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. More generally understood, 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 the very first years of its evolution into a self-conscious writerly form, E T A Hoffmann aggressively asserted – throughout the thirty-three interpolated conversations that make Die Serapions-Brüder (coll 1819-1821; trans Major Alex Ewing as The Serapion Brethren 1886 and 1892) into a Club Story collection of formative significance – a doctrine he designated the Serapion Principle, according to which true sight of the world could only be gained by story tellers when they cast off the rind of the merely visible, the safely "real": to see the world was to envision it.
Under the influence of arguments of this sort, where "realism" is seen as inadequate to the task of seeing the world, Clute in his Pardon This Intrusion: Fantastika in the World Storm (coll 2011) advocates a pragmatic application of the term fantastika 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 furthermore, though at first tentatively, to use the planet itself (past, present and particularly the future) as a default arena conceived both spatially – as at the end of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus (1818) – and, even 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, an effectiveness that increases, as in twenty-first century fictions, as the interactions of story-modes become more bare-faced and complex; and that although the pre-emptive transgressiveness of fantastika seems salutary within the context of the Western World, when addressed "outwards" it can seem invasive (see Imperialism). Within this litany of descriptions, the transgressiveness of fantastika can also 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, a term increasingly useful in the context(s) of our twenty-first century "Multiverse" of conflicting genres. 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. [For a more extended discussion of fantastika in general by Clute, see the first issue (April 2017) of Fantastika Journal under links below.] [JC/DRL]
- Allienne R Becker. Visions of the Fantastic: Selected Essays from the Fifteenth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1996) [nonfiction: anth: in the publisher's Contributions of the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy series: hb/nonpictorial]
- Philippe-Alain Michaud. Aby Warburg et l'image en mouvement (Paris: Editions Macula, 1998) [nonfiction: binding unknown/]
- Philippe-Alain Michaud. Aby Warburg and the Image in Motion (New York: Zone Books, 2004) [nonfiction: trans by Sophie Hawkes of the above, as revised: hb/Bruce Mau Design Inc]
- Michael Chabon. "Introduction" to McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories (New York: Vintage Books, 2004) edited by Chabon [anth: pp ix-xv: pb/from Lawrence Sterne Stevens]
- John Clute. Pardon This Intrusion: Fantastika in the World Storm (Harold Wood, Essex: Beccon Publications, 2011) [nonfiction: coll: pb/Judith Clute]
- John Clute. Stay (Harold Wood, Essex: Beccon Publications, 2014) [nonfiction: coll: pb/Judith Clute]
- Jeremy Davies. The Birth of the Anthropocene (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 2016) [nonfiction: hb/]
- Donna Haraway. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin with the Chthulucene (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2016) [nonfiction: hb/]
- John Clute. "Fantastika: Or, the Sacred Grove" (April 2017 Fantastika Journal) [nonfiction: volume 1, issue 1: pp13-20: mag/]
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