Of Lexias and Leiber

My latest Strange Horizons column has been posted, this time a celebration of Fritz Leiber's centennary.

I mentioned last week that I needed to come up with a title for my Strange Horizons columns. Through much of last week I was fighting off the worst illness I've had in years, so perhaps the title is simply the product of fever, but nonetheless, now in a less fevered state, I like it: Lexias. It keeps to the pattern of the other columnists (Scores, Diffractions, Intertitles, etc.) in being a single, plural word. And it seems mostly accurate to my project, if you think of the word as Roland Barthes used it in S/Z: "a series of brief, contiguous fragments ... units of reading" (Richard Miller's translation). (For more on Barthes, by the way, this is an interesting site.)

But for my purposes, "lexias" is fun, too, because it is the term Samuel R. Delany picked up (from Barthes) for The American Shore, which can be described as a book-length study of Thomas Disch's "Angouleme" (as S/Z can be described as a book-length study of Balzac's "Sarrasine" -- and I say "can be described as" because to say either book is that seems to me too reductive -- each book is an awful lot of things).

Which is not to say that I think I belong in league with Barthes or Delany (ha!), any more than anyone who picks up a term belongs in the same league with anyone who has used it before, but that I like having a title that suggests fragmentation, experimentation, close reading, and realms of both subversive (or subverted) literature and thoughtful science fiction.

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