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The Newsletter of
The Council for the Literature of the Fantastic

Volume 1, Number 1 (Fall 1995)
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The CLF "Manifesto"

by Daniel Pearlman
Copyright © 1995, Daniel Pearlman

The literary marketplace in the United States, and to a considerable degree in other English-speaking parts of the world, tends to take seriously only products of so-called "realism." Works that incorporate the "fantastic" are dismissed as phenomena of Popular Culture. The literary "Best of" annuals like the Pushcart series or the O'Henry short-story volumes claim to scour the field for the "best," but how is it that American fiction belonging to the non-realistic tradition is virtually never represented in these prestigious yearlies? Is it literary snobbism that prevents even one story from a genre magazine such as Fantasy & Science Fiction from inclusion--despite the fact that the genre magazines print the largest proportion of short fiction being published in this country? That is apparently not enough of an explanation since the fantastic (i.e., non-realistic) fiction that occasionally appears in literary magazines and journals, some of them quite prestigious, is almost never selected either.

Admittedly, though, it is rather difficult even to find non-realistic fiction published these days by sincerely literary presses. There is a tacit ideology--prejudice, to speak bluntly--at work here, the sense that the fantastic is somehow illegitimate and has fled to the societal margins under the cavalry charge of no-nonsense realism. Or else there is the obverse fear --a fear of the loss of all literary value under the media barrage of fifth-rate sci-fi, cliché horror, and the like. It is as though the literary fantastic as a serious enterprise--the work of Irving, Hawthorne, Poe, or Melville--retrospectively lost validity because of the rise of pulp fiction. The big losers in all this are the intelligent general readers, who have been brainwashed for nearly a century by market forces that continue to impoverish our literature--and, of course, the seriously literary writers among us who employ the fantastic, not for purposes of escapism, but as their principal mode of expression of imaginative truth.

It is to correct this disorder that I, with the help of a good many friends here and in England, have started CLF, the Council for the Literature of the Fantastic, whose home base is the University of Rhode Island . A significant proportion of fantastic literature has undeservedly suffered for far too long the bad rap of proffering mere escapism. CLF will respond by providing major services to publishers of any size, to editors, writers, and readers, to literary agents and to educators, and to anyone else who has a stake in LF, the literature of the fantastic. By employing the resources of a university and by enlisting the aid of sympathetic "real-world" pros, CLF will promote those books, magazines, and writers that, in our best judgment, deserve wider recognition than they currently enjoy.

THE CLF NEWSLETTER: One prong of our attack will be this newsletter--providing specific services to those of us with a stake in LF, such as (1) responsible, professional reviews--both in-house and solicited--of journals and small presses that print LF; (2) interviews with, and articles by, LF publishers, editors, and writers; (3) detailed market news unavailable elsewhere for writers in the field of LF [links to online market news will suffice for most such breaking information] ; and (4) other valuable material, much of which will eventually be suggested by our readers.

CLF AS CLEARING-HOUSE: Part of the mission of CLF will be to act as a central clearing-house for LF, literally to become a distribution center for English-language publications that promote high literary standards for LF. By no means opposed to realism, we offer our services to publishers of eclectic tastes who, in the normal course of things, include non-realistic works among the sorts of fiction they print, as well as to publishers who deal exclusively in fiction (and poetry!) of a fantastic nature. Supporting the sales efforts of (mostly) marginal publishers, we will advertise and distribute samples of their wares. (In this capacity we emulate Chris Reed, editor of the British magazine Back Brain Recluse and founder of England's NSFA , the New SF Alliance.) Booksellers are encouraged to place orders for the publications that have earned reviews in the Newsletter. Please order directly from the publisher unless otherwise indicated, and please credit CLF as your source of information.

[Ed. Note: CLF is no longer engaged as a distribution center in the marketing of LF]

The Council for the Literature of the Fantastic is based at the Department of English of the University of Rhode Island. We thank the University and the Department for their support.

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