Future of the Fantastic

The Geek Problem or You Are Not Luke Skywalker

Some years ago, I read an article in a mainstream magazine that basically said, "There's no doubt about, being a geek is cool. Everyone is dressing like geeks, watching superhero movies, using computers, truly geekdom is in." And I remember thinking, "What planet is this guy living on?" Yes, people may be using the Internet on their iPhones, dressing in Buddy Holly glasses and wearing plaid sweater vests on their way to see The Dark Knight, but they're also laughing at Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons or at Triumph the Insult Comic Dog making fun of people at San Diego Comic Con. Certain elements of geek culture have been appropriated by the mainstream, to be sure, but geekiness itself is not "cool"; in fact, if I understand the words correctly, the two are by definition in opposition. (Like the old oxymoron "it's hip to be square".)

There has over the years, of course, been a movement to reappropriate the word "geek" as positive, as something to be celebrated, usually on the model of the homosexuals' reappropriation of the word "queer." This movement seeks geeks to be proud of their culture and their differences from the mainstream, to celebrate it, to shout "we're here, we're geeky, get used to it." Of course, geekdom is not exactly analogous to homosexuality for a huge number of reasons, but one can sympathize with the people who were bullied in school and now want to declare absolutely to the world that there's nothing wrong with themselves.

Best American Fantasy 2

Out right now: Best American Fantasy 2 (v. 2). This book contains some stunning stories, including "The Drowned Life" by Jeffrey Ford, which reminded me of Nabokov's Invitation to a Beheading; a story by Peter S. Beagle that's deceptively Borgesian in its investigation of identity; and Kelly Link proving yet again why she's the best short story writer working today. This is what good short fiction looks like, this is the kind of anthology you want to buy.

Seriously, go buy now. Especially you, Quackenbush.

Speculative Fiction in Conversation: Epilogue

SF in Conversation: Epilogue

This is the final part of an email conversation I had with Matt Cheney about the state of Speculative Fiction. Read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5.

Speculative Fiction in Conversation Part 5

This is part 5 of an email conversation I had with Matt Cheney about the state of Speculative Fiction. Read part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4. Some things discussed: the dark heart of aesthetics, zombie movies, literary greatness and William Shakespeare.

Speculative Fiction in Conversation Part 4

This is part 4 of an email conversation I had with Matt Cheney about the state of Speculative Fiction. Read part 1 and part 2 and part 3. Some things discussed: the object-subject relationship, zombie movies, the evaluation of art, Star Trek as godawful crap vs. fun godawful crap

Speculative Fiction in Conversation Part 3

This is part 3 of an email conversation I had with Matt Cheney about the state of Speculative Fiction. Read part 1 and part 2. Some things discussed: Delany and transgression; anthologies; sf writers vs. literary writers; frames, objects and subjects; Roberto Bolaño.

Speculative Fiction in Conversation Part 2

This is part 2 of an email conversation I had with Matt Cheney about the state of Speculative Fiction. Read Part 1 Here.

Speculative Fiction in Conversation Part 1

In November, I posted a blog entry about James Gunn's essay on protocols and ways of reading in science fiction, a concept he drew from the essay collection Starboard Wine by Samual R. Delany. While I was critical of Gunn's post, the concepts discussed made me realize that there might be a lot of SF criticism out there that I had never read and never even heard of. After a little Google searching, I discovered that the Delany book was out of print and difficult to find, however an earlier collection, The Jewel-Hinged Jaw, had a forthcoming reissue with an introduction by my own friend Matt Cheney, who was trying to get the other book back into print as well. Matt is also the author of the blog Mumpsimus, a number of fine short stories, is the series editor of The Best American Fantasy, and is an English teacher who's known to sneak speculative fiction into the curriculum. It seemed natural that I would turn to him to fill in the gaps in my own SF education. What follows is part 1 of the email conversation that resulted, which moves from criticism to the history of SF and the ongoing debate about SF's place in the literary world, and whether protocols really exist at all.

F&SF All Over Again

Another reviewer receives a free issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and is disappointed. This after, my own recent review of a different issue found it lacking.

It's clear to me at least that the editor of the magazine is hopelessly out-of-touch and, in general, may simply have poor taste. For good SF stories read instead:

Farrago's Wainscott
Clarkesworld
A Fly in Amber
Strange Horizons

All of which are free on the Internet.

Fantasy and Science Fiction Discussion

I got involved in a discussion with the fiction editor of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Gordon Van Gelder, on their forum. I chime in on the second page.