A Clockwork Phoenix guidelines clarification: “rococo sf”

/ Monday, November 5th, 2012 / 2 Comments »

At prezzey.net, Bogi Takács asked me for a clarification of what “rococo sf” means in the Clockwork Phoenix guidelines.

This was my response:

My plea for “rococo sf” has caused puzzlement before. I recognize that recommending that people read the books to see what I mean is both obvious and futile, but if you read the sf stories I’ve actually published in the Clockwork Phoenix volumes (“Palisade” by Cat Sparks, “Oblivion: A Journey” by Vandana Singh, “Choosers of the Slain” and “Murder in Metachronopolis” by John C. Wright, “The Endangered Camp” by Ann Leckie, “Surrogates” by Cat Rambo, etc.) youll see that there is some element of the bizarre and/or the avant garde and/or the poetic and/or the dream-like that permeate them. Most writers who tackle elements like this in their prose and plots choose to do it as fantasy, but it can also be incorporated into convincing science fiction, and when someone pulls it off it makes me very, very happy.

Other sf stories in the pages of Clockwork Phoenix include Jennifer Crow’s “Seven Scenes from Harrai’s Sacred Mountain,” C.S. MacCath’s “Akhila, Divided,” Barbara Krasnoff’s “Rosemary, That’s For Remembrance,” Leah Bobet’s “Six” and arguments can be made for other stories that cross over from the slipstream side, such as Tanith Lee’s “The Woman” or Gregory Frost’s “Lucyna’s Gaze.”

You might ask why not call it “avant garde sf” or “surreal sf”? Well, to my mind that isn’t correct, because though I want the sf in Clockwork Phoenix to have that sumptuous strangeness, I also want it to be comprehensible. So I picked “rococo,” roughly meaning in this case “elegant and ornate” and also “florid” or “artistically complex,” in an attempt to give a sense of what’s different about what I select. Really, those descriptors apply to almost everything I pick in some way. Except when they don’t. (*Insert evil laugh here.*)


  1. […] four of the second series of Women Writing Novelettes Week brings us more rococo SF. Oh […]

  2. […] that we hadn’t quite gotten the balance right — usually because of a shortage of that “rococo sf” we covet — and in both instances I wound up soliciting additional stories after the window […]

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