Saturday, January 11, 2014

Me? Transgressive?

Is is fun: Devilhouse Press asked me recently what my definition of transgressive is.  Here's a taste of my answer - for the rest just click this link.

DHP: What is your definition of transgressive?

MC: Well, I guess I'd have to say that 'transgressive' to me means anything – particularly in the arts – that pushes the boundaries of what is normally accepted.  The problem – if it's a problem – is that what pushes one century (or decade, or year or even day) won't have much of an affect once it's been generally accepted.  At the same time, some things always seem to be transgressive and may never be accepted (and, just because I had lunch, cannibalism springs immediately to mind).

I guess it all depends on what it being said, and when it's being said – I know that might sound slippery or even evasive but I really feel that transgression in art will always be stepping just ahead of us ... while, at the same time, staying right here with us.

DHP: What was the first text you read that made you question accepted societal tenets or values or the way in which the world works?

MC: Hum ... tough call.  Dovetailing with what I just said, I think what pushed me at one age was simply accepted at another.  I remember being blown away by William S. Burroughs in High School, JG Ballard in college, Theodore Sturgeon when I first read Venus Plus X, Alan Moore's Watchmen (and V for Vendetta), Greenaway's The Falls – pretty much anything that made me think.  But, importantly, just didn't make me grimace.  Lots of folks, alas, think that just being outrageous for outrageous-es sake is transgressive.  I always feel that if you throw up and just feel queasy afterward all you did was have bad oysters but if you throw up and it changes the way you look at the shellfish, or the ocean, then that's changed you in some deeply profound manner.  Not that nausea should always be a gauge – but it is a rather (ahem) transgressive symbol.

DHP: Give an example of a transgressive work & explain why you felt it was transgressive? The work could be literature, film, visual art, theatre, graphic novels or something else.

MC: One of my favprites is the already mentioned Venus Plus X by Ted Sturgeon.  Definitely pick it up if you haven't.  The damned book was written in 1960 – back when SF was still mostly considered a sub-par genre.  Now, Sturgeon was – and always will be – seen as a bit of a transgressive SF writer but Venus really pushed pretty much every boundary you could think of – and, for me, it changed the way I thought about the future, about sex, about gender, about Ends Justifying The Means ... but this is all just clumsy fumbling on my part: no matter what I write here I really can't do it justice. 


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