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Interfictions: An Anthology of Interstitial Writing

Delia Sherman, Theodora Goss (eds)

The plate in the display is worked in a lovely indigo underglaze. It is quite the darkest I have ever seen, and has the most saturated colour, but the pattern is not as I recall it - the little faces of the lovers ar fearful as they run across the bridge, their hands barely touching. "

Reviewed by Tania Hershman

I read the stories in the Interfictions anthology before I read the introduction. I decided that interstitial fiction was whatever it might be, I would just read the book and see how much I enjoyed it. Well, I did enjoy many of the nineteen stories on first read, but when I then read Heinz Insu Fenkl's introduction and explanation of what "interstitial writing" may be, everything became clearer, and thus I think it is worth beginning with an explanation: "An interstitial work provides a wider range of possibilities for the reader's engagement and transformation," says Insu Fenkl. Why should this be so? Because writing that is "interstitial" (which here means "falling between") is neither one thing nor the other. It cannot be comfortably assigned to any one genre, as the publishing industry so loves to do. It plays with genre conventions, so a story about a haunted house is not just a ghost story, it is a ghost story with a twist. A story about a woman who posts herself to her ex-boyfriend is not simply quirky, it is interstitial in its very nature since it takes place in the most interstitial of places: the Post Office. 

However, what is interstitial writing today may not be so tomorrow: at one time, explains Insu Fenkl, the Revisionary Fairytale such as that written by Angela Carter, was interstitial, but it became popular and thus became a genre in its own right. Interstitiality is fleeting.

Re-reading the stories while keeping an eye out for this feature certainly shed new light. Some of the stories I hadn't been able to read the first time I took another swing at and they seemed to open up in front of me. Should an anthology need  to explain itself to the reader first, though? Perhaps this one does, being a special case, one in which stories were chosen for some quality this is by its nature undefinable. Confused? I am not surprised.  

Let's get back to whether this is a good read, which surely is the main point of a book review. Yes, it is. I enjoy stories that cannot be neatly packaged and labelled, that surprise and play with content, structure and language. And there are many of those to be found here. Leslie What's Post Hoc lulls the reader into thinking it is another story about a failed relationship, but then turns surreal when the main character attempts to post herself to her ex, and her postman doesn't behave as if this was strange: "Joe notices the address label on her head and takes two seconds to understand what she's up to. His nod is sympathetic, patient. He says, 'Gotta put you in back til I'm done for the day.' " This story is bizarre, poignant and beautifully open-ended.

Colin Greenland's Timothy is also highly surprising and erotic. (Cat-owners be warned.) Rather than reveal the plot, I will quote from the author's note at the end, which accompanies each of the stories: "Walking home years ago.. I passed a house where the front door was open. A woman stood outside calling..a masculine name. ...I assumed it was the name of her cat....What if someone answers the summons and it is not at all who she was expecting?" I defy anyone to categorise this story: pet-related erotica?

Willow Pattern, by Jon Singer, is the stunning two-and-a-half page piece from which the quote at the top of this review is taken. I can't even call this a story, on the surface it appears to be a description of plates. And yet it is so much more than that. I have never read anything quite like it. 

Some stories are what I would happily call magical realist, such as Holly Phillips' moving Queen of the Butterfly Kingdom, whose main character is waiting for news of her kidnapped boyfriend, and some are very far from anything realist. In this latter category I place Matthew Cheney's A Map of the Everywhere, which is a surreal, irreal gay love story set in a world which bears only slight similarity to our own. Some of the stories are so fantastical that I found them impenetrable, and some that simply didn't speak to me, but this is the case with all anthologies.   

In conclusion, this anthology is both intellectually stimulating and a highly entertaining read. The stories I enjoyed did stay with me, as all good stories should, long after I put the book down, but whether this reader was transformed by the experience, I cannot say. Only time will tell. The Insterstitial Arts Foundation, which published Interfictions, is collecting submissions for Interfictions 2, and I look forward to more interstitial fiction that challenges and confounds expectations.

Listen to podcasts of authors reading stories from this collection on the Interstitial Arts Foundation

Tania Hershman is the editor of the Short Review. Her first collection, The White Road and Other Stories, is published by Salt Modern Fiction. She herself could be considered interstitial, being an ex-pat and a science-loving artist. 

Tania's other Short Reviews: Etgar Keret & Samir el-Youssef "Gaza Blues"

Melvin J. Bukiet "A Faker's Dozen"

Rusty Barnes "Breaking it Down"

Roy Kesey "All  Over"

John Klima (ed) "Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories"

Kelley Eskridge "Dangerous Space"

18 Lies and 3 Truths: StoryQuarterly 2007 Annual

Aimee Bender "Wilful Creatures"

Paddy O'Reilly "The End of the World"

Annie Clarkson "Winter Hands"

Yannick Murphy "In a Bear's Eye"

Declan Meade (ed) "Let's Be Alone Together"

Lise Erdrich "Night Train"


PublisherSmall Beer Press /

Interstitial Arts Foundation

Publication Date: April 2007

Paperback/Hardback? Paperback

Awards: 2007 Tiptree Award Honor List.

First anthology?Yes

Editors: Delia Sherman and Theodora Goss

Editor bios: Delia Sherman was born in Tokyo, Japan and brought up in New York, New York. She earned a Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies, and she taught Freshman Composition and Fantasy as Literature. Her first novel, Through a Brazen Mirror was published as one of the Ace Fantasy Specials. Her second novel, The Porcelain Dove, won the Mythopoeic Award for Fantasy Fiction. 
Theodora Goss teaches at Boston University where she is completing a PhD in English Literature. She is the author of a short story collection, In the Forest of Forgetting.

Authors: Karen Jordan Allen, Christopher Barzak, K. Tempest Bradford, Matthew Cheney, Michael DeLuca, Adrian Ferrero, Colin Greenland, Csilla Kleinheincz, Holly Phillips, Rachel Pollack, Joy Remy,  Anna Tambour, Veronica Schanoes,  Lea Silhol, Jon Singer, Vandana Singh,  Mikal Trimm, Catherynne Valente, Leslie What

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Kelley Eskridge "Dangerous Space"

Aimee Bender "Wilful Creatures"

John Klima (ed) "Logorrhea"

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