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    The Interstitial Arts Foundation: An Introduction    
by Ellen Kushner
This essay originally appeared in
Nebula Awards® Showcase 2005
edited by Jack Dann
(ROC/PenguinPutnam, March 2005)
as part of
“Movements in Science Fiction and Fantasy: a Symposium”
It is reprinted here with kind permission of the editor and his agent.
In the early 1990's, in the last remaining coffeehouse in Harvard Square, a musician friend of mine ran a Sunday afternoon concert series. Warren Senders is a musician originally trained in jazz, who then went to India to study Hindustani singing. The concert series Warren produced included the Really Eclectic String Quartet playing Jimi Hendrix and Balkan tunes (but no Mozart), an Indian singing about Hindu legends with electric guitar . . . .

Warren called the series "Interstitial Music." At every show he explained that he was featuring music that falls in the interstices of recognized categories, that can't be defined as quite one thing or another. It's hard to market, it's hard to explain to people in one sentence . . . . We loved it all.

Fast forward a couple of years. We're in my livingroom, fellow-novelists Delia Sherman, Terri Windling, and I, drinking something or other, munching biscuits and gently moaning about how hard it is to reach our audience. When our work is published in genre, it finds a faithful audience — except for those who are utterly baffled by the fact that it fails to follow the rhetoric of strict genre fantasy, and complain bitterly. When we submit it out of genre, we're told it contains too many non-realistic elements — code for "it has Fantasy Cooties." We also wax indignant on behalf of our favorite science fiction writers whose quirky, brilliant short stories fly under the radar of literary critics, and, more importantly, of the reading public. Terri brings up her concerns as a painter working with fantastical and mythic images falling uncomfortably between "fine art" and traditional illustration . . . I think about the music I'm playing on Sound & Spirit stuff everyone responds to but none of my listeners can find in the carefully-ordered bins in the record store . . . .

This is too much, we said. We're living in an age of category, of ghettoization — the Balkanization of Art! We should do something.

"Guys?" I said. "Would you mind if I just phoned Warren and asked if he's free this afternoon? He coined the phrase Interstitial Music — maybe it's time to start talking about Interstitial Art!"

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