Rob Spillman (editor of Tin House, and moderator, and the only non-female)
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
Kelly Link – Shelley Jackson
Aimee Bender (pictured — photo credit, Ben Ross)
First off, no one on the panel knew exactly what Slipstream meant. Although that’s not really any discredit to them, seeing as how the appellations for the genre change faster than an auctioneer speaks. We’ve gone through fantastic fiction, fabulism/fabulous/fabulists (which always sounded too upper east side: “that story is fabulous darling, just fabulous“), magical realism, speculative writing, the new weird, paraspheres, bizarro, and just plain old fashioned fantasy. And so when an audience member asked them to distinguish between some of the terms, the panel just shrugged their shoulders.
I was disappointed that Kelly Link wasn’t able to make it — I love her “Magic for Beginners” collection of short stories — but Shelley Jackson, exuberant and sporting green strands of hair, more than took up the slack. She argued frequently for the benefits of applying limits to your writing, to tell yourself that you can’t use the letter “e” for two pages, or avoiding commas or certain words, because the act of limitation forces you as a writer into new highways and byways of syntax. I’ve seen how this works in other genres. I once watched a documentary called “Five Obstructions” where Lars Von Trier challenged Jorgen Leth to remake a short online pharmacy no prescription safe documentary five times, each time with a different obstruction — for instance, no shot could be longer than eight frames, which is half a second. The worst attempt? When Trier gave Leth no obstructions at all. Limitations — even crazy ones — actually helped Leth to make better films.
One panelist talked about the process of how to create stories that weren’t gimmicks for gimmicks sake — a type referred to as “what our students write.” This panelist made a point through several different phrasings, all with similar ideas: Treat the absurd seriously, apply logic to the fantastical, and treat it with the tools of realism. For example, a Kelly Link story was cited in which Zombies came out of a crack in the back of a convenience store. Of course. Naturally. And once this fundamental proposition was accepted, the rest of the story proceeds with the rather logical, believable sequence of events unfolding from that initial proposition.
If you haven’t already, check out the LA Times blog Jacket Copy which is posting a huge number of blogs posts on the events going down on the UCLA campus.
Also, I interviewed a large number of authors today (including Aimee Bender and Shelley Jackson), as well as attendees, and am working on all the editing. As soon as I’m finished, I’ll post the video here.