Archive for September, 2010

A Haunting of Nightjars

Posted in Non-Fictions on September 23, 2010 by Tom Fletcher

Running out of time (I am not alone in this, I know) so this is copied word-for-word from the notification e-mail that I just received:

Next Wednesday’s event – A Haunting of Nightjars – in the Didsbury Arts Festival will feature dark & disturbing readings from Conrad Williams, Claire Massey, Stephen McGeagh, Tom Fletcher, Graeme Shimmin, Socrates Adams-Florou and Terri Lucas.


I will be introducing the readers and may even sneak in a bit of my own stuff.

Nightjar Press chapbooks will be on sale. Maybe other books, too. You never know. No rubbish, though. No tat.

7-9pm, Northern Lawn Tennis Club, Palatine Road, West Didsbury.

FREE. (There’s a bar, too, but that’s not free.)

The mysterious ‘I’ is Mr Nicholas Royle.

This’ll be good – please come along.

Escapism

Posted in Non-Fictions on September 23, 2010 by Tom Fletcher

It was FantasyCon over the weekend. FantasyCon was really great. It was the second one I’ve been to. Although I found it a bit outfacing to start with, once you get into it and start talking to people it opens up into a very rich, receptive and friendly kind of party.  Congratulations and well done and thank you to all involved in the organising. And congratulations to all of the award winners!

I went to several panels over the weekend, but the one that prompted this post was the one set up to discuss escapism in genre fiction. The panel chair (the fantasy author Juliet E McKenna) opened proceedings with the suggestion that escapist fiction is often met with sneers and generally held in low regard, and went on to posit that this was a sad and miserable thing. McKenna seemed to be saying, in short, that there is nothing wrong with escapism.

Now the world is often relentlessly foul, as we all know. Life can be sad and ugly and pathetic and tedious etc. (Much like this blog). This point was made by an audience member, who asserted that genre fiction should be proud of its escapist qualities, that we should (I guess) re-appropriate the word and emphasise its positive meanings and connotations, given the nasty, brutish and short nature of real life. The panel members seemed to agree.

This is when I had to start biting my tongue. I mean, I could have contributed to the discussion myself, but, frankly, it would have felt too confrontational and too much like I was attacking the audience member that had spoken. She was obviously a very intelligent and thoughtful woman and I’m sure in one major sense we are in agreement – i.e. there is nothing wrong with escapism, in theory – but in another sense… well.

For one thing, any kind / genre of book has the potential to be escapist. (A point made by panel member Chaz Brenchley). Fantasy / Speculative Fiction (SFF) does not have the monopoly. Books marketed as literary fiction can be escapist. Books in the author ‘A-Z’ section, I mean. For another thing, although the term ‘escapist’ is often used pejoratively in relation to SFF, we all know that it’s ignorant to define SFF as escapist at all. Sure, it can be, as can any other work of fiction, but… Nineteen Eighty-Four – SFF, yes, but escapist? Not really. Let The Right One In – definitely SFF, and, again, definitely not escapist. Frankenstein. The list goes on. The Sandman Chronicles. Etc etc etc etc. Even when there are comfortable, escapist elements, there are serious, relevant things going on as well. (See a post from fellow Quercus author Rod Rees on this here).

And there it is, really. I set ‘comfortable, escapist elements’ up in opposition to ‘serious, relevant things’ just in the sentence before last, without even thinking about it. Because although there is nothing intrinsically wrong with pure escapism, it is inherently a way of ignoring life, surely? I mean – what else can it be? It is escape. It is closing yourself off from those experiences that you don’t want to think about. Even more extremely, it is closing yourself off from your world. Wouldn’t it be better for a book to actually explore and illuminate the fantastic in life, or cast the mundane in an extraordinary light (i.e. change your life/the world a little bit by being relevant to it/discussing it) than just enable you to ignore it for a while? It’s perfectly possible for SFF to do this as well as any other kind of fiction.

We can’t on one hand be proud to be escapist and then on the other complain that we’re not taken seriously by the literary community. Personally, I think all genres should be regarded equally, but to me that requires SFF (as an entity) to drop the whole ‘escapism is great’ thing. There’s nothing wrong with escapism, but it is the opposite of cultural involvement. Chest-beatingly, flag-wavingly escapist fiction will only result in the further derision of the whole SFF scene.

Abandoned Quarries / Flooded River / Ruined House

Posted in Non-Fictions on September 10, 2010 by Tom Fletcher