Interfictions Reviews – Denouement

Today, April 30th, is the official release date for the Interfictions anthology. I just reviewed eighteen interstitial stories in (some close approximation of) eighteen days. Phew! I am exhausted. Can’t say I’m sad it’s over, either. Don’t get me wrong–I really enjoyed doing this, I learned a lot, and I’m still not sure what I’m going to read with breakfast now that I’m out of interstitial stories–but when I started this, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

“The Utter Proximity of God” was my first pro sale ever. I was wildly excited. I wanted people to read it! What better way to build anticipation, I thought, than to take advantage of my advance reader copy and post a whole bunch of reviews? Also bubbling up and over in the unwatched pasta-pot that is my head was the question of what it meant that this, my first pro sale, had been chosen for a place among the eerie and intriguing “interstitial”. I’ve often used my blog to puzzle out this sort of thing–once, I spent several months and several thousand words attempting to convince myself it was all right for me to try writing magic realism. I figured this interstitial mystery wouldn’t be much different.

It wasn’t until the politely-worded metaphors for severely injuring myself started rolling in from all quarters that the realization hit. With my snazzy new WordPress technology flinging links to my blog far and wide, and a brand-new, breaking-news, cutting-edge anthology to blog about, the writers I was reviewing, in every likelihood, would find their way here and read what I’d written!

“First, I’m gonna blow his toes off.
There go his toes.” —Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels

After that it was all I could do to keep from running in unholy terror from the whole idea. I managed it somehow–told myself I would just feel like more of an idiot if I quit in the middle. And I know it’s too late to take back now, and maybe the whole notion was suicidally misguided from the outset, and maybe I’ll never sell another story as long as I live…but I think I’m still glad I went through with it.

Of the eighteen stories in the Interfictions anthology, I was genuinely impressed by fifteen, absolutely loved nine, was bowled over with jealousy and admiration of five, and found zero to be a waste of my time. That is hands-down the best record for any collection of stories by more than one author I’ve ever read–magazine, anthology or otherwise. Which is saying a lot. It means, whether or not I manage to write another interstitial story ever again, that I like reading interstitial fiction–that in fact, I prefer interstitial fiction to any of its mundane genre-adherent alternatives. I want there to be more interstitial fiction, frankly, and less of everything else. To that effect, I think I’m done trying to decide what is and what isn’t. As AsphaltEden pointed out in a discussion of the Interfictions cover art, names and definitions are traditionally assigned to a movement in art only externally, from a critical perspective, long after the movement is established. It’s almost a shame that Theodora Goss and Delia Sherman ever had to cross that boundary, to try to identify (and thus isolate) what they do in the work of others. Art doesn’t need borders–only the distribution of it does.

Another great thing I’ve learned in the course of my bumbling: interstitial writers are reasonable, thoughtful people, inward-looking, capable of recognizing their own flaws and forgiving them in others because it’s the flaws that drive them to write what they write.

Hmm. There were other things I meant to get to here…something about the function of experimentation in fiction, the balance between strangeness and familiarity? But this is getting long, so I think I’ll leave that for comments, and end with the index, for those people getting their copies and wanting to know what I’m babbling about.

My eighteen Interfictions Reviews:
“What We Know About the Lost Families of — House” Christopher Barzak
“The Shoes in SHOES’ Window” Anna Tambour
“Post Hoc” Leslie What
“Pallas at Noon” Joy Marchand
“Willow Pattern” Jon Singer
“Black Feather” K. Tempest Bradford
“A Drop of Raspberry” Csilla Kleinheincz, translated from the Hungarian by Noémi Szelényi
“The Utter Proximity of God” Michael J. DeLuca
“Burning Beard: the Dreams and Visions of Joseph Ben Jacob, Viceroy of Egypt” Rachel Pollack
“Rats” Veronica Schanoes
“Climbing Redemption Mountain” Mikal Trimm
“Timothy” Colin Greenland
“Hunger” Vandana Singh
“A Map of the Everywhere” Matthew Cheney
“Emblemata” Léa Sihol, translated from the French by Sarah Smith
“When It Rains, You’d Better Get Out of Ulga” Adrián Ferrero, translated from the Spanish by Edo Mor
“Queen of the Butterfly Kingdom” Holly Phillips
“A Dirge for Prester John” Catherynne M. Valente


