The present, needless to say, is too present to imagine.
It’s too much with us, the Technicolor gel we live in.
Try to get your mind around it, some distance on it, some language with which to articulate it, and in the end all you feel is dumb.
All you feel in the end is like you just raised your camera to take a shot of that skyscraper in front of you, no, that pallid-skinned red-haired girl crossing the street beside you, no, that jet rushing miles above you, yes, and your viewfinder frames nothing but blank blue sky or cloud cusp or, if you’re really, really lucky, some ghost-strand contrails at 39,000 feet.
The present is clearly too present to imagine. It’s nonsense trying to pin it down, an act of egg-headed presumption, brash and bombastic tomfoolery, a fool’s game doomed to fail over and over again, and the one I just can’t stop playing.
The one, I want to say, most of us at FC2 just can’t stop playing.
In part that’s because every writer, at FC2 and elsewhere, contributes in some small part to its invention.
Whether or not she or he likes it, of course.
Whether or not he or she is even necessarily aware of it.
In part that’s because by trying to imagine the present, by trying actively to imagine the present, you have a hand in imagining the future, and by having a hand in imagining the future you have a hand, a tiny hand, a tiny hand but a real hand, a real hand and therefore an important hand, in shaping its architectonics.
In part that’s because trying to imagine the present, trying actively to imagine the present, is a way of remaining awake.
It’s a way of rousing ourselves in the midst of our dreaming.
Thinking, Ludwig Wittgenstein once reminded us, is digestion; it’s that much a part of who we are.
If you don’t use your own imagination, Ron Sukenick once reminded us, somebody else is going to use it for you.
For me, here, now, for all of us, here, now, there needless to say exists a plethora of presents, a number of imaginings, many of which are flat and faded as last month’s best-seller list, last week’s New Yorker, the six simplistic book reviews in yesterday’s NYTBR: instance after instance of the bland leading the bland.
Many of these imaginings are written by the same author.
(This is a secret few people know.)
Many of these imaginings are written by the same author and published by the same publishing company and carry the same message: Everything will work out in the end. Every story is the same story because every person is the same person. There is nothing new under the Ecclesiastes. Don’t worry. Be happy. Be sad for a little while, obviously, but then be happy. Characters are plump people. Plot is pleasant arc. Language is plain transparence. The body is boring, politics passé, gender stable, realism real, the page a predictable arrangement of paragraphs. Go to sleep.
But the imaginings that have interested me most, the ones that have kept me awake the longest, are the relatively covert ones, culturally speaking: the imaginings you can most often find at FC2 that acknowledge our continual condition of ontological and epistemological inbetweenness while searching for adventurous forms that can express that condition with convulsive beauty and the disquieting surprise many of us feel inhabiting these first few seconds of a new century, a new webwork of potential presents, potential futures.
The imaginings, that is, which engage with what I have come to think of lately as Narratological Amphibiousness.
How might fiction and hence perception become richer, these imaginings ask — these are the imaginings, it almost (but not quite) goes without saying, that refuse to tell — how might fiction and hence perception become richer by living commensally alongside, in, and/or among several structures and genres and modes of being and seeing at once?
What might happen, for instance, at the intersection(s) of fiction and, say, photography, music, video, theory, poetry, hypertext, drama, sculpture, painting, computer-generated collage-image?
Or, on a more local scale, at the intersection(s) of, say, transgressive fiction and speculative fiction, surfiction and detective fiction, avant-pop appropriation and surrealist game, vampire fiction and fake memoir?
In other words, narratologically amphibious imaginings are fictive possibility spaces that encourage us to contemplate and converse about what happens at the horizon of Both/And, at the precise instant boundaries become permeable and commence giving rise to all tomorrow’s parties and step back and invite us to enter.
Lance Olsen is the author of Theories of Forgetting (2014), Calendar of Regrets (2010), Nietzsche’s Kisses (2006), Girl Imagined By Chance (2002), and Sewing Shut My Eyes (2000) from FC2.