Diving for Cover: Why Fiction Blogs Are So Scarce

30 07 2007

Having put myself on this beat a while ago now, I’ve sort of gotten used to being the only one doing it. I’ve also begun to accept the fact that, much to my surprise and even chagrin, blogs with literary intent haven’t blossomed and spread in anything like the profusion I expected. Indeed, in the past couple of years we seem to have lost more than we’ve gained. I’ve been able to find even fewer active lit blogs than I could three years ago when they seemed to be everywhere and about to explode into an important segment of the blogosphere.

I’m not sure why this is. Blogs are just another form, not inherently hostile to literary aspirations as Dan Roentsch has certainly proved. Yet his is the only fiction blog that aspires to the form that I’ve found and one of the very few still active that continues to attract a large readership. In the beginning I put it down to blogging’s newness, assuming that lots of comic and fiction writers just didn’t know about it yet. But three years have passed since I started doing this and everybody now knows what blogs are even if they don’t read them, so ignorance is no longer an excuse.

Is there something about the form that turns writers off? Hardly possible. I used to edit a small lit zine back in the day and even though we paid nothing, were expressly looking for off-track stories, and had at our height fewer than 300 subscribers, we received hundreds of submissions a month. Most were over-written but many were short-shorts, little more than prose poems. Larger zines got thousands of submissions a month, were literally buried under them to the point that they had to declare a moratorium, sending manuscripts back unopened for 6 months out of the year. You’d think such a rich and varied subculture, frustrated by standard publishing mechanisms, would have gravitated to self-publishing – which is, after all, what blogging is all about – in droves. Yet it hasn’t happened.

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Catching Up 2 – The Journals

10 06 2007

Of the folks still working at the old stand, some have improved, some have deteriorated, and some are, well, exactly what they’ve always been.

In the first category is Jen Balderama of Nonsense Verse (original review is here). Although she doesn’t post often, when she does she rarely misses. Her writing has deepened significantly in the past couple of years it seems to me. This is from a post about writing.

[F]or those who have fallen in love with an art, walking away, or being forced away, creates an irreparable wound, not unlike that of the amputee haunted by phantom pain. The limb is gone, and the amputee, no matter the prosthetics applied, will never be what she once was: whole. The artist severed from her art may not suffer in the same physical sense, the pain may not be located in a specific place, but the ghostly ache is there and always will be.

This all may sound overly dramatic, and yet, the comparison is apt if one is to comprehend the difficulty with which the artist, having lost one art, can even begin to consider picking up and moving on to the next. The artist is haunted by pain.

Indeed. I don’t have her chops but I’ve been writing since I learned how, and there was a period when I quit for 20 years. I couldn’t sell anything, nobody but me seemed to like to read what I was writing, and my relationships were all endangered by the time I gave to it. What’s the point? I asked myself, and answer came there none, so I just…stopped. For the next two decades I felt just the way she described – as if a part of my body was missing. It took me years to figure out why I was so miserable, and at that point I frankly didn’t care if I never sold a damn thing. I just wanted the pain to stop.

And it did. For a real writer (as opposed to an “author”), no matter how hard it is to write, not writing is harder and more painful. Her post catches beautifully the cast of mind, the shifts of allegiance, the doubts and the devils. It’s all there, it’s all true, and she manages to describe it without whining or complaint. Now that’s talent.

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Catching Up – The Comics

5 06 2007

As has become our habit when we re-animate LitBlogs yet again (monotonous, isn’t it?), we will begin our newest round of documenting literary blogs by returning to the sites we’ve already reviewed and marking any changes. And believe me, have there been changes. Some are wonderful, even inspiring. Others are downright depressing.

Like the number of brilliant bloggers we’ve lost in this past year. The comic blogosphere has been particularly hard-hit. Two of the three funniest net-exclusive bloggers have vanished without a trace.

Chris, who was responsible for the satiric genius and laff-out-loud gut-busting of the Fafblog!, hasn’t written a post since July of ’06. That doesn’t mean he and his crew of space-light alien-cookies won’t be back at some point – after all, if Shakespeare can return (more later), there’s hope for everybody – but it’s not looking good. One longs to hear Giblets defend Libby while Fafnir taste-tests various PopTart frostings and then goes into paroxysms of delight over the comparatively high food-value of the cardboard container they came in. Brad Delong called Fafblog! a “national treasure” and somebody has clearly looted it. (Now, who could that be?)

Admittedly a poor second but amusing in its own right for totally different reasons is an homage blog – no, I’m not kidding – called I Miss fafblog, Spot! by a group of otherwise-bloggers who have appropriated fafblog‘s template in toto and attempted to foist upon it their own version of wit. Sometimes it works…and sometimes it doesn’t. From a post of “awards” for – well, I’m not exactly sure what they’re for.

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Don’t Reject rejectomorph

31 05 2007

(First published Aug 21, ’05)
rejectomorph is the baby of one ‘flying_blind’ (otherwise known as ‘Joe’). A personal journal-type blog, rejectomorph is all but free of posts about politics or world events or sports, but it also doesn’t descend to the all-too-common depths of ‘I got up this morning and had eggs for breakfast’ personal blogging that clogs a reader’s arteries as surely as the writer is clogging his/her own. When he wants to, Joe has a wicked sense of humor expressed in a laid-back, ‘I’m having fun with this and I don’t care who knows it’ way that can be absolutely charming. Witness his info page, wherein he explains what his journal is about and why the identity of the person who used to have it (Joe’s alter-ego, ‘Sluggo’) is still active.

