10 July 2006

Lightness & Dark: The Beacon of the Online Journal

A while back, Lance and others addressed "dark signs for adventurous prose." Yes, many an indie bookstore has fallen in the violent wake of corporate hurricanes, and of course the big (commericial) publishing companies are generally looking for NOVELS that mimic mainstream television taste (sitcoms, crimes, domestic horror shows, idiotic urban romances, suburban nymphomania, celebrity divorces, coming of age tales, etc. etc.): easy watching, easy listening, easy drive-by thinking for people without time time time in a culture that doesn't put a premium on the nurturation/maturation of the creative imagination and the beauty of language and thoughtfulness (see eg: Memory of the Writing - July 7th entry in Daniel Green's blog).

And naturally, surprise of surprises -- established publications bearing the weight of authority (eg New Yorker & NYT) hardly promote what most if not all of us would call "outstream" writers. If the prose (correction – STORY) doesn't have an obvious plot and doesn't make people cry or laugh out loud, or at least want to commit suicide or join AA or come to a totally awesomely inspired realization about free will and/or a god or the redeeming power of LOVE and/or FAMILY, it won't grab people's attention and it won't sell. Period. Unless you happen to be famous and can therefore get away with anything -- well, almost.

So, what's the poor, giddily adventuresome writer to do, aside from submitting her/his crazies to the many wonderful, burgeoning innovative small presses, hoping to get a few reviews and features at readings? How does the outstream writer get ATTENTION? (see ATTENTION)
MOMMY!!! MOMMY!!! LOOK NO PLOT!!! What did the little lady in blue say? An agent? You must be joking!

Yes, agreed that litblogs & related creatures have a great poetential to bring writers of offbeat prose together to commiserate, promulgate, vitiate, eviscerate, promote, exuberate, excoriate and even DEMONSTRATE by means of posting writings, including ongoing solo "experimental" works and (I'd love to see more of this) dynamic collaborative/interactive projects, accompanied ideally by visual and audio delights (eg FLYING PUPPET -- the Europeans seem to be beating the Americans in the Experimental Multimedia Cup). Yes, we here and in our own blogs can post reviews and event announcements. We can increase the girth of our literary ellipses beyond our immediate environments, academic and otherwise. We can and do make connections, find new friends, build communities. The Internets [sick] are [sic] the vehicle (oh dear, this sentence a mess is) for boundless multimedia creative projects and limitless gleeful and cantankerous artful interactions, and endless discussions about who's who and who's doing what and the what is and isn't the state of contemporary and "postmodern" literature and post-postmodern literature and neo-con literature and its impact or not on our culture and vice versa, and maybe an occasional non-writer will pop by, and it's all fascinating and elucidating and of course educational, BUT BUT…

Oh yes… there's the e-book as well. I can't tell you what I think of where it's going to go. Will it come with audio and visuals of superior quality? If not, what's the big fuss? Oh yes, accessibility. Hard to argue with that. Democracy, as long as the monopolies aren't allowed to charge us for every click. So forget Democracy if the corporate shit hits the fans -- if you don't know about Save the Internet, get thee to GBay. But do I personally speaking moi-meme really want my gorgeous words accessible solely in "book" form, without "gorgeous" visuals (maybe animations) with creative audio maneuvers? Not multimedia-oriented I! Horreurs! I want the Internets to give me and my readers and listeners what the Internets can offer, no holds barred. Otherwise, maybe someday I can coerce someone into producing a visually gorgeous print version of my works with an accompanying DVD, a book I can display on my coffee table and carry about to readings. I want animations, music and recited recordings --- everything we haven't had all these centuries.

