Celestial Weasel (celestialweasel) wrote,
Celestial Weasel

Our egalitarian society, and Garrison Halibut's Surreal Whimsy Magazine

I was reading a story in Magic For Beginners By Kelly Link last night and one of the characters had the surname Parminter. This reminded me that someone on the same corridor as me at university was called Kate Parminter so I Googled her name, only to find that she has been made a working Lib-Dem life peer. Another person on the same corridor as me was Matthew Taylor MP, who has given up being an MP and is now also a Lib-Dem life peer. So that's two life peers from my corridor in the two years I lived on it.

Even more than most single author collections I felt that Stranger Things Happen suffered from reading it as a single work rather than splitting the stories up. Therefore I am reading Magic For Beginners a story at a time, reading other things in between. The title story is particularly fine, and reminds me of something I have been meaning to say for a while, which is something that Jo Walton said almost exactly the reverse of in her Tor column which is that Wizard Of The Badgers and Tea With the Black Badger (for values of Badger = Pigeon and Dragon respectively, obviously) prefigure the rise of urban fantasy ['it's set in a city and it didn't happen' - H Waldrop]. I would have said almost exactly the opposite e.g. 'it's a shame that the rise of urban fantasy is completely unlike Wizard Of The Badgers and Tea With the Black Badger'.

My contention is that there a genre of short stories that has essentially very little to do with Fantasy and SF, though it may include some of the trappings of them. Consider for example the 2 monkey themed stories nominated for last year's Gerald award for Simian Fiction viz:

(yes, there were two short stories about monkeys in the Hugo nominations last year - there were two poems about robot cats in one issue of Asimov's so count yourselves lucky)

The second, I would argue, is classic SF whilst the first is some form of surreal whimsy that wouldn't be out of place, say, in the New Yorker. Some of Garrison Keillor's short stories are very much of this stripe. Other novels in the genre, whatever it is, would, I would say include The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead and Volapuk by Andrew Drummond. But there is a danger that this is turning into a genre of 'stuff wot I like'. I think it is a lot to do with not feeling the need to justify things to the reader, there must be no fear, as someone said about something (Victor Lewis Smith saying it about television, also saying someone said it about sex?). Some sort of dream-like feel that means you don't ask yourself what's going on outside Sunnydale (I think that Buffy on the whole fell one side of the line, Angel the other). Discuss. Or not.

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