Lance Olsen is the author of more than 20 books of and about innovative writing, including the novels Calendar of Regrets, Head in Flames, and Nietzche’s Kisses. His short stories, essays, poems, and reviews have appeared in hundreds of journals and anthologies, such as Conjunctions, Black Warrior Review, Fiction International, Village Voice, BOMB, McSweeneys, and Best American Non-Required Reading. He serves as chair of FC2’s Board of Directors and teaches experimental narrative theory and practice at the University of Utah.
FC2: How did you first hear about FC2?
Lance Olsen: Although FC2 feels like something I’ve always known about at a sort of cellular level, the truth (and I use the term loosely) is that I was a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin, thumbing through new arrivals at the library late one Friday night, when I stumbled across a copy of 98.6. I picked it up and everything changed.
FC2: Tell us about Calendar of Regrets.
Lance Olsen: Calendar of Regrets intersects a dozen apparently unconnected narratives (about Iphegenia, Hieronymous Bosch, a pair of nameless fundamental Christian bombers, etc.), a dozen historical moments (ancient Greece, late-medieval northern Europe, a near-future London, etc.), and a dozen genres (myth, historical fiction, speculative fiction, etc.). That is, it’s a narrative about narrativity, about how we tell ourselves and our world again and again in an attempt to make sense of them, and fail (in a productive Beckettian sense) every time.
FC2: FC2’s mission states, “The Fiction Collective Two is devoted to publishing fiction considered by America’s largest publishers too challenging, innovative, or heterodox for the commercial milieu.” Will you elaborate on what you believe it means to write challenging, innovative, and heterodox fiction in 2012?
Lance Olsen: The same, in a sense, that it has always-already meant: producing fiction that asks what fiction is, and how, and why; that attempts to represent (and I use the etc.) what it feels like to be alive at a particular historical moment.
FC2: Steve Katz has written that FC2 began with the desire to “make a literature.” What does that phrase mean to you?
Lance Olsen: To create a loose tribal affiliation among a group (and I etc., etc.) of writers and readers across space and time who care in various ways about the ideology of form(s). To structure a text, a sentence, a phrase one way rather than another is to convey, not simply aesthetic preference, a matter of taste, but a course of thinking, a way of being in the world, that privileges one approach to “reality” over another. The literature Katz is talking about is keenly conscious of that, always committed to challenging and disrupting dominant ways of telling ourselves.
FC2: For what FC2 title are you an evangelist?
Lance Olsen: There are so, so many, but these, perhaps, simply because they had and have recently had such a profound effect on my on sense of innovative narrativity: Ronald Sukenick’s Mosaic Man; Raymond Federman’s Double or Nothing; Michael Mejia’s Forgetfulness; Lidia Yuknavitch’s Reel to Reel.