Lingua Fantastika is, or will hopefully be, a mixture of a blog, a zine, a forum, and a journal (in both senses of that word), dedicated to stories and the ideas encoded in them. As the name suggests, the focus is on stories that diverge from mimetic realism: the “speculative fiction” umbrella of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, as well as magical realism, surrealism, absurdism, certain types of post-modernism, and what may come after. The founding principles of Lingua Fantastika are that good stories are enhanced by deeper understanding of how and what they mean, and that patterns in these meanings—in particular how and why stories diverge from a realist conception of the world—can lead to deeper understanding of the stories themselves, and the societies that produce and consume them.

This site is an experiment, in several senses. Most essentially, it is an experiment to see if I can, and can enjoy, having a blog. There are no guarantees of this: the site may close, or downsize, at any point (although I will give advance warning if this seems likely to happen). The purpose of this site is largely to contain overspill: reviews I’d like to write of books that have already been reviewed by the publications I usually write for; types of writings different than what those publications normally accept.

Specifically, this is what you can expect to find at Lingua Fantastika:

  • Ideas, not necessarily fully-formed—or correct. This, first and foremost. I like to think I’m smart enough to know the right questions to ask some of the time; and to have the answers to those questions some smaller portion of the time. The rest is up to you. Some ideas may be extended essays, others will be little more than discussion prompts. I see Lingua Fantastika ideally as a collaborative project, that leverages the global audience of the web to discuss ideas, rather than a series of me posting opinions-as-facts from on high. To that end I’ve tried to emphasize discussion-oriented features and design solutions more than in a typical blog, without the need for registration and the inevitable newbies asking the same questions over and over that plague the more popular Internet forums.
  • Reviews. When I was in my teens I struggled to read Gene Wolfe’s Shadow of the Torturer; in fact I traveled no further in that series than the first book for many years. In my twenties, I came across a review of Wolfe’s series–I think it was Peter Wright’s– and that encouraged me to try the books anew. I found that I enjoyed them much more. This was, to be sure, in part because I was older and had become a better reader; but in part it was also because the review helped me understand what level I needed to read the books at to best appreciate them, gave me an avenue to appreciate them (for all that I ended up disagreeing completely with the review’s ideas). That is what I hope to do here. I don’t care overmuch whether you agree with my ideas or not, and I don’t expect you to care overmuch whether I like a work or not. A good review, I think, is one that offers a unique and intelligent viewpoint on a work. A simple argument that a work is “good” or “bad” is in those terms probably the most limited and least interesting viewpoint possible. I’m more interested in trying to say what a work is: I aim my reviews less to be recommendations of what to buy, and more avenues towards appreciating some stories, or commentary on the lack of such avenues in other stories.  Incidentally, while I try to allow books to always keep their core secrets, my reviews do contain what some would consider spoilers. You have been warned.
  • Links to the above types of content that I find interesting on other websites, with the occasional (and questionable) value-add of my own commentary.
  • Other Stuff, to be determined.

If some or all of this is of interest to you, I certainly invite you to participate in discussions, get in touch with me if you have any ideas for content, even feel free to query me if there’s a review, essay, or other guest post that you’d like to contribute. In many ways my ideal would be for this to become something between a group blog and an edited journal with that combined regular columns and features with peer review for content. I’d like LF to be intelligent but a bit raw—content that bridges that gap between the highly personal book reviews that characterize blogging at its best and more formal academic papers; something with the conceptual concerns characteristic of academic work but that explains ideas more for a lay audience, using popular and entertaining books as exemplars. (Note, though, that raw does not mean abusive to fellow commenters: I will enforce civility, albeit my own twisted kind. Let me put it this way: “fuck” is not in my comment blacklist; “elitist” is.)

What you won’t find here:

  • A regular publishing schedule with new postings on anything approaching a daily basis. I would much rather write one really good post every week or two than get caught up in trying to keep up with other blogs. Put me in your RSS reader and when you see a post, you’ll know I’ve done my best to make it signal and not noise. Or, hopefully, come back here for the discussions.
  • Discussions of topics that start with “which is better” and those (often the same) that boil down to “it doesn’t matter as long as you do it well and/or it works within the context of the story you’re telling.”
  • Brief snippets extracted out of the blog posts/print articles/etc. of other people who are then hammered for the content of said extract, without any attempt made to understand what they meant in the full context of their post. I really want to work hard myself, and to promote the ideal of, working to get and respond to the core of an argument, rather than getting caught up in terminological turf wars or attacking relatively inconsequential tangents of ideas to score rhetorical victories rather than reasonable ones. I also tend to operate under the assumption that there may always be gray areas and fuzzy cases, and thus that being able to point to one or two exceptions may mean an idea is not properly a law, but does not disqualify it from being useful as a heuristic. And that’s all I’m after here.
  • Any deep concern with broad categories. I’m interested in groupings, movements, patterns: yes. And I’m interested in the existence of certain categorization schemes, in what they reveal. But I’m less concerned with whether a certain text works as science fiction, say, than I am with whether it works on its own terms—and whether those terms make sense. On the other hand, there may well be discussions along the lines of whether existing terms and categories like “science fiction” work, whether they make sense today.
  • Q&A sessions with authors. I might do the occasional interview, if I can arrange it, but if so it’ll be something with genuine back and forth discussion. My general feeling though is that authors had their say in the stories they wrote: now it’s our turn.
  • Giveaways. Conspicuous consumption posts of “book porn.” Memes. Posts giving excuses for why I don’t have time to post.

This is not to say that some of these things don’t have their place and audience, just that I think they’re amply served already by those more interested in them than I, while the areas I’m hoping to deal with feel a bit under served. If you feel the same way, I hope you’ll enjoy Lingua Fantastika.

Matt Denault