At the Forefront of Madness

Being a fairly prolific short story writer, I’ve noticed something rather strange happening in the last couple of years: I’m at the forefront of a lot of so-called “movements” in genre fiction.

 What does it all mean? Why me? And how do I opt out?

 I first noticed this phenomenon when my story, “How to Make Paper Airplanes” appeared in the Mundane SF issue of Interzone. Mundane SF! Has there ever been a manifesto destined to annoy more SF fans? And somehow, my story opened the issue – did it mean I was from then on Mundane? Would they, in fifty years time, hold a House Committee on Un-Science Fictional Activities and someone would snitch them my name and I would have to go to Washington to explain why I was sighed up to the Communist Party Mundane SF?

 And now there’s Shine, Jetse de Vries’ anthology of Optimistic SF. I have a story in there too. Does it mean I believe in a shiny science fictional future where we’ll all live in Gaia mind-melds and convert faeces into nuclear power with our minds? Am I morally right in joining the movement? What will I do in fifty years’ time, when the Earth is a wasteland and the Dutch aliens have taken over the world?

 And then there’s Interfictions II, an anthology from the dark cabal with the unlikely name of The Interstitial Arts Foundation. Don’t mess with the IAF! They have agents who come knocking on your door at night, and if you incur their wrath you’ll never be seen or heard from again…

 What’s it all about? What the hell is interstitial? Is it infectious? Is there a cure?

 What am I doing here??

 Science fiction has always been overly attracted to manifestos. Let’s make our own group within this group! We’re not the Judean People’s Front, we’re the People’s Front of Judea!

 So what shall I do next? What’s the next big thing? Post-post-singularity? Retro-Cyberpunk? Mega-interstitiality?

 I don’t know, but I like to get paid, and so I might just join the next revolution – and the next – and the next… or end up first against the wall when the real revolution comes.

 But I always felt kind of sad I missed out on cyberpunk. And the New Wave was kinda cool, and the drugs were better then. And what about New Weird? I mean, seriously – what about New Weird?

 I’m going to put on my mirrorshades – spend some time in Inner Space – go space opera, or New Space Opera, or so-new-it’s-not-even-here-yet space opera – go Mundane – go optimistic – go zombie infestation – go cosy apocalypse – go where no one has gone before – maybe go a little mad…

 So what do you think? What’s the Next Big Thing? Suggestions will win chocolate – or might just earn you a visit from the IAF…

Lavie Tidhar is the author of linked-story collection HebrewPunk (2007), novellas An Occupation of Angels (2005), Cloud Permutations (2009) and Gorel & The Pot-Bellied God (2010) and, with Nir Yaniv, of The Tel Aviv Dossier (2009). He’s lived on three continents and one island-nation, and currently lives in South East Asia. His first novel, The Bookman, will be published by HarperCollins’ new Angry Robot imprint in 2010, and will be followed by two more.

17 comments on “At the Forefront of Madness

  1. chocopunk sounds good to me.

  2. +++We’re not the Judean People’s Front, we’re the People’s Front of Judea!+++


  3. Daemon says:

    I’ve noticed a shortage of Vampire and/or Werewolf apocalypse fiction…

  4. Jetse says:

    I know this is tongue-in-cheek, Lavie. Nevertheless let me clear up that Shine will not be a Gaia mindmeld converting faeces into nuclear power, but rather a Dionysian community of bon vivants who’ve gotten their ecological shit together…;-)

    Also, you conveniently skip the fact that you are in the middle of starting a “movement” yourself: World SF, with a blog and an anthology: the Apex Book of World SF.

    “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”, right?


  5. David E says:

    The next big thing?

    Apocalyptic zombie romance. You heard it here first.

  6. Joy Ramey says:

    I can be okay with a lot of things, but zombie romance? I just can’t find the sexy in ‘Unnnngh. Arrrrrrrgh.’ *hip thrusting, brain eating action* ‘Oh, honey! Stop a second, you seem to have lost your arm!’

