by Mike Allen | March 8th, 2011 | 2 Comments »
(Eds. note: Interstitial March co-editor Mike Allen, previously profiled in our “Meet the IAF” series, shares reflections on assembling Clockwork Phoenix: Tales of Beauty and Strangeness, the anthology series he edits that toys with interstitial elements.)
As I help to compile this year’s batch of Interstitial March entries, the words of a number of artists resonate for me on a personal level. When Colette Fu writes, “It’s not easy to explain what I do to other people, even artists,” I’m reminded immediately of my own halting attempts in early 2008 to explain to other writers and editors what the Clockwork Phoenix anthology series would be about. When Cecil Castellucci writes of her interest in “playful artistic games,” I think, Bingo!
As I write this, the Clockwork Phoenix anthologies are on pause. I took a sabbatical after the third volume came out to finish my too long neglected first novel, and in the meantime, the kind of thing you hate to see happen happened. My publisher, Vera Nazarian of Norilana Books, who has been very good to me, was beset with severe financial difficulties that for now make a solid commitment to a fourth volume unwise. These things happen in the world of publishing and in the world of the arts. Companies and non-profits cut back, editors change jobs, government grants get discontinued. That’s just how it is, and we deal with it as we have to.
All things considered, this does seem like a good time to reflect on what can be done with an interstitial project. Get rich? Heck, no! Get starred reviews in Publishers Weekly? Stories reprinted in Year’s Best volumes and nominated for awards? Those things, we managed, and I suspect we’re not quite done yet. Offer discerning readers some refreshingly different and thought-provoking fodder? I’d like to think we pulled that off.
Mind you, I don’t claim Clockwork Phoenix is capital “I” Interstitial. The volumes don’t challenge anyone’s notion of what a book is, or what an anthology is. They might, however, challenge someone’s notion of what a story is. I offer as anecdotal evidence this reaction from Ian Randal Strock, a veteran genre editor, once on staff at Analog: Science Fiction and Fact, then editor of the hard sf magazine Artemis, now editor of the news site SF Scope, where this appeared.
Perhaps the anthology would be better served (or at least better described) using its subtitle, “Tales of Strangeness and Beauty” as the title. These stories are definitely the opposite side of “a picture is worth a thousand words”; that is, the authors are all quite adept at drawing lovely pictures with their words. And if you’re looking for beautiful word pictures, this is an excellent collection. But if you’re looking for more stories, you may find the content suffering a bit. Several of the contributors were able to combine the two, drawing lovely pictures and telling captivating stories, but not all.
Norilana Books markets Clockwork Phoenix as fantasy. If, for you, the term “fantasy” encompasses all possible literature of the fantastic, or “fantastika” as the Russians say it, then I suppose that fits. The boundaries I set had to do with avoiding or subverting conventional storytelling techniques, avoiding conventional settings, avoiding conventional plots, rather than telling one particular kind of story particularly well. I wanted an anthology that would blur and ignore boundaries without making any assertions about what the reader should expect from the experience. (Try explaining that to a writer who asks at a con what sort of story you want.) Read more…