Color me surprised. Ye humble weblog was mentioned with some nice, positive remarks by Craig Clevenger. I even exchanged email with him yesterday. Today I’m going to see if I can get his book The Contortionist’s Handbook at the Borders. I’ve been looking forward to reading this for a while now, just on the recommendations of a few people. I’m not a big literary critic or literary theorist, but I’m expecting from reading his website and the way he represents himself that the style will be similar to Palahniuk. Bruce Sterling learned this lesson two decades ago, if you really want to promote yourself, create a movement. I can kind of feel a movement or similarity between books like those by Katherine Dunn (Geek Love!), Palahniuk, Jonathan Lethem, and Michael Chabon. I’m expecting the Clevenger to fit neatly in there as well. I don’t know if I have the tools to describe what I find similar amongst them. They all have – not the full trappings, but the feel of science fiction and in some cases are explicitly informed by SF (Lethem and Chabon for sure). The macguffin in Fight Club is pure SF, even though the work as a whole isn’t (although it is certainly open to an SFnal interpretation.) I’d put Kelley Eskridge’s Solitaire in this company as well, although it is more overtly SF, set in the future and with a plot that relies on things that don’t exist today
To take a stab at what I see common across these books is a certain wistfulness, a melancholy, lonely trait. In some sense many of the characters are flawed and damaged, some very deeply, and looking for love or even just human contact to cover or heal that damage. There’s a feeling of being betrayed by the modern age, of being let down by promises of a future much better than we got. In a sense, it is the inverse of the wild-eyed optimism of the golden age of SF, and a more grounded pragmatic view than the dystopias of cyberpunk. It’s the perfect fiction to be written by my generation, the ones after the baby boomers, the ones who grew up in the deep shadows of someone else’s dreams and have spent lives desperately trying to find our own place in that world. These books are full of characters that are cynical yet hopeful, lonely yet longing for companionship, conflicted, sad but open to joy, mired down in the present but looking for that spark of wonder. That’s what I see in these books.
Any movement needs a name. Any suggestions for this one, or for authors that fit in here that I have missed?