"Pat Rushin is out of his fucking mind."
When a notorious whack job like director Terry Gilliam – and we mean "whack job" in the best, most respectful sense – thinks you're nuts, you're probably doing something right. That is, if you're a writer of speculative fiction, or imaginative fiction or weird fiction or whatever new genre label we're sticking on sci-fi this month.
Gilliam's book-jacket blurb for University of Central Florida creative writing professor Pat Rushin's The Call continues, "I like that in a writer; that and his daredevil usage of the semicolon and asterisk make The Call unputdownable." And Gilliam puts his money and time where his mouth is – his most recent feature film was Zero Theorem, based on The Call with a screenplay adapted by Rushin from his own material. Though Rushin's work on the page reads more as a spare parable, Zero Theorem is of a piece with Gilliam's classic Brazil and 12 Monkeys, dystopian future fairy tales that smile beatifically through broken teeth.
The Call has recently been published in a stand-alone volume by Burrow Press, Orlando's indie publisher. Burrow Press also produces the quarterly writing series Functionally Literate, at which Rushin reads this week. Joining him are local writer Teege Braune and Ellen Datlow, a renowned New York-based editor and anthologist of sci-fi, fantasy and horror fiction.
This edition of the Functionally Literate series "will press the bounds of genre labels by bringing together three readers whose work defies conventional marketing categories like horror, sci-fi and literary," says Ryan Rivas of Burrow Press. Given the current agita around these sorts of labels, as "literary" masters dip toes into speculative waters (Ishiguro, Chabon, arguably Murakami and McCarthy) and younger writers disdain boundaries altogether, crossing the line at will (Karen Russell, Laura Van Den Berg, Emily St. John Mandel), Functionally Literate is in the right place at the right time.