Dan Green on the experience of reading Interfictions:
Reading the book as a collection of stories that are “willfully transgressive in a noncategorical way” did me no good at all. Notwithstanding that most of them were “transgressive,” when at all, in rather tepid and formally uninteresting ways, I simply was unable to understand what they shared in common that made them “interfictions.” The editors’ narrowing of focus to the contest between “realism” and genre fiction did allow me to reexamine the stories in this more concentrated light.
I am hard-pressed to understand how these characteristics of “interfiction” distinguish it from other, non-genre, “experimental” fiction that also “does interesting things with narrative and style” and “takes artistic chances.” Experimental fiction (which ultimately I would have to say is a part of “literary fiction,” representing its vanguard in exploring the edges of the literary) precisely “demands that you read it on its own terms” rather than according to pre-established conventions. If interfictions are just versions of experimental fiction, why coin this additional term to describe them? If there is some significant difference between interstitial and experimental fiction, something that has to do with genre, why not be more specific and delineate exactly what that is rather than fall back on the usual language about taking artistic chances, etc.?
Most of the rest are forgettable exercises conducted on what seem (to me) familiar science fiction/fantasy terrain. Some of them, such as Anna Tambour’s “The Shoe in SHOES’ Window” and Catherynne M. Valente’s “A Dirge for Prester John” are essentially unreadable, full of pretentious declamations substituting for narrative: “Truly, where chaos reigns, even at night, nonsense and evasion shine where people look for straightforwardness, but where they look for inspiration, something beyond the realm of daily existence, they are then shown only things, and who can feed his soul with that?” Too many of the stories, in fact, are like this, straining after Meaning where some “merely literary” formal and stylistic pleasures would go a long way toward deflating the pomposity.
EDIT: Oh, I can’t leave this post looking so straight-faced. The truth, though it’s both mean and childish of me, is that I find this review hilarious. Not because I think Dan’s being wrongheaded — I mean, I often do think Dan’s being wrongheaded, but I enjoy his posts and respect his thinking for all that, and in this case I haven’t read enough of the book to say whether I agree or disagree with his overall assessment of the anthology’s quality. (I’ve read about a third of the stories, and though none of them have blown me away, none of them have seemed a waste of space, either.) No, what I find entertaining is that the book has so comprehensively failed to explain itself, its argument and goals, to someone coming to it from outside genre circles. It’s all very well for those of us coming to it from the inside to instantly recognise that it’s of a piece with several other recent collections — Conjunctions 39, Feeling Very Strange, the Polyphony series, ParaSpheres, etc — but what Dan’s skewering makes so painfully clear is that that’s all it is: nice for us. Admittedly, most of the books I just listed had no other audience in mind, but a couple of them did, and Interfictions, it seems to me, had that audience in mind more than any of them. And it’s just left that audience baffled by the fuss, and I find that funny. (I may have been hanging out in these parts too long.)