What is the Contemporary?

The key concern for Meglo is contemporary fiction. So, we’ve put ourselves in a bit of a difficult situation here, because this means we have to define what “the contemporary” means. On the one hand, and for the simple the purpose of this blog, “contemporary fiction” plainly means new fiction. Anyone who is writing and publishing fiction at this moment can be considered contemporary. But, then, what is “this moment”? And does contemporary really simply mean “new” or “happening now”, or is it more of a cultural construct?

The idea of the contemporary implies time, and since human beings experience life inside time, the implication is that the contemporary is also an experience. Therefore, the contemporary is difficult to categorise because it is constantly in flux; once we state “this is now”, that “now” has already past and we are living in a future moment of “now”. Yet this difficulty of the contemporary is also its strength. The beauty of the contemporary is that it is constantly moving forward, propelled by the arrow of time.

So,  where does this leave contemporary fiction? When you study literature, you learn about literary movements in blocks of time – you move from medieval, to Romantic, to Victorian, to Modernism. This is a terribly simplistic overview, but you get the picture; literature is contextualised within its (very general) historical moment. But it is not unusual to hear people state that there is no movement within contemporary fiction. But Meglo is a space that seeks to prove this sentiment is false. There is so much happening in the contemporary literary sphere, in fact, there is not just one movement, but there are several!

The contemporary captures the spirit of an age, but the irony is that that spirit only becomes concrete once the current moment has past. We encourage constant discussion about contemporary fiction, because we believe that such a dialogue is  the sphere of the contemporary. Channels of communication enable the continuous flux, and the internet is the best place to open these channels, because here, everyone has a platform and everyone has a voice.

We concentrate particularly on weird and speculative fiction, because we think that the sf community is a vibrant place full of intriguing and cutting-edge ideas. Sci-fi has moved from it’s parents’ basement to join the populace, and the results are pretty interesting. Speculative fiction is also of specific interest because it blurs those antiquated boundaries between pulp/genre fiction and traditional literary fiction. And, as we’ve readily discovered, the contemporary is pretty much all a blur!

So does the contemporary come with the “end of history”? Does it belong in the moment of postmodernism, or evern post-postmodernism? Does the contemporary emerge with the dawn of the information age? We’re not sure, in fact, nobody’s really sure (seriously, try discussing this topic with a literature scholar)! Literature is constructed from and a response to the concerns of its time. Contemporary fiction is built of our current cultural, social and historical experiences, and the conversations these experiences inspire.

So let’s keep taking, the floor is yours

-MEGLO

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5 thoughts on “What is the Contemporary?

  1. Now, this comment does ring a chord ‘We want to break down divisions between genre fiction and traditional literary fiction.’ I’ve written the same thing myself, and think this artificial divisions (fired, no doubt by money minded publishers) are stultifying as regards the creation of original work. Write something cross genre, however, and run the risk of having something that cannot be categorised; ‘where would you shelve it in a bookshop?’ demand the pundits. Very pleased to encounter you.

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    • You raise a very important issue here. On the one hand, it is understandable that publishers want to catalogue literature, otherwise the whole business become very nebulous and difficult to manage. However, there is a huge problem when this need for strict categorisation limits the opportunities for upcoming (and often established) writers. In any case, nothing is ever strictly one genre or the other, take Margaret Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake”. If that book hadn’t been written by Atwood, it would definitely be shelved in “science fiction”, but because Atwood wrote it it gets shelved with the literary fiction. The way the system is set up, it has to be either sf or literary, it’s not allowed be both. Of course, that leads into realms of genre snobbery – a topic which we also intend to tackle!

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  2. Yuk, apologies for typos, getting used to Word 10…

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  3. Thoughtful stuff. ““new” or “happening now”, or is it more of a cultural construct?” Much contemporary writing romanticises, and disappoints me on this point. For “happening now”, I hope to read something that actually moves along. For example, one highly-recommended contemporary novel I recently bought (because I was told it was good for me) describes children “happily bounding over verdant fields to school”. I thought I was reading something from the Victorian era, but sadly no, this was written in 2003, and, for some reason, highly regarded. There’s a lot of this about, and it’s as though we’ve gone backwards.

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    • I think that’s a trap many people fall into. Just because something was written “now” (say, in the last ten years) does that mean the work in “contemporary”? I think that could be argued both ways, but a lot of people seem to think nothing is happening “now”. The past is so much easier to catalogue, because you can see what events took place (e.g. political movements, literary movements) and the fall-out has been observed and felt through history. But many people don’t see that there are lots of fantastic movements happening in our contemporary moment (or, more appropriately, moments). The contemporary isn’t as easy to see, because we’re inside it and experiencing it. But maybe a part of “the contemporary” is actually a turn to the past – moving backwards might seem comforting to people, because the past is known and therefore safe.

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