Thursday, July 01, 2004

Ex Libris: A Comment on Al Sarrantonio's "Flights"

A clarification first: I have not read Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions though the two books have been burning a hole in my shelves ever since I bought them.

These award-winning anthologies of classic speculative fiction compiled by Ellison have radiated a sphere of influence since being first published in 1967. Then, the stories here were lauded for being 'dangerous' during their time as it addressed taboo subjects.

Now comes Sarrantonio, who holds the said books as his Holy Grail. Wanting to follow in Ellison's footsteps, he tells his authors to write short stories that could "influence the course of SF for the next twenty-five years" to be published in Redshift: Extreme Visions of Speculative Fiction. (Mind, I have not read this collection either.)

But it's a different time and SF and Western society have changed greatly since the 1960s. So, despite a claim of being 'extreme', Sarrantonio's book doesn't get as much acclaim as Ellison's works even though many praised it for being 'a solid collection.'

Now comes his take on fantasy: Flights: Extreme Visions of Fantasy. And despite the high-profile cast of authors and the solid set of stories, early reviews say it's still not cutting edge.

After reading this collection, I have to admit: not minding the subtitle, I didn't expect it to be. After all, what is taboo nowadays?

Artists (whether filmakers, painters, scultors, photographers, etc.) are all pushing the envelope on their respective art forms and writers are no different. Lurid sex, graphic violence, political satire, social commentaries to burn your mind-- these are all being done already on the canvas, celluloid, digital code and the blank page.

You can't escape it.

I don't want to get into the rehashed and retreaded statement that people are 'jaded' in the face of taboo subjects. After all, everyone has heard the same argument before. But is it true? Are we-- the most imaginative lot in the world's reading republic, we who eat and breathe speculative fiction-- a 'jaded' bunch?

Is there nothing new under the sun and on the blank page?

No comments: