2.02.2004

A Reason for Movement, a Movement for Reason: Interstitiality, Mundane and other future causes for movement (bowels not included)

Before reading further, you may want to read (or refresh) yourself on confuscation, fear of science/fear of reason, what science can do for you, deconstruction vs. deconfuscation, and what theory is (in addition, here are a few general thoughts on theory, its problems, and movements). These are not random tellings. Much of these background theses unravel ideas about an Interstitial theory here.

Can We Have a Movement?

Why the hell not?

All you need is evidence. You can create the evidence now or wait for it to accumulate. The Surrealists created their own movement based on theories of Freud/Jung. In the genre, John W. Campbell created a new SF with the idea of better reasoned science and tighter writing styles. The New Wave was as much self-propelled as not with Moorcock and Merril and Knight and Ellison all actively investigating and instigating the phenomenon.

Why are people so frightened of movements anyway? It reinvigorates everyone. The New Wave got Isaac Asimov to reconsider his approach (temporarily). The New Wave also put Robert Sheckley back into the forefront of writers [see especially: Can You Feel Anything When I Do This?]. Finally, the New Wave put a bunch of writers on the map that may not have been able to enter and garner attention within the field in any other manner (Tom Disch).

In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that if a writer isn’t attempting to make it new in some fashion, he’s digging a hole to bury his manuscripts in [see below]. Besides, if we can become active creators, the state of fiction is nearly moribund everywhere that we could become the new cutting edge. All it takes is a little vision and drive.

***

Toward a Firm...

There are a couple of ways to misread Derrida: too stiffly and too loosely--the stiffs get political (applying techniques only to opponents), and the loose think that any circumlocution will produce similarly profound results. Derrida, on the other hand, used circumlocution in order to be careful with words (perhaps too careful, at times) to show us how we too can be careful. Hence, his difficulty in being read.

Taking a look at their website and forum definitions, Interstitiality appears to be falling into both problems of Derrida derivations. We have the beginnings of what could an interesting idea--crossing-breeding art forms--that usually devolves into rattling off names of works and artists that do so, which defines nothing except the enthusiasm which these authors feel about what they’re attempting to do. One can be both rigorous in definition (allowing people to get a feel for and get excited for what you’re up to, instead of leading people to think you’re up to nothing but circumlocution), and broad enough to encompass the possibilities.

The best definition I’ve found so far is in John Clute’s SF Encyclopedia describing of Robert Scholes’ “fabulation” [Page down to #11 (don’t worry--it’s in English)], but Jed Hartman’s article helps through describing how certain works are interstitial (James Patrick Kelly has several other links).

The major problem with too loose of a definition is that it contradicts the aim it has set for itself: to categorize the uncatagorizable. The fear of a good definition probably stems from a fear of being wrong. But who cares? The fun part of having a definition is bending it, testing out how rigorous it is. If experiment is to succeed, it has to be prepared to fail.

(Bruce Sterling also had this to say about anything-goes definitions:

"Some people think it's great to have a genre which has no inner identity, merely a locale where it's sold. In theory, this grants vast authorial freedom, but the longterm practical effect has been heavily debilitating. When "anything is possible in [Here Sterling writes 'SF' but can we not substitute 'Interstitial' for a more present relevance?]" then "anything" seems good enough to pass muster. Why innovate? Innovate in what direction? Nothing is moving, the compass is dead. Everything is becalmed; toss a chip overboard to test the current, and it sits there till it sinks without a trace.")

...Yet Flexible

The first of two problems of borrowing from political stiffs is that they have a legitimate reason to be political. To borrow from their rhetoric would be melodrama on the movement’s behalf, and demeaning to the valid political causes represented.

The second problem is that Interstitiality is born of genre. To borrow from causes of disunity is to separate (intentionally or not) and distance the mother from her child. The child must grow up, but it doesn’t have to be estranged. To claim Interstitial works as marginalized necessarily pits One against the Other in an oppositional polarity that doesn’t truly fit what is happening in our scenario, anyway. Moreover, we need not to unify against something--the traditional method of starting wars, rebellions, and other trips of poorly justified persecutions--but unify for in the effort to create.

Consider SF itself: it is probably one of the few practicing for unity left in the universe. Its work has impacted the world: Scientists, who have generally read SF at one time, are among the few groups that actually cross national boundaries often, sharing results in an effort to build the field. We can thank Asimov (et al) for creating one humanity, and Sturgeon for including minorities and homosexuality in the discussion, and Will Jenkins (Murray Leinster) for saying we don’t have to destroy the Other--all of this well before the New Wave hit.

Unifying against, therefore, is a preventable paradigm that we need not perpetuate. We can work together toward an end, instead of working toward one end by erasing the progress made by an artificially constructed opposition (I’m not saying that Interstitiality has done this, but that it should be careful not to do so, especially when real-life evidence demonstrates that unifying for is a viable option).

...Definition

I. Analogs to Create a Mental Framework for a Definition

To define a forest, we must change our focus from individual trees to examine group commonalities. The first step in defining, then, is to step back--take in the whole: how does it function? What is its real-world analog? How do they compare?

A. The human body’s interstitium: It is not an organ, but is essential to all organs, within and between, even creating its own proteins unique to the body. I like this analog for 1) its bridging essential organs, 2) its being often forgotten but essential part of the body, 3) its unique products available in no other part. The analog fails from its inability to change since the body requires certain functions.*

B. Creole: Scientific American had an article on this some ten years ago or so. Children of two different languages meet and exchange words, creating a new form of language which evolves into something wholly different. There are a number of Creoles around the world: here in the U.S., Basque, Haiti, and so forth.*

C. Cross-breeding/Genetic Manipulation: This intimates a manipulator: one who tests out the breeding--sometimes successfully, sometimes not; sometimes the success can spawn new successes, sometimes it was a one-shot success. This intimates experiment with possible usefulness.*

What all these analogues demonstrate is that Interstitiality should make something new or develop what is in existence (see below).*

II. What a Definition Should/Would/Could Do

A. The definition should define something new--or that once was new--or it won’t mean much to us, lacking any literary relevance. And combining art forms is always new. Ways of making of it new:

--be the first
--be the best
--reinvent with a new angle, or broaden
--bring back a forgotten path with a contemporary perspective

B. Similar terms need to be defined/redefined in order to make a case for your definition. For instance, magical realism would be a naturalistic subset of Interstitiality. From my understanding (correct me if I'm wrong), Scholes defined fabulation as anything not realistic, including SF.

C. A new category would be helpful to experimenters, for it legitimizes experiment and play, which (it bears repeating) leads to new technologies.

D. A definition should not only give us an understanding and insight into the field overall, but should also provide some practical application when trying to deal with individual works.*

* = If anyone is interested in my developing any of these possibilities into a working theory (i.e. one with practicable techniques for application), let me know. I’ll need a set of integral Interstitial stories (not novels, not novellas, preferably not novellettes because I'm too slow a reader with writing to do of my own, and I'm not getting paid to do this)--integral stories that are quintessentially Interstitial, which is to say not merely a good story but very Interstitial--and time.

If not, I still wish the interstitials the best in developing their theory into something useful.

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