I regularly receive submissions of experimental fiction in my role of editor with Alfie Dog Fiction and it’s fair to say that some of it is completely wasted on me. There are times that I do question my own sanity, but with some of this work I can’t help but feel that drugs were involved somewhere in their generation. Obviously, it would be inappropriate to email back to the writer and suggest they edit their work while not under the influence of mind-altering substances, but it’s tempting!
Now don’t get me wrong, we need experimental fiction to stretch where writing can go. Some is clever, even brilliant, and pushes boundaries in a way that a reader can recognise. It doesn’t mean you want to see that done in every piece you read, but the fact that some do it is healthy and from a readers perspective can be challenging in a right way. However, work that the only links are in the mind of the writer and cannot be comprehended by a normal intelligent reader are probably best kept for the readers own enjoyment.
A good example of a very readable piece of experimental fiction is Hogg by Clive Gresswell This type of story I can get excited about.
However, pieces which are less comprehensible would, in my opinion, benefit from serious editing or not being sent out to a poor editor who is left scratching their head wondering if they should ring Social Services and send someone round to help the author. The same is true of ‘stream of conscience’ writing. Though it is not something I use myself, there are writers who find this is a very good way to stimulate ideas that they go one to use in some other way. That last bit is the key – they go on to edit and develop what they first write, rather than sending the initial product of the consciences stream out as a finished work! It reminds me of playing Scrabble with my stepson when he was 4 years old. Whether he could get WGSABUZ onto a triple letter wasn’t actually the relevant consideration!
Have I provoked a reaction? What do you think?