No aliens, no spaceships

Paul Di Filippo (aka Paoli du Flippi) imagines a new speculative fiction magazine, edited by Jonathan Lethem and Margaret Atwood:

From the wings strode a rather unlikely pair of writers — at least as far as surface appearances went. The elderly Atwood, a regal, conservatively dressed doyenne, and the youthful Lethem, a dead ringer for the comedian Ben Stiller, and trigged out in bohemian chic.

The two took seats at a table and adjusted their microphones. Then Atwood began to speak in plummy tones.

“There has long been a vital, important mode of writing known as speculative fiction, fiction that takes a probing and intensive look at modern socioscientific trends and projects them into a near-future venue. But which most emphatically does not include spaceships or aliens. Unfortunately, this ancient and honorable manner of writing came to be hijacked somewhere along the way by incompetents and illiterates, and thence devolved into the farrago of excitement and awe and wonder known as science fiction. None of which I have personally ever read.”

Nodding graciously, Lethem commenced his speech.

“Well, Margy, I have, and I can report that aside from an author or two such as Phil Dick and Gene Wolfe, there’s not a whole lot worth stealing in that genre. Now, I know that some might say to me, ‘Jonathan, haven’t lots of your own stories appeared in various science fiction magazines?’ And I’d have to answer, “Yes, but that was when I was a rank beginner, desperate for a foothold.’ I never really meant any of it. And now that I have attained my current eminence, I can categorically state that I have never written a word of science fiction in my whole meteoric career. Which unlike a meteor will never cease to shine.”

Atwood smiled. “And your statement, Jonny, brings us precisely to the whole point of Inside/Outside magazine. Its mission is to provide a home to two kinds of writers and their exciting, vital work. Mainstream writers such as myself, who stand outside the so-called science fiction field and yet who wish to commit speculative fiction. And writers such as yourself, who were unfortunately tarred early on with the brush of science fiction, due to whatever temporary lapse of judgment or good taste or economic necessity, and who now wish to graduate to speculative fiction. Provided they can pass our stern editorial vetting, of course.”

(Thanks to Bondgirl.)


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