Bio: Well look at this. I’ve had the new computer for several months, and I still haven’t gotten around to getting rid of Sluggo’s message here. Now that it comes down to it, I’m reluctant to make it go away. Sluggo himself hasn’t gone away, either. He’s still over there in his corner. I fire him up once in a while, when it’s cold enough. True, he may be the most evil of computers, but I still have hope for his redemption. If I replace his overheating AMD CPU, he might still be a serviceable backup machine. Besides, if I have him destroyed, his ghost might return from the digital beyond and haunt me. I think I’ll let both Sluggo and his rude words stay for a while:

Hello. I’m Sluggo “Crasher” Frankenclone, the computer assigned to destroy the bio-unit known variously as “flying_blind,” “rejectomorph,” or “Joe.” (Hah! Like that last one is a real name!) So far, I’d say I’m doing a pretty good job. I have increased his blood pressure at least 30%, caused him to lose a great deal of sleep, which makes his judgement even poorer that it was before I arrived, and I’m pretty sure he is developing ulcers.

If all goes well (and how could it not, given my natural superiority,) he will soon be losing his hair (disgusting stuff,) developing carpel tunnel syndrome from his vain attempts to control me through my keyboard, suffer diminished eyesight from staring at my screen, and endure frequent hallucinations which, eventually, will drive him to indulge in self-destructive behavior. Yes, all is going according to the great plan.

Hail Gates!

-Sluggo.

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outafocus isn’t

30 05 2007

 

(First published April 6. ’05)

California photographer Susan Burnstine’s photoblog, outafocus, is uniquely intriguing. Susan has a real feel for the different characters of various types of cameras and the kinds of pictures they take. Unlike other photoblogs which are catalogued by types of pictures or the dates the pictures were taken, Susan has built galleries around which kind of camera she used. From a Mamiya 645 medium format to the infamous Diana ‘toy’ cameras with plastic lenses (of which she owns many – so many, in fact, that this week she’ll be raffling off three of them), each gallery has a separate identity and its own individual look.

But the Dianas are by far her favorite. Of the 60 photographs currently living in her galleries, more than half -33 – were taken with a Diana. The soft plastic lens tends to blur the picture, and Susan uses that hazy blur to produce photos that seem to have been taken of a dream or a memory.

Pictures like this (‘In the Distance’) have an unreal reality, or perhaps a real unreality, that – a bit like those dark adult comic books, Sin City, say – belongs to a world similar to the one we live in but slightly skewed, softer around even its harder edges than the one we live in, a world where memories are stripped to their essence. The form of the man in the picture above isn’t the form of a specific man but of generic man, of Man sitting by the vastness of an ocean, dreaming. Dreaming of what? Perhaps everything, perhaps nothing, perhaps both at once. It’s an iconic photograph, out of time or real space, of an alternate universe parallel to our own. We recognize it, alright, but why?

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Raymi the Minx

29 05 2007

(Originally published Feb 21, ’05)

minx: (mingks) n., a cheeky or mischievous girl
–The Oxford American Dictionary

And Raymi the Minx is all of that. While you’re at it, you can add irreverent, scatological, self-obsessed, insecure, arrogant, discumbobulated, opinionated, compassionate, intense, distant, exhibitionist, funny, hip and clueless, sometimes all at once. That will do for a start, but understand: it’s just a start. Raymi is one complicated individual, but then so aren’t we all, and isn’t that the point?

Raymi’s blog, which today is called either soon i will hit the ground and explode or when the peanuts wept (she changes the title several times a week and the title on the banner is often different from the title rendered by your browser), is a Mulligan’s Stew of stream-of-conscienceness patter that veers from the unexceptional to the trivial to the poetic, post-to-post. Raymi writes about everything and nothing in a semi-free-form ramble that sometimes sounds like Kerouac on crack and at other times like a whiny teenager afflicted with petty obsessions and neural diarrhea. That most of it is tongue-in-cheek, so to speak, saves the worst of it from maudlin excess and lifts the best of it into Walt Whitman/Charles Bukowski-Land, where it twinkles like a pearl necklace in a junkyard. Read the rest of this entry »





LumpenBlog Redux: The Saga Concludes

28 05 2007

(First published Feb 16, ’05)

This is the new home of LitBlogs. Welcome to a new season of finding interesting stuff. I know this idea has been asleep for awhile and I don’t honestly know how long it will stay awake, but for as long as I can keep it up, I’ll bring you new and not-so-new sites that are playing with the blog as art form.

To start with, the impetus for reviving LitBlogs is the news that Dan Roentsch has brought the current LumpenBlog storyline to a, well, startling and hilarious conclusion. A conclusion that includes a blimp–yes, blimp is what I said and blimp is what I meant–and the mysterious Mickey Snaketail. I won’t give it away, but it seems Nefertiti Snorkjutt and Desmond Cork have hunted down the infamous Bruce and Lola (otherwise known as the Babecat) with the help of a team of detectives and the two of them are, um, rocking a, well, dumpster.

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