Now here comes this, something obvious. I am happy to announce (in case anyone's been sleepwalking) the creeping ascension of the Internet literary-multimedia zine in the history of this ravaged planet. YOOWHO! (and Yahoo). There are THOUSANDS of them things, no doubt at least one born a day. Now anyone can be published – not in the big prestigious print mags, of course (sigh), and not in la crème de la crème (hideous expression) of the online zines, like maybe "Narrative." But in cyberspace, there's a mag for everyone, all over the globe, and the published author is read by people all over the globe, which is kinda cool. Is easy publication a good thing or a bad thing? I'll leave that to another discussion, if anyone wants to address the issue. I mean, it's kinda like the music business where every other kid becomes a hip hop star in his or her own head and sometimes in a few other heads. And that can make the kid either extremely hiphappy leading to ego-strength, or ridden with ultimately self-destructive delusions of grandeur and destined for a crash.

My point is that online literary journals are obvious vehicles for spreading the gospel of exploratory prose, which encompasses exploratory thinking. (For me, it's a given that such prose mirror, in some recognizable though fresh shape or form, the frightening ugliness of the culture from which we and our writing spring.) Yes, there are thousands of onliners, but most of the well known ones, like the vast majority of print mags, are not open to exploratory prose, unless the author has a name. It's difficult for fledgings of an innovative and rebellious nature to figure out who's going to "get" what s/he's doing. Like persistently relative newbie me. In a fit of lunacy (induced by cheap vodka), I once submitted a prosetry trilogy to one of biggies. Here's the letter I got: "Thanks for sending your work to the …. .Interesting stuff, but a little avant-garde for our taste. Good luck with it."

Hmm. Have you ever noticed that while quite a few of the magazines (mostly those affiliated in with academic institutions) say they want "innovative" work, they don't actually publish it, unless it's by a well-known author or otherwise maybe a relative or lover of one of the editors, not to mention by one of the students? Okay, I'm speculating.

So… Here's my premise. Quality online magazines are going to rise in prominence and gain the respect that quality print magazines have. Selby's List contains well, a list of most mags (online and off) that consider themselves open to "experimental" literature. But many of these mags only publish poetry (you know, poems with stanzas, whether they're language poems or not), and many others are mixed breeds searching for identities. Mags like Black Ice and Exquisite Corpse seem to be in perpetual comas. 3rd Bed went under. Other outstreamy net journals come and go, often arriving as soon as the editor or editors have emerged from offbeat MFA programs (eg Naropa), proudly bearing great youthful hopes of creating the most significant avant-garde mag in cyber space. Quite a few mags are borne on the shoulders of prominent, or at least frequently published writers whose names entice other prominent writers to submit (like hey dude, our editor used to edit [fill in name of big name print mag] & we got all this big GUYS subbing & all the right people are reading us). But are they big OUTSTREAMY guys?

Here's my proposition. Maybe it's going to sound like self-promotion, but I hope you grasp that what I'm saying is beyond that. It's about what we can do with the language (whether it be so-called "innovative" or "non-linear" or "post postmodern" or not, via Internet journals, and what we can do via cyberspace, in terms of experimenting with audios and visuals to our hearts' and minds' content. E.g., see Davis Schneiderman's writings, with audio and video, in the current issue of my multimedia/lit mag Mad Hatters' Review. See also Canadian Professor Don Bergland's wonderful multimedia project, accessible to all readers with a sense of humor: Bergland. In our next issue, you'll be treated to a lovely piece by Debra Di Blasi , accompanied by our visuals and her own unique and of course very appropriate audio treatment (voice and more).

What I'm saying bottom line is that the independent, alternative presses (like those listed here) are absolutely essential and fabulous, but so are journals, particularly online journals capable of providing audios and visuals to readers and listeners who can't afford subscriptions to more than a handful of print magazines, with or without visuals and cds/dvds (eg, Rattapallax). What we should be looking at is ACCESSIBILITY. What we should be doing is supporting and promoting online journals with vision. So yes, I want everyone here to submit to my magazine and/or others with vision. Go ahead and spread yourselves all over the world, via cyberspace, like Better than Butter but Better.

Do I think that most people are going to read these journals and that sociopolitical transformation will occur as a result of our efforts (yes, I do believe that progressive literary journals must address the unheeded, desperate needs of human beings, and yes, everything is "political" because we're all products of our "environment," in all senses of that word)? No. But let's do what we can do, with passionate commitment.

And good night, little redheads.