I contacted Kelly Link both about my various articles about her work and the first Future of the Fantastic article. Here is the correspondence that followed.
I have been on the road for far too long, and w/o regular access to email — finally had a chance to go take a look. Very much enjoyed your take on various things, including Feeling Very Strange. One correction — the New Wave Fabulism issue of Conjunctions came out a couple of years ago.
I agree with your friend, by the way about the redundancy of calling something literary fiction. I'd hoped that that had come across in the interview w/ Ed, but I may have left it unsaid. What I was trying to get at is that "literary fiction" is at least as off-putting a category as "science fiction". A larger problem: of all the labels, literary fiction is the only one that claims a special distinction for itself. Why bother unless you have a fear that you won't be taken seriously? And why would you only ever want to be taken seriously above all other things?
I like saying that I'm a science fiction writer because there's already a degree of perversity/untruth to saying so — hopefully there's also a certain amount of appropriateness there.
If you're interested in the idea of genre & experimentation inside of genre, you could do far worse than looking at Young Adult, which, at the moment, is increasingly lively. I'd start with M. T. Anderson's novels Feed and Thirsty and Octavian Nothing, but Elizabeth Knox and Margo Lanagan are both terrfic, as is E. R. Frank's Life is Funny and Ysabeau Wilce's Flora Segunda.
And have you read Kevin Brockmeier's novel The Truth About Celia? Or Shelley Jackson's Half Life? If you try either of them and don't like them, let me know and I'll send you a book that we've published as a replacement. Of course, there's no guarantee that you'll like a Small Beer book better!
Dear Ms. Link,
Thanks for the kind words. According to Amazon, Conjunctions: New Wave Fabulism came out in December of 2002, so that was the date I used.
I'm actually reading a YA novel right now, Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass, which I'd always heard was good. There's a few other works marketed as YA that I've become a big fan of as an adult, like the Bone series of graphic novels, or Treasure Island. But YA still seems such a weird genre, since by definition it's (only) supposed to appeal to teenagers, which is the epitome of a marketing decision trumping all other considerations. (Golden Compass was, after all, marketed as an adult novel in England, but the American publishers thought it would sell better in the YA section.) Of course, one of the advantages of YA novels is that parents as well as kids tend to read them, (it was parents who recommended The Golden Compass to me) but still, I think if someone suggested something I wrote was to be put into the YA section I would shit myself, because on some level I still equate YA with "childish," for obvious, understandable reasons. Still, one wonders if the Internet is going to do more to abolish genre borders than all the anthologies in the world, since one doesn't have to go into a particular section of the bookstore in order to get a book. If someone sees a recomendation for Stranger Things Happen on a blog, they might purchase it off Amazon without even realizing it's an "sf" novel. It'd be very different if they had to go to a book store and hunt it out amid all those Star Trek novelizations. And eventually, I think the bulk of reading will be done on electronic readers of some kind (once they get the price somewhere reasonable) and I'm already listening to a lot of books on my iPod (if only Audible had a larger selection from the small presses). So it'll all be digital, and I think things like recommendations, even automated ones like Amazon Recommendations, will have much more weight than genre or ad campaigns.
Meanwhile, I'll take up your challenge and read one of those books. I'll probably even review it.
PS. I read The Ruins on your recommendation, and now I can't look at my house plant without getting shivers. DAMN YOU! No, seriously, that book freaked me out.
I may have misunderstood -- I thought you were saying that all of these projects had come out in the same year.
There's a great quote from Peter Straub about working in genre meaning that he had the freedom to experiment and do exactly what he wanted to do, with no one looking very closely. I think it's true of young adult as well as genre. If I were you, I'd try Octavian Nothing by M. T. Anderson.
As for categorization, it does help that people go looking for books & find them in ways that aren't arranged according to genre. In physical bookstores, my collections end up in SF/Fantasy sometimes, and sometimes in Fiction. I'm fine with either, having been a bookseller myself. There are very few things that you can only put into one place.