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The Prickly, Tricky, Ornery Multiverse of Interstitial Art
Barth Anderson

I might have a more narrow definition of "interstitial" than others.

By my read, interstitiality is a question of the artist's relationship to the audience's expectations. If the work comforts, satisfies, or generally meets the expectations that viewers might carry of a genre in question, then the work is genre. This might even apply to works attempting to redefine genre or works which introduce alien elements and disciplines into the genre mix. I don't think cross–genre work is inherently interstitial, since many readers inside genre walls might welcome "Trojan horses" and whatever happens to leap out of them.

Interstitial art should be prickly, tricky, ornery. It should defy expectations, work against them, and in so doing, maintain a relationship to one or more genres, albeit contentiously. There's a sense of playful disregard on the interstitial artist's part, seeking not merely to create something new, but something that jars. The interstitial artist converses with that viewer who recognizes what genres are being addressed but who is seeking a different experience from the one they might have been anticipating.

Consequently, interstitiality may be more about audience than it is about artist. Or art.

Interstitial art is often upsetting. It rocks worldviews, political assumptions, sacred cows, as well as bookstore shelves. It speaks to audiences who might not otherwise have an interest in the genres being addressed, by the artist, drawing them in on levels that the genre–bound audience may not understand or care about. It speaks to many but may connect with only a few.

Interstitial art is ephemeral, defies marketing in a multiverse of marketing nooks, and the interstitiality of this moment might be the vanguard of the status quo in ten years — at which point, it is no longer interstitial. This is why a variety of definitions of interstitiality is crucial: No one person can know how the diverse elements in a culture will view art that attempts to stand between its diverse elements.

With this in mind, my published work is rarely interstitial. I think I've been more concerned with redefining my own science fictional and fantastic expectations than defying them openly. But then, my definition of genre is already broad, so fundamentalists may disagree with me and say, oh yes, he's standing apart from genres all right.

It all depends who is drawing the borders on this damn map.

Contributor's notes:
Barth Anderson's work has appeared in Asimov's, Mojo: Conjure Stories, and Seattle's alternative weekly The Stranger, among other places. Online, you can read Barth's stories "Alone in The House of Mims," "A Garden of Fists," and "Lot 12A: The Feast of the Dead Manuscript."