Literary Spec Fic -- Descant 122

Currently reading: Descant 122, Fall 2003, Volume 34, Number 3.

Descant is one of those recherché words, beloved of literary magazines. The editors of these publications eschew titles like 'Bob's lit mag,' often in favour of fancy language. In my opinion, "descant" wins the prize for most esoteric. Not only did I have to look up what the word meant, but once I looked it up, I couldn't decide which of the many meanings applied to the magazine. I guess that's the point. In fact, the title is so lit-worthy, a US publication uses it too.

Enough blather. I'm really enjoying Descant's SF issue. In high school my favorite reads were science fiction. My idols were Issac Asimov, Kurt Vonnegut and Arthur C. Clark. My favorite books were dystopian: Clockwork Orange, 1984, Brave New World and Handmaid's Tale. I also loved Ringworld and Flowers for Algernon.

It's so nice to find Speculative Fiction and literature overlapping again. Before SF became a genre, some of the books I've listed were simply considered literature. When Margaret Atwood's recent Oryx and Crake reads like mainstream SF, why impose strict distinctions?

Linguistic pyrotechnics notwithstanding, I'm often bored by realism. Hemmingway-type prose leaves me cold when applied to ordinary events and locales. I often prefer journalism to realistic fiction, especially when the writer plays with subjectivity and uses 'new journalism' techniques, borrowed from fiction. Naturally, I'm not in favour of journalists 'making it up.' When a writer does that, they might as well make up the whole world.

An author has to flex his imagination to get my attention. World-building and speculation based on current trends in politics, culture and science turn my crank. I guess that's the link between my fondness for SF and my Rabelais fetish.

Happy speculative reading.

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