[Editor's Note: This week our guest bloggers are contributors to the groundbreaking Spring 2009 issue of Conjunctions 52: Betwixt the Between, edited by Bradford Morrow and Brian Evenson, which examines the current wave of post-fantasy fiction that defies definition.]
In a matter of just a few years I've gone from traveling with mounds of CDs to carrying all my music on something smaller than my wallet. I've gone from flipping through a series of physical dictionaries while I translate to referring simultaneously, and very quickly, to a series of reference books online and on my computer. I've gone from not owning a cell phone to reading an entire book on my phone over a series of incredibly boring university meetings. I've learned how in twenty seconds to google my way to the names of songs from my childhood by bands whose names I never knew, and then hear them, and then see online performances of them.
In one sense these are all small things. In another, each of them reconfigures our world in significant fashion, changing in subtle but profound ways our sense of what it means to be alive and be human. Like the members of Jonathan Swift's Academy of Lagado, we carry the world around on our backs in a way that our ancestors did not.
The idea for Betwixt the Between came when Brad Morrow shared with me the piece that opens the volume, "Brain Jelly" by Stephen Wright. There was something about it that both was and wasn't like what we'd seen before. In one sense its differences from what came before are small but in another the small differences add up to something that changed in subtle ways our sense of what a story might do. In one sense it was fantastic, in another satirical, in another neither the one nor the other. It was doing something that was subtle but that reconfigured my sense of what genre — be it literary, popular or something in between — was up to.
As we kept talking and kept reading, we began to come across more and more work like that — work that when one looked more closely at it began to shimmer and reveal strange fluidities, strange allegiances. We found it in writers who commonly are considered genre writers — horror writers, sf writers, fantasy writers — and found it as well among writers who are considered literary. It was not only that these writers were betwixt and between (though they were definitely that as well, liminal in all the right ways), it was more than that: they had entered a new level of complication that stacked the two terms, that made them be betwixt within their very between-ness. Some were comic and some were deadly serious, but whether they were one or the other they gave the impression that they were playing for keeps. The worlds they were creating (even if it was a world generated from optical illusions, even if the story began with a line like, "I had apparently been living in one of the towns that was now gone") were profoundly present even in their strangeness. Sometimes the story is largely realistic, with the fantastic flashing across its frame in a way that reconfigures a sense of it. Othertimes you might be lulled into thinking that you're reading a story of a kind you think you know, but the more you mull, the more the story unfurls and startles.
Betwixt the Between tries as a volume to follow in the spirit of the stories themselves, to offer convergences and juxtapositions that try to configure your sense of what a literary magazine can do. It is a map not of one possible future, but of several, all overlapping. We want a ‘now' that is so accelerated and so dissatisfied with the crushing hold of archaic genres that its literature spurts out into real and alternate futures. Hopefully by the time we figure out where it's going, it'll have gone somewhere else.
÷ ÷ ÷
Praised by Peter Straub for going "furthest out on the sheerest, least sheltered narrative precipice," Brian Evenson is the author of eight previous books of fiction, including the Edgar Award-nominated novel The Open Curtain and the International Horror Guild Award-winning collection The Wavering Knife. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island, where he directs Brown University's Literary Arts Program.
Books mentioned in this post
Brian Evenson is the author of Conjunctions 52: Betwixt the Between (Conjunctions #52)