been variously described as "New Weird" include M. John Harrison, Steph Swainston, and Jeff VanderMeer — although some of these writers are more properly precursors to New Weird.
    But here's a definition from the anthology, which I like better (also quoted on the wikipedia page):
    New Weird is a type of urban, secondary-world fiction that subverts the romanticized ideas about place found in traditional fantasy, largely by choosing realistic, complex real-world models as the jumping off point for creation of settings that may combine elements of both science fiction and fantasy. New Weird is a type of urban, secondary-world fiction that subverts the romanticized ideas about place found in traditional fantasy, largely by choosing realistic, complex real-world models as the jumping off point for creation of settings that may combine elements of both science fiction and fantasy.

    Surrealism (ditto wikipedia, especially because I know far more about surrealist painting than writing...)

    Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur; however many Surrealist artists and writers regard their work as an expression of the philosophical movement first and foremost, with the works being an artifact. Leader André Breton was explicit in his assertion that Surrealism was above all a revolutionary movement.
    Shweta Narayan
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  2. #2
    Wing nut Sharon Mock's Avatar
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    Apr 2005
    More definitions

    Magical Realism
    ... is not so easy to define, actually. (I don't recommend Wikipedia for this one, at least not with the article in its current state.)

    Kitty Pryde has pointed to an awesome collection of links on the subject.

    Bruce Holland Rogers has an excellent essay on magical realism and how it differs from genre fantasy here:

    Science fiction and fantasy are always speculative. They are always positing that some aspect of objective reality were different. [...]

    Magical realism is not speculative and does not conduct thought experiments. Instead, it tells its stories from the perspective of people who live in our world and experience a different reality from the one we call objective. If there is a ghost in a story of magical realism, the ghost is not a fantasy element but a manifestation of the reality of people who believe in and have "real" experiences of ghosts. Magical realist fiction depicts the real world of people whose reality is different from ours. [...] Magical realism endeavors to show us the world through other eyes. [...]

    It's possible to read magical realism as fantasy, just as it's possible to dismiss people who believe in witches as primitives or fools. But the literature at its best invites the reader to compassionately experience the world as many of our fellow human beings see it.
    Another essay, from a more academic/literary perspective, is here:

    Magical realism is characterized by two conflicting perspectives, one based on a rational view of reality and the other on the acceptance of the supernatural as prosaic reality. Magical realism differs from pure fantasy primarily because it is set in a normal, modern world with authentic descriptions of humans and society [ed. note: I don't actually think this is a useful diagnostic criterion]. According to Angel Flores, magical realism involves the fusion of the real and the fantastic, or as he claims, "an amalgamation of realism and fantasy".
    Magical realism is strongly associated with South American literature, but not, most people agree, confined to it.
    Last edited by Sharon Mock; 03-03-2009 at 05:33 AM. Reason: Added the page that Kitty Pryde found

  3. #3
    Wing nut Sharon Mock's Avatar
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    Definitions: Metafiction and Fabulism

    Wikipedia defines metafiction:

    Metafiction is a type of fiction that self-consciously addresses the devices of fiction. It is the literary term describing fictional writing that self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artifact in posing questions about the relationship between fiction and reality, usually, irony and self-reflection. [...] metafiction does not let the reader forget he or she is reading a fictional work.
    The Wikipedia page includes an excellent range of examples, from relatively frivolous fourth-wall breaking (the Simpsons) to the canonical (Tristram Shandy, Finnegan's Wake). [slight pause while Editor is distracted by her love for Tristram Shandy...]

    Borges is a commonly accepted example of metafiction not mentioned on the above page.

    Fabulism: I have no links for this one; it seems to have gone undefined on the Web. (How did that happen?) But I had an opportunity this weekend to talk to Stephen Potts, professor at UCSD and SDSU, who a) confirmed that fabulism is indeed a critical term, and b) kindly explained it to me.

    Fabulism describes works that convey a moral or a message: literary fables. Kurt Vonnegut was his example (Slaughterhouse Five is a potent statement on war). Fabulism contrasts with metafiction, which commonly has no message or moral outside its commentary on fiction.

    Yes, I know Vonnegut gets cited as an example of metafiction on that Wikipedia page. I think that's an example of using metafictional techniques to fabulist ends.

    (Clear as day? Clear as mud? Clear as squid?)

  4. #4
    Wing nut Sharon Mock's Avatar
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    Housekeeping note: I broke the discussion of magical realism into a thread of its very own, here.

  5. #5
    Last edited by AMCrenshaw; 03-05-2009 at 07:38 AM. Reason: sorry

  6. #6
    punny user title, here
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    May 2007
    Ad New Weird:

    New Weird, New Weird 2, New Weird 3, New Weird 4, New Weird 4.5

    I read this some years ago and forgotten most of it. You'll need lots of time, but it's the movement talking.

