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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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!


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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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I am Eating My Husband’s Soul: Rank, Rude, and Hysterically Funny

6 08 2004

eRobin at Fact-esque turned me on to this one, and after reading it I have to wonder–was she trying to tell me something?

I am Eating My Husband’s Soul…and it isn’t my first–one of the great blog-titles of all time–is rude, raucous, scatalogical, and unrepentant about any or all of it. Think Erma Bombeck meets Tank Girl. Katy, the author, goes out on limbs I never knew existed and then uses them as platforms from which to launch water balloons filled with–well, NOT water. Or, you might say, water filtered through the human body. OK? And she wants to do it when you’re looking up–straight at her. And she gets away with it.

‘Eating My Husband’s Soul’ can be hysterically funny even as it challenges the whole notion of laughter–what it is, why we do it, and the kinds of things that provoke it. By rights, a lot of what she writes shouldn’t be funny; at least, you wonder why you’re laughing even as you’re rolling on the carpet ruining your new sweater with fur-balls and cat hair. I hope this is fiction–in fact, I’m putting it in the fiction category because I just can’t believe shit like this actually happened: it’s the 4th of July and the fireworks are about to start….

I had distinctly told Eric that I wanted this 4th of July to be Traditional: Only people we barely knew, especially from envious or hostile foreign countries. I invited all Jesus’ family and friends from Mexico, the Canadian family from down the street, and anyone browner than I like my toast with an accent. Sadly, we ended up with a yard crawling with Basques and their large entourage. Still, we didn’t know them and my dogs and I are truly sheep enthusiasts, so we had much in common.

The highlight was literally moments away, when we’d begin lighting fireworks.Eric doesn’t like his parents to see him naked with sparklers up his ass. Never has.

“NO, katy!” he pleaded.

The Canadian said, “I’ll do it! I don’t mind!”

“Sorry, this is an AMERICAN holiday, David.” I told him, not breaking eye contact with Eric who continued to back away.

“Katy! No! I’m Serious!” he hissed.

“Do you think the Native Americans wanted what they got?” I asked him, unwrapping a box of extra long burning Sparkle Plentys; some cones, a few fountains.

The Canadian was beside himself with envy. “He doesn’t want to, though. I’m fine with it. I’ve lived in the states for 10 years now…”

“How about the buffalo? And Malibu Stacy?” I said to Eric.

I softly approached him, speaking in soothing tones, Pablo’s peppy accordion backing me up.

Eric tried to run, but he fell over the drunken sheep and Basque, landing with his perfect round rump in the air atop the pile.

I placed the Indian Uprising Rocket and the Freedom Fountain gently in between his unfortunately hairy butt cheeks and lit them.

What transpired for the next 60 seconds was truly breathtaking, followed by 5-10 minutes of jaw-dropping action.

Who could have predicted that “36 whistling whirl comets, aerial spinners and crackling colored pearls all flying like arrows towards the heavens” would meet up with gas from that sluggish burrito Eric had for dinner and start a war for independence that this time would not be won until David came to the rescue with my soaker hose. Slow but effective, the flames died down and left us all in silent reflection.

This has to be fiction. Doesn’t it?

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Fafblog! – Insanity With a Purpose

2 08 2004

I first heard of Fafblog a few weeks ago when Jeff at Notes on the Atrocities featured it as his ‘Daily Link’. He called it the funniest blog he had ever read, which is a challenge, as far as I’m concerned. The funniest? Funnier than The Mermaid Tavern? That was hard to believe, so of course I had to check it out so I could call him on it when he proved to be wrong. Only I couldn’t because he wasn’t.

If The Mermaid Tavern is Benchley, Fafblog is the Marx Brothers. There’s even three of them: Fafnir, named after one of the giants in The Ring of the Nibelungen, is the confused, muddled, inoffensive Everyman who can barely remember who he is most of the time and who seems to face existence as if he were its mirror, reflecting back anything that chances to stand in front of him; Giblets is Fafnir’s feisty, combative, antipodean alter-ego who sees life as a war you can only win if you’re on the right side to begin with and who approaches that war with all the subtlety of a demanding 2-year-old in mid-tantrum; and The Medium Lobster, who is described on the sidebar as ‘a higher being with superior knowledge from beyond space and time. To your limited perception, he appears to be just another medium lobster. To your limited perception’ but rarely appears these days. If he is such a superior being, he probably has better things to do with his time, knowing full well that trying to straighten out one of these two, never mind both, would be a monumental waste of it–and a criminal act besides. After all, sanity isn’t nearly as funny.

In the same way that the Marx Brothers brought silliness-for-its-own-sake to movies and then, in their best, turned it to the service of satire, Fafblog is part inspired insanity with no other apparent purpose and part political skewering from which no one, least of all them, is safe. Here they are blogging from the convention floor in Boston right after Kerry’s speech.

Well here we are live speech bloggin again. Just like last time I will talk in regular talk an Giblets will talk in italics talk.Wow what a reception with the clappin. First of all what do you think of the music Giblets? I know it goes with the Vietnam theme but is “Holiday in Cambodia” inappropriate?

No Fafnir “Holiday in Cambodia” is not inappropriate. It is approriate cause it rocks.

Also you will recall that a number of people suggested Kerry make reference to Ronald Reagan in this speech an this is the first allusion. Remember that in 1980 Reagan walked out to the Dead Kennedy’s “Kill the Poor.”

Very true Giblets very true. Now I like this autobiographical stuff about goin over to East Germany on his bike an attackin the Nazis with it as a kid.