  7. David E says:

    The vampire was turned from horror story monster to romance story hottie.

    And the de-horrorizing of the zombie has already begun:

  8. Why, oh why, when we try to break away from genre boundaries & make a nice little non-profit foundation devoted to work that knows no bounds or allegiances, does Interstitial Arts still get clumped as a subset of science fiction? Why? Can anyone tell me that?

  9. once a science fiction writer always a science fiction writer? or, at least, tarred with it’s brush. Unfortunately, the problem is that people think science fiction and fantasy are two different genres, so an organization devoted to busting down genres must be all about busting down those two. but the secret is: SF is just fantasy for people who like to think the things they make up in their head could actually come true, someday.

    so here’s the thing, Lavie: every sf writer who has written a story since 1967 has been at the forefront of some movement or another and it doesn’t mean a darned thing except when you’re looking to be in an anthology. Or something really important is happening, like a sea change of culture. No sea changes so far, so really it’s all about the anthologies. Enjoy it while you can.

    This all comes about because people want to think of themselves as new or novel (HA) or somehow engaged in things that no one but they and their tight knit group of peers have ever been involved in. One writer friend gets a bit of fame, then the light spills on those closest to them, and one day you’re all drunk and decide to write stories about zombie unicorns in space and send them to Strange Horizons all on the same day and even after you sober up you all do it, anyway, and then suddenly there are all these zombie unicorns everywhere, particularly in space, and then a label comes flying down from the sky and you’re all branded the Finleyans because some dude named Finley was the first of your group the label makers happened to notice.

    I swear this is how the Inklings got started.

  10. One of the problems of the IAF’s chosen terminology is that if interstitial types (such as myself) assert that our work exists in the boundaries between genres, then critics (such as you, Lavie) can assert that interstitial work must therefore be impossible to lump into any existing genre. In truth, genres have become such huge, messy, ill-defined and quick-to-swallow-up-the-successful beasties that this becomes problematic. Instead of neither literature or science fiction and fantasy admitting Italo Calvino into their ranks, for example, forward-thinking cats in both genres can claim him as one of their own. To me, interstitial work is not neither blue nor yellow, but green – as well as fuschia, teal, plaid, polka-dotted, tax return, kerfuffle, and chipmunk.

  11. And yes, the IAF knows where you live.

  12. Assuming that interstitial arts can only be seen as a subset of speculative fiction is essentially missing the plot. Being both a writer and a visual artist, I have long recognized the potential applications of interstitiality. As a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild I am listed not as a figurative artist (which some people may regard much of my work) but as a mixed media artist. This frees me up to create all manner of work, from figuative to wearable art. Because I use a number of fiber arts applications I am able to do this, and am thus able to defy categorization.

    Categorization is a very real problem today in the world of Fine Craft. There are many very fine artists who rail against being thrown into the large pit of the category of “Craft”, because while they may be using traditional materials and techniques, they are applying these materials and techniques in wholly new ways. This is where interstitiality becomes an incredibly useful form of terminology. The interstitial artist can comfortably point to both Fine Art and Fine Craft as parent groups to which they do not entirely belong, yet exist somewhere in between. Interstitiality suggests something other, and leaves it to the viewer, reader, or listener to discover what that other might be.

  13. Friends and foes within the IAF, you’ve been fighting the good fight too long. Sit back and grin. Tidhar’s having fun. He’s the author of HebrewPunk, after all.

  14. “I swear this is how the Inklings got started.”

    We should all write stories about Lady Theodora Inkling now.

    I can only speak for one movement, the Pre-Joycean Fellowship. It was totally a joke and completely serious and had nothing to do with the growing fame of Theodora’s grandson, Jonathan Prejoyce.

  15. Jakobe says:

    What a wonderful idea. I will be back, and probably become a regular visitor. thanks

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