Currently at its third issue, Beyond, Short Stories on the Post-Contemporary is a unique book series on architectural fiction and experimental urban writing, which I curate for Sun Publishers, in Amsterdam, since 2009.
Contributing authors to the series include Douglas Coupland, Bruce Sterling, Martha Cooley, Oren Safdie, Lieven de Cauter, Aron Betsky, Ole Bouman, and a refreshing generation of upcoming European architectural writers.
Check Beyond #01, Scenarios & Speculations …………………………………………….
Here is my inaugural editorial for the book series:
In your hands you hold the first volume of a new book series dedicated to new, experimental forms of architectural and urban writing. A bookazine, if you want, in which an extended network of young and upcoming European architectural writers will be given the freedom to survey the outline of themes and things to come.
In an age when conceptual thought is undoubtedly one of the rules of attraction, it is expected that writing may provide again an arena where images are returned to their original frame: the speculative imagination.
By seeking expressions that may escape the academic circle and the simple service of the prevailing photographic image, Beyond will propose stories and essays that come near to fiction’s ability to prompt a deeper, appealing reflection on themes that concern us all.
In what proved to be a very successful intuition, Truman Capote once referred to his novel “In Cold Blood” as describing a real event with fiction techniques. He used these to convert reality into a classic and enduring narrative. It is my belief that when it comes to the exploration of urban reality, also architectural thought can benefit from this approach.
As such, it should come as no surprise that Beyond arrives at a time in which architectural and urban discourses are researching and describing fascinating issues, while apparently the reports themselves fail to attract their potential target-audiences.
Given the optical-driven nature of current culture, it is deemed difficult for intricate dissertations to compete with the easygoing audio-visual narratives that wrap us at every given moment. Against this setting, Beyond brings forth the belief that anecdotes, short stories, and storytelling itself still reveal the capacity to contend with the immediacy and the spectacle of images.
So being, when it comes to deal with realities that are just around the corner, Beyond is certainly led by a passion for concise storytelling – a sort of literary shrapnel that one can locate somewhere between Félix Fénéon’s Novels in Three Lines, Jorge Luis Borges’s quest for resuming 700-page novels to their essential 1% and Raymond Carver’s dryness and economy in creating compelling narratives out of apparently nothing. Expectedly, concision transforms knowledge into wisdom.
Simultaneously, as experience economy takes hold in contemporary life’s many different sectors, it is only logical that we are everywhere recalling the bond of architecture and cities to storytelling. Buildings and urban settings not only offer a spatial narrative; they are also entangled within the construction of various fictions, be those personal or collective, psychological or historical.
In this context, while it primarily seeks to address the pleasure of reading, Beyond aspires also to bring to the general public some of those urban micro-narratives that, as Lyotard could have put it, now substitute for the grand, meta-narratives that steered modernity.
Pedro Gadanho, Lisbon, April 2009