Friday, April 25, 2008

'zencore!' edited by d.f. lewis. (a non-review.)

trade paperback, megazanthus press, 2007.

in the vast (and often vastly misunderstood) realm(s) of speculative fiction, there occasionally appear writers gifted with such monumental talent and difference of vision that the word genius can honestly be applied with glee. it is my opinion that d.f. lewis is one of these people. his unique aesthetics combine with a monumentally bleak vision, that exists somewhere sideways of actual nihilism, and what may be one of the driest humours I’ve seen to create a body of work that stands truly outside of most attempts to define it. it also consists of somewhere close to two-thousand works in the short form, long form, points in between, and a staggering array of collaborative works.

however, an in-depth look at lewis’ fictions is a task for another time, and it’s his most recent work as editor and publisher that i’m looking to discuss here.

in 2001, lewis released the first in a serious of anthologies bearing the title ‘nemonymous,’ a word coined by lewis to mean a multi-authored anthology of anonymous stories (and which has since become synonymously used with anonymous, in regards to the work and ideas of lewis). since then, each annual volume has attracted critical acclaim and his editorial vision has even been compared to harlan ellison’s in his prime, due in no small part to the stunning range of authors selected for the series.

now, the idea that anonymity can and does lead to creative freedom is a softly marxist idea that’s been with us since before the birth of the 20th century, but rarely has it proved its value as it has in this series, and rarely have i seen it seem to allow writers to engage in such a depth of strangeness.

in 2007, the seventh volume was quietly released. entitled ‘zencore!’ (the first volume not directly titled ‘nemonymous’) it managed to become, quite possibly, the best anthology of the year and a watermark in independent british publishing, standing alongside the best releases of ps publishing and elastic press. containing some of the more elegant and unrestrained prose i was able to read last year, it also managed to contain some truly horrific work. there are echoes of both ballard and m. john harrison in more than one story, but not a single piece manages to really feel like something i’ve read before. and that, i suppose, is the one of the greatest strengths of ‘zencore!’ the fact that it feels so startlingly grounded in the present, and like a book that simply couldn’t have existed before now. perhaps it’s a bit of a cheat that i haven’t really touched on the individual stories, but that’s largely because i don’t feel like i *should* since i honestly believe that this is, paradoxically perhaps, a work that is staggeringly important and that one should know as little about as possible before reading.

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