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Monday, July 27, 2009

Get Plugged In

Maybe this is what you've been waiting for: a revolutionary voice that rises from the ashes of old media uniting the new realities of design and distribution without abandoning stories or the idea of literature as important. The savior you've prayed for, watching print publishing hemmorage and slowly slide off a cliff. It has finally arrived at Electric Literature, wearing a hospital gown and smoking a big cigar. And leering a little bit.

The mating between the faithful dog of literary tradition and the back alley mutt of New Media has finally happened, and oh how it howls. The web design is a hard clean slap in the face, especially to the staid, over-earnest camp over at McSweeney’s. Not a serif font to be had. I’ve been slowly working my way through the site, marveling all the while that this is a website for serious literature.

And when talking about how to read it, it’s easier to say how it isn’t available. Paperback, Kindle, iPhone application are all covered, and priced according to the media. Once you’re inside an issue, the stories you get are not the editor's friends or the guy who lives across the street. They are by authors like Michael Cunningham and Jim Shepard and grab you with the first line and don’t let go.

Which is what they are looking for, by the way. The submission guidelines are the real example of the how they are changing the mindset about literature and what it means. As follows from their website:

No Submission Fees
We pay writers, they don't pay us. We are proud to support writers who entrust us with their work.

No Contests
Every other month, we select five stories for publication. Each writer receives $1,000. This is a payment, not a prize. We value writing, we know how hard it is, and we believe writers are entitled to fair compensation.

No Cover Letters
We don't need to see your resume. All we care about is the story.

Grab Us
We are looking for work with a strong voice which hooks us in the first paragraph and doesn't let go until the final sentence.

They don’t want a cover letter. The first sentence flies in the face of Narrative Magazine, that other online experiment, and their reading fees. And look at their payment scale. A thousand dollars? And no contests. It’s no contest for me, either. I just found a voice that gives me hope for the future of literary magazines.

1 comment:

Beth Staples said...

I guess I'm not sure - outside of the iPhone app - what exactly is so revolutionary about this. Doesn't Subtropics pay $1000 per story? This is certainly not the first journal to come up with ebook and Kindle versions. And a magazine run and supported entirely by men whose ad campaign puts women in ridiculous (sexy?) positions. A woman with a cigar in her mouth? Um, really?

I just wanted to provide some counterpoints. If the fiction is good, great. But a lot of lit journals have been committed to publishing great fiction for a really long time. Just saying.