Issue 8: Cowboys, Mutant Cowboys, Vampires, Earthquakes, and some Noir
Instant City: A Literary Exploration of San Francisco: The Genre Issue.
Genre is a word that gets smacked around a bit, especially in places like MFA programs and literary journals. Genre is the term applied to whatever doesn’t easily fit into any convenient literary tradition. Put a troll in it: brand it genre. Give your cowboy a spaceship: the bookstore doesn’t know whether to shelve it in Sci-Fi or Westerns (although it is inarguably genre). It isn’t just a catch-all category; it’s also the ultimate outsider fiction, and precisely why it’s the perfect subject for the eighth issue of Instant City.
A mark of satisfying contemporary literature is that it’s slippery, hard to pin to one category. Readers crave stories that mirror the weirdness and absurdity and terror of modern life, which straight-up fiction may be inadequate to depict. Which is why more literary fiction dapples in conventions previously considered genre fiction. Spaceships, time travel, and things that go bump in the night are long established as part of our literary tradition, however mixing these things into fiction has become more prevalent since the turn of this the century. Give yourself a moment, and you can probably think five, including a recent National Book Award winner. Just like life, literature is increasingly difficult to neatly categorize. If the point of great fiction is to shine light into the darkness of the human condition then sometimes a vampire or zombie is the most precise metaphor. Just because it’s silly doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
Here in San Francisco we thrive within the tensions of past and future, the archaic and the ultra-tech. We live in drafty, old Victorians (the lucky ones) that hum with DSL cables. Start-uppers who strive to create the fastest, newest app line-up in front of a barbershop to be shaved with a straight-razor. We grind our beans in wooden coffee mills while watching YouTube videos on our iPods of how to brew in gleaming Japanese siphon pots. The list goes on.
Is it even strange that the device we use most, the cell phone, looks exactly like a contraption from Star Trek? It’s why—with one foot wearing a space boot and the other foot a moccasin we are comfortable straddling the impossible—genre literature is a natural extension of our, particularly San Franciscan, psychogeography. We are bright, shining superheroes.
Inside this you will find an archaically phrased tour guide, various mutants, and two dystopian earthquake stories as well as vampires, westerns and noir. But it’s still classic Instant City–gritty, everyone having sex, hanging out in bars, in love, on drugs, and traipsing forward past the advance of day.
It’s been a long wait. I hope you enjoy.
Editor & Publisher