  7. #7
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    It is too long, It is indeed to spend me lots of time. But I like to read if I have free time.

  8. #8
    that's di-CROW-ick Dichroic's Avatar
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    Maybe this is the right place for a question. How do you distinguish between the truly interstitial and the stuff that uses that label to justify incomplete worldbuilding or storytelling? It seems to me I've read a fair few stories in the latter category, leaving me with a horrid sense of narrative interruptus. On the other hand, I've read lots of stuff I'd consider interstitial because it doesn't fit neatly in any genre, that builds worlds and tells stories beautifully. I've also read stories that leave me hanging for a clearly defined purpose, which is a completely different feeling. (I wonder if Robert Heinlein's "All You Zombies-" is an interstitial story? I think maybe.)

    So those stories that leave me hanging - are they just *bad* interstitial stories? (Or, also possibly, am I just a *bad* interstitial reader?)

    She paid him the compliment of rational opposition
    -Jane Austen

  9. #9
    Rebuilding My Brain Sheila Muirenn's Avatar
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    I wanted to include this after seeing a post stating Slipstream was a mix between Sci-fi and Literary Fiction.

    Slipstream is not a simple combination of literary and sci-fi. Experiemental Slipstream is more about word-style and how the words and thoughts are presented. And how those things make the reader feel. It tends to be perception-changing. Also tends to explore the non-real aspect of a story. As opposed to magical realism, which assumes magic is real and therefore nothing has to be mentioned of the possibility of unreal. Another indication that it may be slipstream is that the quality of the writing may be characterized by dissonance. It's often jaring. But not dissonant for the sake of disonance. The instance has to demand it in order to explain the mood of the piece or character.

    I suggest anyone who thinks their work may be experimental (not just Slipstream but any Experimental) to research the topic experimental literature.

    Scroll down to See Also for links to the various experimental forms:


    Remember, Experimental Writers are innovative. They rely on their own thoughts to determine the rules of their work. That means another person cannot easily determine an experimental writer's genre. It comes from within.

    Interstitial, btw, is a designation for experimental, not mixed genre. Though a simplified view of interstitial is mixed genre, that is not what it has become.


    The interstitial arts movement (from above link).
    In the mid-1990s, Delia Sherman, Ellen Kushner, Terri Windling, Heinz Insu Fenkl, Midori Snyder, Kelly Link, Gavin Grant, Gregory Frost, Theodora Goss, Veronica Schanoes, Carolyn Dunn,Colson Whitehead, and other American writers interested in fantastic literature found themselves commiserating over the common perception that the genre-oriented publishing industry found it difficult to market truly innovative fiction involving unusual, fantastical, or cross-genre elements—because the mainstream literary fiction field demanded stories based in realism, while the fantasy field demanded stories that mostly followed the standard conventions of sword and sorcery or high fantasy. Yet it seemed to the authors that some of the best literature was that which didn't quite fit tidily into either category but instead was being discussed in terms of more amorphous, "in-between" descriptors such as "magic realism," "mythic fiction," or "the New Weird." Further, the idea of interstitiality applied to other kinds of "in-between" fiction (unrelated to fantasy) and other "in-between" arts.
    Over a period of several years, Kushner and Sherman prompted ongoing discussion about the importance of cultivating artistic "in-betweenness" led to the formulation of the broad concept of interstitial art. In 2002, literary scholar Heinz Insu Fenkl founded ISIS: The Interstitial Studies Institute at the State University of New York at New Paltz, and in 2003-04, Sherman & Kushner and some of their colleagues established the Interstitial Arts Foundation, a 501c(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to developing community and support for artists, arts-industry professionals and audiences whose creative pursuits are interstitial in nature.
    Last edited by Sheila Muirenn; 04-20-2011 at 06:24 PM.
    Sheila Muirenn


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  10. #10
    figuring it all out MonikaRuth's Avatar
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    Very helpful definitions

    "Trust in what you love, and it will take you where you need to be."
    -Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones

  11. #11
    Miss Conceived Liralen's Avatar
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    Dec 2012
    I've a good bit of homework to do, reading up on all of this!

    And here I've just been answering demands for a descriptive label for the category this WiP fits into with "Transgenre."
    The creative writing process is a lot like emotional binge and purge cycles.

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  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW Viciouspen's Avatar
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    Jul 2013
    How incredibly nice to find out there's a name for what I am.

    Here I thought I was just wholly whacko :P

    This has been a great read and has really helped me. I struggled with how I write "odd" things. Made me feel like I'd need to straighten myself out and write "normal".
    Reading this has given me a new way to look at it.

    It's a vicious pen because it will only take your blood for ink.


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