Visions of Paradise

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Michael Chabon: Bridging the Gap

The gulf between genre f&sf and mainstream literature has always been a wide one, with some writers, critics and fans on both sides of the gulf trying to bridge the gap while others seemingly build fences intended to keep the evildoers on their own side.

One person who is actively trying to bridge the gap is Michael Chabon. According to his interview in the December, 2004, Locus he grew up loving fantasy and comic books, two loves which he has neither abandoned nor disavowed in light of becoming the darling of the literati and a Pulitzer Prize winner. His novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (which I reviewed here on 7/3/04) was a wonderful and wondrous evocation of comic books, in addition to its other strengths. After that novel won a Pulitzer Prize, Chabon totally followed his own muse. He published Summerland, a young adult fantasy; he edited two original anthologies intended to blend literature and genre fiction, McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales and McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories; and he wrote the script for two volumes of a comic book based on Kavalier and Clay, The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist.

But Chabon is apparently not finished blending genre and non-genre yet. As I was browsing sfnal blogs this evening, everybody was all a-flutter over the announcement that Chabon is editing this year’s edition of the very prestigious Best American Short Stories, (you can read about it at Jonathan Strahan’s “Notes from Coode Street” and Matt Cheney’s “Mumpsinus”) and that he has put his reputation squarely where his beliefs are by selection three genre short stories for the volume. Two of them have already been announced, Kelly Link’s "Stone Animals" and Tim Pratt’s "Hart and Boot". There is much speculation over whom the other selectee is.

There is still one thing Chabon needs to do to really cement his genre-association credentials: publish a story in a purely-genre publication, such as Asimov’s or F&SF or Sci Fiction. Other mainstream writers have done it, such as Joyce Carol Oates and even Woody Allen. As soon as Chabon takes the final plunge, he will guarantee himself an invitation to a science fiction convention, and I would look forward to the opportunity to shake his hand and thank him for being one of us.


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