Best non-genre fantastic fiction

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

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Yep. That's what I said. I realised that a lot of my favourite fantastic fiction, speaking broadly, is not even part of the fantasy/sf genre, either in the eyes of the publishers or the fans. I'd like to introduce you to a few of these, and ask you about your own favourite non-genre fantastic fiction, as a step towards maybe broadening our reading as well as our understanding of the fantastic in literature.



OK, so here goes -


Italo Calvino: Invisible Cities, The Castle of Crossed Destinies, Cosmicomics
Calvino was one of the foremost literary figures of post-war Italy. His best-known work may be 'If on a Winter's Night a Traveller', a novel which consists basically of describing the reader's experience of reading the novel (you are now reading thisbook which is about...). He's associated with metafiction and magical realism, but my contention is that he is fantasy.

I mean, look at the themes and contents of the three books I've listed: Invisible Cities shows Marco Polo telling Kublai Khan the stories of dozens of imagined cities, down to architecture, customs, and so on, each city more fantastic than the previous one. In the end he realises that every city was really his longed-for Venice, that perhaps all cities are one.

The Castle of Crossed Destinies starts with a group of travellers gathered on a stormy night in what may either be a tavern or a castle. Inside, they find they are struck dumb, and are forced to use a handy tarot deck to tell their traveller's tales to each other. Calvino describes the cards each traveller lays out and the story being created. In the course of the book, many key European legends are re-created, and in the end shown to be part of a larger matrix of cards, of stories.

Cosmicomics is more sf - the loosely linked short stories are narrated by the ancient entitiy Qwfwq, who starts each tale with a scientific fact, and then proceeds to tell a fantastic, almost absurd story that picks up from that fact.

Martin Amis: Time's Arrow. It's the story of man's like told in reverse. The sequence of events is reversed - the story begins with his death and ends with his birth, and every detail is in reverse, like a film played backward. This in itself would qualify as a clever idea, maybe the hook for a short story. But the man whos life is being narrated was a German who was a member of the Army of in the Second World War and participated in the Holocaust. In a startling reversal, the protagonist is shown to be re-creating Jews from ashes and charred remains. It's not just shock value - Amis is confronting one of the single most shocking periods of the previous century and by reversing it, he is telling us various things - perhaps holding out a hope for healing and atonement? Certainly, forcing us to look at the event anew by showing it in a new perspective, which is a good thing. It's a technical achievement, a harrowing read, and one that certainly is very thought-provoking.

I'll weigh in with more later. Over to you.
 
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BAYLOR

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This is a terrific and interesting topic ! :cool:

Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright A utopian Novel about a land that never was but you wish could exist. :cool:
The Star Rover by Jack London Aboyt straitjacket Death Row in mate who divers he can astral project himself into his past lives at will . This is book that I have frequently recommended .:cool: Both fit this definition very nicely and niter quite fits into the category of fantasy . And for the record , both a re great books.

I will come up with other books :)
 

tachyon

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Two of my favorites are Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel by Milorad Pavic

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is clearly a fantasy novel, but is generally classified as a literary fiction, not a genre novel.

Similarly Milorad Pavic's, shelved with literary fiction, but a gloriously weird fantastical alt-history.

I also like Borges and Calvino.
 

BAYLOR

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Two of my favorites are Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel by Milorad Pavic

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is clearly a fantasy novel, but is generally classified as a literary fiction, not a genre novel.

Similarly Milorad Pavic's, shelved with literary fiction, but a gloriously weird fantastical alt-history.

I also like Borges and Calvino.
Ive read one book by Borges Labyrinth Great stuff .:cool:
 

Extollager

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Emphatically, Eugene Vodolazkin's Laurus.


Then the same author wrote The Aviator, which I am reading now. The protagonist is a man who was born in 1900 and "frozen" under one of those Soviet "Immortalization Commission" experiments (though the name isn't used) and revived in the 1990s. Its English-language translator writes about reading it here:


Those of you who can read literary sf and fantasy and are not reading Vodolazkin are really missing something.
 

tachyon

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Thought of another great one: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.

Interesting that the majority of the books that come to mind are in translation. Of the authors I've read in this "category": Borges, Bulgakov, Calvino, Pavic
 

BAYLOR

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The Revolt of The Angels by Anatole France A satire with elements of the Fantastic. This one is pretty much a forgotten book.
 

Randy M.

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War with the Newts by Karel Capek. This is a satirical novel, in some ways related to Sturgeon's later "Microcosmic God", but worked out on a larger scale.

Randy M.
 

Extollager

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I haven't; has anyone read L. P. Hartley's sf Facial Justice?



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Randy M.

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Tangentially, Dask, Truman Capote did, once, "The Vengeance of Nitocris" (spelling suspect).

Randy M.
 

Star-child

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While it might be considered a part of the magical realism genre, I'd vote for Borges' scribbling.

Claire North's novels also have elements of SF and fantasy without being either - but she is considered in the overall SFF genre.
 
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