The Semiotician spent last weekend in Portland, OR for the 2nd annual FC2 conference at Portland State University. I had heard about the collective from fiction writer Kris Saknussemm, author of Zanesville, a fine post-apocalyptic novel for which I wrote a review a few years ago which can be accessed here on the SFStation.com site.
As someone who is attempting to write in all forms, or perhaps more accurately, just write and let the form come from the work, I appreciated being amongst like minds. It is wonderful to not have to begin every conversation tabula rasa, since at the conference most of the attendees had read at least part of what most would sneering-ly call the “Experimental Canon.” (Of which, I will leave the definition to others, since if it was up to me I would provide a link like THIS just to be cheeky.)
Experimental writing is, to paraphrase Lance Olsen, “fiction which asks ‘what am I’ while it is being written.”* Meaning that it is fiction without form considerations or structure as it is being written. It is about lack of conformity, mistakes, writing outside the comfort zone, and the urgodic. It is about work and fun, and in my mind an iterative process. To me, it is like being on Iron Chef and being asked to prepare snails in fifty different ways in the timespan of an hour.
* Or Jean Francois Lyotard says experimental fiction is, ” art that looks for the rules that define the art, but the rules do not exist.”
We looked at pieces of architecture and wrote what we thought the structure would have as a narrative. After looking at a White Castle restaurant, I wrote, “Yeah Caesar, tattoo my name on your bicep, big boy. Happy fucking 4th of July, asshole. I died for your freedom.”
For Frank Gehry’s Disney Opera House here in Los Angeles, ” A playground for dead opera singers. The acoustics in Heaven are fabulous.”
I would definitely try this exercise again. It reminds me of what I tried to do here in Santa Monica, writing short narratives based on the names of apartment buildings. If you want to check it out, the link is here.
There were also fantastic workshops with Lidia Yuknavitch, Lucy Corin and Brian Evenson.
(Which I would totally comment on, but I am in the middle of doing laundry and attempting to clean my apartment while I write this…)
The other fascinating thing I was exposed to was a book Lucy Corin won at a bar by answering a trivia question. It is called Creative Aggression and the Art of Assertive Living and it is hair on fire wild! It was published in 1975 and I swear it is practically a work of groundbreaking language poetry. In this text, you break down niceties in your relationship with something akin to scream therapy. One type of this exchange is “The Vesuvius” where each person gets a three minute turn to scream at the other. Another one is referenced as the “Virginia Woolf” where you get to have a no holds barred insult exchange with your partner and then agree to never discuss it again. Another method of therapy is called “The Haircut” where you ask your partner…”can I give you a haircut?” and if they say yes, you get to scold them and then offer some sort of penance which is called, “The Doghouse Release.”
It is relationship science fiction and made me want a strong martini while watching the film version of The Ice Storm.