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The Newsletter of
The Council for the Literature of the Fantastic

Volume 1, Number 2 (Winter 1996)
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No More 2 Cents Plain; I've BURPED Enough

by Daniel Pearlman
Copyright © 1996, Daniel Pearlman

The birthright of each of us is to construct our own reality--or series thereof--and then try to sell it: to girl friend, to editor, to the Great Unwashed. ...What we ought to fear, therefore, is the monotheistic "consensus"-reality palmed off on us by CNN/Oprah, Inc. and its major echo-chamber, "contemporary literary realism." The articles that follow all challenge the dominant BURP, or Bourgeoisie-Underwritten Reality-Paradigm. (Mark Amerika, for example, sees the "avant-pop" movement as an ironic co-optation of mediated reality.) We've all had one big BURP too many already, so why isn't the gas out of our system? Trapped gases, as we know, can cause spontaneous human combustion.

Re the gassing of literature: The item in our Fall 1995 issue that exId the most animated reader response was Don D'Ammassa's " The Growing Censorship of the Fantastic ." Fantastic literature experiences censorship both direct and indirect, and there are four articles in the current issue that continue to engage this topic, but from very different angles. Karen Michalson examines the historical roots of such censorship; Gary Bowen discusses the reluctance of genre publishers to roam the multifaceted sexscape--an issue which Eric Rabkin explores in detailing various pronoun strategies novelists have used to subvert rigid sex-role categorizations; and Brian Clark sees the conditions of the marketplace as perhaps the worst, if least intentional, of LF censors.

The first three paragraphs of Karen Michalson's superb essay, " Literary Battles with Church and Empire ," sum up the contemporary marketplace conditions that have irritated a group of us writers, editors, and publishers into forming this organization we've called CLF. More often than not, works of LF (the Literature of the Fantastic, or, if you like, Literary Fabulism) occupy a position in a no-man's-land between a distrustful or uncomprehending genre marketplace and a literary establishment oriented toward so-called realism. Paradoxically, I see more of the finest LF published--percentage-wise--in the major genre magazines than in the major litmags. In neither publishing arena, however, does the Literary Fantastic gobble up any appreciable amount of space . It is by and large left to the small press--wetnurse to most of the literary greats of this century--to scarf up these leftovers from the tables of the Biggies.

The small press, though, is unable to offer a very satisfying solution to the neglect LF suffers in the larger world of the market. The marginalization of LF would be tolerable enough if small-press publishers had a fair chance at survival, an "even playing-ground," so to speak, with Big Publishing. But the economics of the game today is skewed entirely to the appetites and muscle-power of the Biggies. Bantam can wait a year to collect its money from its distributors, but a shoestring, quality publication like Space & Time might well respond to some such not-untypical delay by going under. Brian Clark, publisher of Permeable Press (and layout artist for the current CLF Newsletter ), has choice words on this dilemma of the small press in his article " Fantastic Co-operative ." Within the small-press environment, LF occupies a marginal enough existence, but the various add-on business handicaps that the LF small press endures are proving too costly for LF's survival. And what is the cost to the American reading public? That must be tallied in new Irvings, new Poes, new Hawthornes, new Melvilles, all dead aborning.

If the mission of CLF is to recognize underappreciated literary talent and to give a boost to our new Melvilles, then we honor that commitment in this issue by focusing on two Southwesterners, the Texan Don Webb and the Arizonan Stepan Chapman, in pages that follow.

NOTE 1: About Our new Website: The Website will carry all the text of our free issues and whatever else we think fit to include. The Website will not carry the full text of our eventual subscription issues.

NOTE 2: In addition to a mailing list of hundreds of publishers, bookstores, libraries, and miscellaneous individuals, this Newsletter is being sent to the entire memberships of SFWA, IAFA, and SFRA. Your subscriptions (temporarily only $15 for one year/four issues) will take effect after the last free issue is distributed, probably the next, #3, which is all I have known funding for. Subscriptions have been coming in at a very slow rate--and almost none from the world of small-press publishers who have most to gain immediately by our efforts. If you enjoy this fine issue, please subscribe now. Now is when we most need your subscriptions, not after you receive your last free issue.

[Ed. NOTE: CLF has now moved to a completely online version of the Newsletter, consequently, we are no longer seeking subscriptions.]

NOTE 3: For those of you not acquainted with CLF's goals, as announced in the first issue of our Newsletter, let me sum them up briefly: (1) to discriminate and make known the best in LF via the articles, interviews, reviews, and market news in our Newsletter; and (2) to promote the wider recognition and economic survival of LF publishers and writers by fostering new cooperative marketing strategies and through concrete measures such as the Trial-Pack, as instituted in issue #1 and again herein. [Ed. Note: The Trial Packs are no longer available.] If you would like to write an article for our Newsletter or in some other way contribute to our efforts, please email me at dpearl@uriacc.uri.edu, fax me at 401 874-2500, or write to me at CLF, English/URI, Kingston, RI 02881.

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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