Fantastika

Tagged: Theme

A convenient shorthand term employed and promoted by John Clute since 2007 to describe the armamentarium of the fantastic in literature as a whole, encompassing science fiction, Fantasy, fantastic horror and their various subgenres; (see also Gothic SF; Horror in SF; SF Megatext), but not Proto SF. The term has long been used in Czech, other Eastern European and Russian discussions of genre; it is the title of Bulgaria's first sf magazine (formerly known as F.E.P.) and, as Fantastyka (which see), of Poland's. Many examples of eighteenth-century literature, including Gothic tales in general, and in particular the German Schauerroman (ie "shudder novel"), clearly prophesy the flood of transgressively non-realist work to come; as do the Carceri depicted in Giovanni Battista Piranesi's Invenzioni Capric di Carceri ["Fanciful Images of Prisons"] (graph 1745; rev vt Carceri d'Invenzione ["Imaginary Prisons"] 1761), which as a whole comprise a Prison so illimitable it can almost be deemed planetary in extent. In his Pardon This Intrusion: Fantastika in the World Storm (coll 2011), Clute advocates a pragmatic restriction of the term primarily to describe works of the fantastic after about 1800, when the genres for which it serves as an umbrella tag began to take on conscious form, and began tentatively to use the planet itself (past, present and particularly the future) as a default arena conceived both spatially and, far more significantly, temporally (see Ruins and Futurity). In the sense that its inherent gaze of fantastika is planetary in scope, it seems natural to suggest that works so described almost seamlessly befit what has generally come to be called the Anthropocene, the geological epoch Homo sapiens now inhabits, which may be described as that epoch in which the human race has a measurable impact on the planet as a whole; the date it began remains a matter of argument, but a consensus may be growing around (roughly) the year 1950. In his The Birth of the Anthropocene (2016), Jeremy Davies describes this epoch not only quantitatively, but in terms of Perception: the Anthropocene as "a way of seeing."

In Stay (coll 2014) Clute somewhat amplifies this description through the argument that generic works written within the time-frame and overall focus of the fantastika toolkit or lexicon, which of course incorporates the SF Megatext, generally exhibit an awareness – on the author's part, or embedded into the text, or both – that they are in fact generic; that stories within the overall remit are usually most effective (and resonant) when read literally; and that the pre-emptive transgressiveness of fantastika is most salutary within the context of the Western World, but when addressed "outwards" can seem invasive (see Imperialism), even when that transgressiveness can be conceived as an expression of ostranenie, as coined by Mikhail Shklovsky (1893-1984) near the end of World War One in "Iskusstvo, kak priyom" ["Art as Device"] (1917 Sborniki), a term which might usefully be defined as an uncanny defamiliarizing or estranging of a literary utterance so that the depicted world can be perceived in astonishment and wonder. One further amplification: the generic nature of tales told within the frame of fantastika entails a constant fluidity of generic definition and usage, a fruitful instability here described – especially with reference to more recent work – as Equipoisal. As Michael Chabon argues in describing the Trickster tale [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below], the natural venues for tales that challenge the fixity of the world are borderlands and inner cities. Tales of fantastika in general show some predilection for similar venues.

When it is mentioned in this encyclopedia, the term is generally used in a manner polythetically consistent with this suggested frame of application. [JC/DRL]

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