CONJUNCTIONS:52, Spring 2009

Editors’ Note
Bradford Morrow & Brian Evenson

“Listen: there’s a hell
Of a good universe next door; let’s go.”
—e. e. cummings

TO BE HUMAN is to experience, at times, the sensation of feeling betwixt and between. To witness the relative comfort of the familiar disrupted by the unexpected, confused by some antithetical force that, however briefly, destroys the “normal.” In literary terms, the crisis that necessarily evolves from such a disruption is very often the bedrock of narrative. How does the fictive character work through the betwixt-and-between nature of life toward some denouement, some resolution, or else some fresh windmill to tilt at that will once more destroy any hard-earned balance?
      If the state of being betwixt and between is the stuff of realism, we wanted to travel further down an avenue begun with Conjunctions:39, The New Wave Fabulists, wonderfully guest-edited by Peter Straub some years ago, to explore what happens when the borderlands of the normal and absurd, the everyday and the uncanny, the real and the impossible, are breached. In other words, we thought it would be interesting to find what lies in the next possible dimension—betwixt the between. What we learned anew was that fantastic fiction, whatever name it goes by—New Wave Fabulism, Speculative Fiction, the New Weird, Slipstream Fiction—is a thriving, daring, imaginative literature that can never again be shunted into the ghetto of “genre.”
      Betwixt the Between investigates ways in which, on the one hand, works of fiction treat the impossible as if it were the solid groundwork of the real, or on the other hand how the ineffable can sometimes flash lightning-quick through the realms of the real, leaving everything the same and yet unaccountably changed. Worlds and concomitant modes of logic are offered here that reveal something about our daily existence and yet turn away from it to forge odd, disjointed realities that strike the reader simultaneously as familiar and anything but. At one end of the spectrum, one encounters the odd characters of Stephen Wright’s “Brain Jelly” as they gouge their brutal way through a world not wholly unlike our own. At the other, say in Edie Meidav’s “The Golden Rule,” the disruption of the real is subtle enough that if you glance the other way you might miss it. After acclimating to these betwixty milieus, everything—from the classic fairy-tale setup in which the knight is supposed to slay the dragon rather than engage in intellectual repartee, to the quasi-horror narrative that reminds us once again why it’s never a good idea to walk into the deep, dark woods—begins to feel at once real and impossible. A complementarity takes place. Genre and literature meld as Bigfoot consorts with the Dalai Lama, and packs of wild dogs rule the neighborhood. Here the reader will find doctors who might be aliens, dreams that seep their way into the bedsheets, factories for growing meat, the slowest and deadliest animal in existence, new realities wrung out of the crumpled pages of yesterday’s newspaper, and brief glints of another world glimpsed from a park bench, all acknowledged as true in and of themselves.
      Every one of the twenty-five tales collected here is distinct and fully visioned and stands exactly for the world it brings into being, unique and oblivious to alternative alternatives. The result is a series of fictions each of which has its own particular, and peculiar, claim on reality—a claim, now that it has its teeth sunk in, that it’s not willing to relinquish. Welcome to the impossible real.

—April 2009, New York City & Providence