What the hell is PJF?

28 January 1997

Brust sometimes signs himself PJF on his title pages, and Paarfi confronted him about it in the end of Five Hundred Years After to no avail. The Internet has come to our rescue here. It stands for "Pre-Joycean Fellowship" and was mostly a joke. The rationale was that Joyce was seen as a divider between the modern age of distinctions between "fiction" and "literature" and the good old days (like Shakespeare) when art and good stories were not supposedly considered separate. There were also deliberate echoes of the Pre-Raphaelite Fellowship. It's real reason has been given as an excuse for the authors to get together and chat and drink.

The other people in PJF are Pamela Dean, Kara Dalkey, Adam Stemple, Emma Bull, William Shetterly, Neil Gaiman and Jane Yolen. Roger Zelazny was a member, but he's dead.

Another PJF page.

Brust himself on PJF:

The best explanation for the Fellowship is: We exist to poke fun at the excesses of modern literature, while simultaneously mining it for everything of value.

The "straight-forward storytelling" idea is a bit over-simplified. Hell, my hero is Roger Zelazny.

On the other hand, as someone said, it is in large part a joke, and in another large part a way to start literary arguments.

Will Shetterly on PJF:

Newsgroups: rec.arts.sf.written
From: shetterl@maroon.tc.umn.edu (Will Shetterly)
Subject: Re: Steven K. Z. Brust, PJF
Organization: University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Date: Sat, 5 Aug 1995 19:07:08 GMT

In article <3vv0bu$krl@interport.net>, pnh@tor.com (P Nielsen Hayden) wrote:

> JEMEVANS@ELECTRICAL.watstar.uwaterloo.ca (Jon Evans) writes:
> >I suspect (without a single shrill iota of evidence, I might 
> >add) that Mr. Brust and company are using Joyce as the dividing point where 
> >academics ceased paying attention to the-novel-as-story and started paying 
> >attention to the-novel-as-text.
> This tends to run aground on the fact that Joyce wasn't an "academic."

I keep fighting the impulse to discuss this semi-seriously. I think I've
lost. Unfortunately, I wrote a couple of messages which I discarded and a
couple which I posted, and I can't remember what was in which. So here's
the very latest attempt at the full history of the PJF:

I may be wrong, but I believe the name was my invention. It was primarily
a joke inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. A number of us were
fond of talking about how frustrating it is that bookstores, academics,
and readers have a tendency to divide stories into the categories of
fiction and literature, or story and art, or fun and serious work. We like
the stuff that does both, like (everyone's favorite, especially Pamela
Dean's) Shakespeare, who includes fart jokes for the rich and powerful and
poetry for the people (and vice versa, of course). We tended to think this
tendency to contentedly divide writing into two camps blossomed after
Joyce, whose work has a great deal for the educated reader, but can be
rather frustrating for the ignorant one. Keep in mind that when I either
created or agreed to the title of PJF, I did that as someone who likes
Joyce's writing a great deal (I haven't tried Finnegan's Wake, and am in
no hurry to do so). In retrospect, it might've been better to use James
than Joyce, or it might've been better to accept the label of
"post-modern," which describes our intentions as well as any label.  But
also keep in mind that this was never meant to be a serious movement; it
was an excuse for a few friends to get together and argue about books. We
only succeeded in having one meeting at a bar, where we had fun but didn't
really talk about books much, and then it would've all been forgotten if
Steve hadn't decided to put "PJF" after his name on one of his books, just
as some of the PRB did when signing their paintings. So it's an
accidentally serious group that's still primarily a joke.

Out of curiosity, are you saying Joyce wasn't an academic because he's
primarily known as an artist?

Will Shetterly

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