The Newsletter of
FFC, The Fantastic Fiction Collective: Step Oneby Daniel Pearlman, University of Rhode Island
Copyright © 1998, by Daniel Pearlman
The most recent issue of the SFWA Forum prints a letter by W. Warren Wagar which announces his disgusted withdrawal from the whole SF field. After publishing many stories in one of the major SF magazines, he has found himself struggling unsuccessfully for years to publish the novel that stems from those stories. He quotes a dozen or so of the idiotic reasons given for rejecting the book, and it is clear that these editorial decisions had nothing to do with its quality or readability, but far more with factors such as arbitrariness, laziness, and general corporate irresponsibility.
The case of Chapman's brilliant novel Troika, which has finally found a home with the Ministry of Whimsey Press, is rather similar. And you and I could multiply examples. But that Wagar letter, which reIates experiences too similar to my own, set me thinking.
The financial news has lately made it clear that the Big Press is choking on its own vomit. All the money's been going to a few top-selling authors, even when publishers know beforehand that the millions paid in advances won't be recouped in sales. Attention to the development of new authors, therefore, has been stifled--and that has been particularly the case with novelists who display any real originality.
Partly to blame are the super-bookstore chains, the tail wagging the dog, whose destructive effect is felt not only by Big Publishing but by the literary Small Press too. The independent bookstores on whom the Small Press has depended for most of its support have been shriveling in numbers under metastatic onslaught by Buns & Nibbles and brood, exactly the way supermarkets killed off the mom and pop groceries.
Mr. Wagar has probably not even tried to publish his novel with a Small-Press publisher, and even if he did, he'd mostly encounter prejudice against SF or fantasy, regardless of literary quality, and even if he broke through that barrier of prejudice, he could forget about making any money. Small presses hardly ever *print* more than a thousand copies of any title.
A couple of years ago I began (with the support of several small-press publishers, editors, and writers) an organization called CLF, Council for the Literature of the Fantastic, whose goal has been to promote public awareness of neglected work of high literary quality in all areas of non-mimetic (fantastic or fabulist) fiction. Our widely distributed newsletters and magazines--five major efforts to date--have already made a dent in the consciousness of many. What we CLF-dwellers ought to be most proud of is our consistent fairness in supporting non-mimetic literature as a whole against those internal separatist tendencies that pit SF against Fantasy against Slipstream, etc. What we have yet to do is to affect the marketplace directly, to instigate a coalescing of editorial and publishing forces in a powerfully focused endeavor to create an *imprint* devoted to LF, the Literature of the Fantastic (or, perhaps, Literary Fabulism).
So that the reader will understand more precisely what LF entails, I quote from an article of mine on CLF that appeared in several places:
"The 'Literature of the Fantastic,' which is to be the focus of our organization, concerns only work of mature literary value (in the non-realistic mode) and therefore excludes purely escapist kinds of writing. It includes 'literature' in the age-old tradition that encompasses Homer, Rabelais, Swift, Kafka, Borges, Paul Bowles and a thousand other 'fantastic' writers, whether or not they also write in the mainstream realist tradition. Contemporary American writing in that ageless tradition, a lineage whose American past includes Irving, Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville ... has become increasingly marginalized over the course of most of a century during which realism has dominated the literary mainstream, and most Fantastic writing, the good lumped together with the bad, has been awarded scant critical attention and has been banished to the genre 'ghettoes.'"
|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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Copyright 1998 Daniel Pearlman
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