Critical Fiction — An Annotated Reading List
I — Books & Short Stories
99 : The New Meaning. Burning Deck Press, 1990.
Interrogates the “fragmentary narrative” through the use of appropriated texts.
Jorge Luis BORGES
“The Garden of Forking Paths”, etc., in Ficciones. Grove Press, 1962.
— Other Inquisitions 1937-1952. Translated by Ruth Simms. University of Texas, 1964; paperback, 1993.
— “There Are More Things”, in The Book of Sand. Translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni. E. P. Dutton, 1977.
“The Cabinet of Edgar Allan Poe” (Interzone 1, 1982), and “John Ford’s ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore” (1988), in Burning Your Boats. The Collected Short Stories. Penguin paperback, c. 1995.
“1830”, in Tatlin! Scribners, 1974; Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982, paperback.
Edgar Allan Poe in St. Petersburg.
—“Belinda’s World Tour” and “The Concord Sonata”, in A Table of Green Fields, New Directions, 1993.
Postcards written to a little girl by Franz Kafka in the persona of her lost doll; and the life and inquiries of Henry David Thoreau.
“One Morning with Samuel, Dorothy & William” (Asimov’s, December 1988), in The Other Nineteenth Century, eds. Grania Davis and Henry Wessells. Tor, 2001.
“Michael Swanwick and Samuel R. Delany at the Joyce Kilmer Service Area, March 2005. Output from a nostalgic, if somewhat misinformed, guydavenport storybot, in the year 2115. Transcribed by Eileen Gunn”. Foundation 101, Winter 2007/2008 ; in Questionable Practices, Small Beer Press, , pp. 210-214.
“Another Orphan” The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, September 1982; collected in Meeting in Infinity, Arkham House, 1992 ; in The Collected Kessel, Baen Books, 2012.
“Herman Melville is my hero. [. . .] I had the idea of stranding a contemporary man in Moby-Dick” (from the author’s afterword).
Tom LA FARGE
Zuntig. Sun and Moon, 2001.
Life and Conversation of Animals. Proteotypes, 2010.
Interlinear to Cabeza de Vaca. His Relation of the Journey from Florida to the Pacific 1528-1536. Writers’ Editions, 1936.
Wide Sargasso Sea. André Deutsch, 1966.
Discussed as CRITICAL FICTION.
“The Zanzibar Cat” and “The Extraordinary Voyages of Amélie Bertrand”, in The Zanzibar Cat. Arkham House, 1976.
A Hand-List of the Published Work in Prose and Verse of The Rev. T. Hartington Quince, M.A. (1890–1990). Compiled by Avery Small-Hampton. With an Introduction by Nicholas Jenkins. [Printed for private circulation, 1991]
“A Document from the Secret Archive of Grent Oude Wayl, Esquire”, in Parnassus 20:1&2 (1995), pp. 338-355, and collected in My Man and Other Critical Fictions. Temporary Culture, 2011.
“Book Becoming Power” and “Appraisal at Edgewood” and “Ten Bears”, in Another green world. Temporary Culture, 2003.
Janwillem van de WETERING
Judge Dee Plays His Lute: A Play and Selected Mystery Stories. Bar Harbor, Maine: Wonderly Press, 1997.
Discussed as CRITICAL FICTION.
“The Eyeflash Miracles”(1976), in The Best of Gene Wolfe. Tor, 1989.
II — Works contributing to the evolution and understanding of the Critical Fiction
If It Had Happened Otherwise. Lapses into Imaginary History. Edited
by J. C.
Squire. Longmans, Green, 1932.
The « Sources of the Nile » in counterfactual history, the most notable here being Winston Churchill’s “If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Gettysburg”; certain of the “lapses” perform as critical examinations of the literary work of their subjects (Byron, Swinburne).
“The Orchid Forest: A Metafactual Introduction to The Crystal Cosmos by Rhys Hughes by Miguel Obispo”. The New York Review of Science Fiction 19:6 (February 2007).
A playful and allusive fiction that also performs the function stated in its title; indeed when I first read E.F. Bleiler’s essay on Rhys Hughes in Supernatural Fiction Writers (2002), I thought Bleiler had invented him.
P. H. CANNON
Scream for Jeeves. A Parody. Illustrated by J.C. Eckhardt. Wodecraft Press, .
Parody is a sometimes more fluid mode, as the imitative (or pastiche) can sometimes co-exist with the transformative aspect: Pulptime (1984) by Peter Cannon is HPL-meets-Sherlock Holmes fan fiction; in Scream for Jeeves, something else occurs at the same time as the pastiche.
A Perfect Vacuum. Perfect Reviews of Nonexistent Books. Translated from the Polish by Michael Kandel. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978.
“ [A] brilliantly innovative series of [. . .] glosses at the borderland of fiction and treatise [. . .] which simultaneously characterize and persiflage their targets” — Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.
The Collected Works of Paul Metcalf. 3 vols., Coffee House Press, 1997.
(Many of Metcalf’s pieces do what the critical fiction does, but take historical events and/or texts as their subject.)
Frederick Rolfe’s “Reviews of Unwritten Books”. Edited and with notes by Donald Weeks. 4 vols., Tragara Press, 1985-8. Essays published in The Monthly Review, February to June 1903 and The Gentleman’s Magazine, December 1904.
Not strictly critical fictions, but relevant for Rolfe’s practice of upending chronology in his collisions of author and incident, as in “Machiavelli’s Despatches from the South African Campaign” or “Herodotus’ History of England”; and for his articulation of the literary principle that effects influence causes, or: the impact of later works of literature upon earlier ones. The prose is dry and acerbic, salted with classical tags and allusions.
“Madame Realism: A Fairy Tale” (1988), in This is Not It. Stories. D.A.P., 2002.
“The Rubber Bend”(1974), in Storeys from the Old Hotel. Kerosina, 1988.
Pastiche of Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe, with allusion to C.L. Dodgson, Alice in Wonderland, and Charles Peirce: “ ‘Do you mean to say,’ I exclaimed, ‘that your reading led you to the solution of this remarkable case?’ ”
“The Lives of the Obscure”, in The Common Reader, Harcourt, Brace and World, 1953; “Dr. Burney’s Evening Party”, in The Second Common Reader, Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1960; and various other pieces in The Death of the Moth, Granite and Rainbow, and The Captain’s Death Bed.
(Virtuoso fictional recreations that also discuss, drawing heavily upon literary sources.)
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