Yeah it’s a little slice of life you dont get that often.

“We have it in our power to change the world but only if we hold true to our ideals.” That is an excellent phrase. An excellent powerful beautiful phrase.

Especially when he finishes it with “with thousands of mighty robots.” Plus it illuminates a lotta his foreign policy which a lot of voters have been waitin for.

Yes I am glad to see him get into the nitty-gritty of things. The mighty robots initiative seems like an amazin plan an I have no idea why nobody even thought of it before! They should be able to take care of terror AND supply universal health coverage all at once!

He’s talkin about “I know what its like to walk around with an M-16 etc.” I dont get it, is Kerry a big NRA freak or a gun collector or something?

No he was in Vietnam.

Really? Wow. Giblets had no idea. You’d think theyd play that up more.

Malapropisms, misunderstandings, and mayhem–it’s all there, the MB staples, plus a healthy dose of cluelessness and an unerring instinct for ‘accidentally’ hitting below the belt. Read the rest of this entry »

Maine Line: A Journal We Can Relate To

8 07 2004

Maine Line (I know, bad title) is brand new–only a month or so old–and written by a guy in north-central Maine named Emmett who says it’s a summer project for his creative writing class. It’s a public blog, though, either because he didn’t know how to make it private or because he didn’t give a damn if it was or not. I’m guessing the latter because that’s what kind of guy he is.

Emmett is in his 30’s and just decided to go back to school (an inheritance made it possible).

See, Aunt Flo allowed for 5 years to get my degree (she knew how slow I am, she used to say, “Emmett–” that’s my name– “Emmett, you got a mouth like a rusty gate hinge, always swingin’ back and forth, back and forth, despite all efforts to keep it shut, but for all the yappin’ you do, you ain’t got a helluva lot to say that’s worth stayin’ awake long enough to hear it. You got a underdeveloped mind, boy, like a green tomato, and while green tomatoes is good for cannin’ piccalilli, it’s useless on a growed man.” She talked like that, my Aunt Flo did, and I’m not saying she was wrong. She was a smart old fart, my Aunt Flo)….

In true Maine style, since the inheritance allowed $15K/yr for school tuition, he signed up with an online university (he doesn’t say which one) for $5K/yr and he’s living off the rest as a sort of semi-permanent paid vacation, though it seems he has to buy books for his classes. Here he is on re-reading The Great Gatsby for his English class.

I had to read The Great Gatsby in school and I thought that had to be just about one of the dumbest books I ever read in my life, and what was the big deal with the damn lamp on the dock? Hell, every dock has some kinda light because otherwise you’ll smack your boat right into the damn thing at night because you can’t see what you’re doing. I was kinda literal when I was in high school, I guess, like them people in church who think Jonah actually got swallowed by a whale and lived to tell about it. I’ve seen whales, brother, up close, and if that ain’t the grandaddy of all fish stories, I don’t know what is. You go down a whale’s gullet, you’re gonna last about long enough to think, “Damn, I’m in a whale’s gullet,” and that’ll be it for you, pal. But this time, I don’t know, it made more sense to me. Like the light meant more than it was just a light. Something. I wasn’t sure what but it seemed like that light stood in for everything he ever wanted, everything he ever dreamed about when he was hustling the streets for the mooch to buy his way into “society”. I know about that dream, we all have it when we’re young, and the poorer you are the bigger that dream gets.

The whole blog is like that, a mix of intentional–and unintentional–jokes and the first stirrings of legitimate thought. Read the rest of this entry »

Literary Blogs & LumpenBlog Review

7 07 2004

A new wave of bloggers is starting to turn the blog into an art form of its own. What was once reserved for political and social commentary, personal diaries, and self-indulgent rants has begun to attract people with real talent who are using the blog as a creative device.

The first of these I noticed (and still, to my mind, the best of them) was indiejade’s The Mermaid Tavern. What attracted me about it, besides the fact that it was hysterically funny, was that indiejade had taken the personal blog to a different level by inventing a character of sorts–‘the philosofairy’–and translating the small observations and events of–presumably–her life into Benchley-esque stories that reached out to connect indiejade’s everyday reality to everybody’s everyday reality. I’d never read anything quite like it and it opened my mind to new possibilities for the way blogs could be used.

Shortly after that I ran into Dan Roentsch’s Lumpen Blog, a much more straightforward, almost old style fictive invention shoe-horned into a blog format. Dan took the concept of the group blog and created a cast of characters for his bloggers: there are three of them and they all work as professors at the entirely (one hopes) imaginary Belverton University as well as being the editorial staff of the university publishing house, the BelvU Press.

LumpenBlog may be the earliest example of this fictive use of the blog format–he started his in January ’03 and I haven’t been able to find one older–and thus Roentsch its inventor–but he’s no longer the only one. LumpenBlog seems to have spawned a few spin-offs. Or maybe there was something in the air and everybody got similar ideas at the same time.

However it happened, something brand new has been added to blogging–a whole genre devoted to what I must call (“I must! I must!” [Cleavon Little, Blazing Saddles]) blog-fiction, or, more pretentiously, the literary blog. This site will be devoted to finding, reviewing, and spreading the word on this new literary field. We’re going to start gathering a collection of these lit-blogs in one convenient place especially for fans of fiction and good wrting. If we find good journal sites which are non-fiction but well-written and we think would be interesting to a wider audience than the blogger’s immediate friends and family, we’ll include those, too. We may even re-print a particularly well-written essay from a political or cultural blog from time-to-time.

In other words, the emphasis here is on good writing. Read the rest of this entry »