  1. I ordered mine and picked it up last week. I just read the first story this morning and commented accordingly.

    Luckily, I am blessed with short-term memory loss so probably won’t have your reviews in mind as I read each story. But I am looking forward to coming back to reread your reviews and compare them to my reactions.

    1. Heh! You are the first to have caught that. You win a prize. Some kind of prize. Not sure what. You have given out too many not to occasionally receive one.

      So yeah, I didn’t even notice this myself until long after I had done all the other reviews and it felt odd to be tacking another one on so long after the fact.

      I had trouble with “Alternate Anxieties” because of the fragmented nature of the narrative, and because I wasn’t particularly inspired by the ideas which were one of the few unifying threads. It’s a story written in a deliberately bizarre and experimental way, which is meritous in its ambition, but means somebody is inevitably not going to get it. That was me. It felt incomplete to me, like textbook marginalia rather than a story. Maybe it would have done better if Interfictions had been a zine and they’d had room to actually print it in the margins.

      But lots of people other than me seem to have thought this was a great story, including you. So what do I know.

  2. That’s interesting. I’d love to see your thoughts on the story I compared it to, Pamela Zoline’s “The Heat Death of the Universe,” which can be found in DAUGHTERS OF EARTH, edited by Justine Larbalestier. The problems you had with “Alternate Anxieties” were the kinds of problems I had with the Zoline piece.

    You should tack it on. I surprised none of the INTERFICTIONS people didn’t notice, let alone the author herself (or maybe she was relieved you overlooked her?). 😉

    1. This _Daughters of Earth_ collection looks pretty interesting. It looks like it’s criticism of feminist SF stories printed alongside the stories themselves? That intrigues me more than it probably ought to. 😉 I will have to see if I can find a copy.

      I suppose I could post the “Alternate Anxieties” review as an archival thing just for completeness. I will think on it.

      1. I really liked the “Alternate Anxieties” story. I think it resonated because of my own struggles with anxiety. I liked the experimental style, it was the right story at the right time when I read it. But I could easily see how the wrong time might have made the style less inviting. And I admit I don’t read a lot of experimental stuff, so if a person did, maybe they’d see this as an old and tired style. I hope you post a review if you have more to say about it.

    2. Ok, I have posted it, such as it is.

      My _Daughters of Earth_ collection came today. I actually enjoyed “The Heat Death of the Universe” a lot—and I agree it makes an apt comparison with “Alternate Anxieties”. Actually it resonates well with several of the Interfictions stories in terms of theme and presentation, “Pallas at Noon” in particular. But yeah, it uses the list-style fragmented structure, and doesn’t exactly follow a plot except in some very subtle ways (the development of the ideas, the escalation of the main character’s brief interludes of madness). There’s a difference in that “Heat Death” sticks more evenly to its structure, and that it doesn’t call attention to its structure, IE it’s not doing the metafictional thing quite as actively.

      But I don’t think the differences in structure are what make me like “Heat Death” so much more than “Alternate Anxieties”. “Heat Death” heaps together all these cool ideas in ways I haven’t seen: Dadaism, entropy, ontology. It even taught me some interesting new things I did not know about these ideas. I suppose the product of the ideas is similar in both stories, a certain bleakness, a sense of helplessness. But that point is arrived at by very different routes. I would say the feminist interpretation is way more blunt and right out there in “Heat Death”? As it is in “Pallas at Noon”. Not so much in “Anxieties”.

      Of course there’s a limit to the extent these two stories can be held up next to each other and compared in a meaningful way, structural similiarities aside. Both are acutely personal stories produced in very different contexts and at very different times.

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