The Care and Feeding of the Structures We Build

Jeff VanderMeer • August 25th, 2013 @ 10:19 am • Culture

Assuming for the sake of argument (because it doesn’t need to be this way in reality) that we must delineate fiction as realistic or non-realistic (read, “fantastical” if you like or surreal or magically real or magically delicious if you really must)… then thinking for a moment from the point of view of someone passionate about nonrealistic fiction…Imagine for a moment any and all organizations or institutions or awards systems that exist in the service of such literature…Wouldn’t you want these organizations and institutions and awards systems to have true interest in true diversity of this kind of fiction?—for example, the same passion for it wherever it might be found around the world and with an appreciation for and delight in how it differs and where it is the same—and to be willing to learn different ways of reading and to become attuned to and aware of different traditions of literature?

For example, too, no less passion for the magically real or the magically delicious if found in mainstream lit journals rather than in genre publications (able to recognize it even in the “wrong” context, not rendered invisible merely by the company kept)…or that in aggregate understand and approve of and actively support the elation of, for example, a reader in one language finding the amazing fantastical stories of some neglected writer in another language, glimpsed in the form of just a couple of tales or even a fragment of translation—this reader whose elation is not really even about the treasure itself but how it suggests the outline of something greater that is still excruciatingly only half-seen, texts time-traveling from the past to the present that help to form a more complete picture and a more complete conversation…

Wouldn’t you want institutions and organizations and award systems that while they recognize and appreciate the center of things also have a sense of stewardship for those most experimental examples of the form that need help to find an audience and that through their adventurousness allow other brave, but not as brave, souls to travel farther than they might? Institutions and organizations and award systems that have the wisdom to bypass tired binary arguments about high and low art, genre and mainstream, that largely ignore territorialism and ideology while correcting for the kind of territorialism and ideology that negate a level playing field and make us all, in a way, more selfish. In short, wouldn’t you want organizations and institutions and award systems that possess in the very syntax of their bylaws the same roving curiosity and passion that make of us as individuals vast and generous and joyful and omnivorous readers?

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