“If we consume the product as product, we consume its meaning through advertising. Let us imagine for a moment modern cities stripped of all their signs, with walls bare like a guiltless conscience. And then GARAP appears. This single expression, GARAP is inscribed on all the walls: pure signifier, without a signified, signifying itself. Signified despite itself, it is consumed as sign. Advertising, like GARAP, is mass society, which, with the aid of an arbitrary and systematic sign, induces receptivity, mobilizes consciousness, and reconstitutes itself in the very process as the collective. Through advertising mass society and consumer society continuously ratify themselves.” —Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects
The Long, Slow Death of Avant-Garde Fiction
The state of popular fiction, especially mainstream “literary fiction,” in the second decade of the twentieth century is one of complacency and uniformity. It’s as though someone filtered the concept of fiction and literary fiction through a sieve, and homogeneity is all that largely remains.
Literature has struggled since the advent of movies and television, with the introduction of interactive entertainment—what some people still call videos games—and the internet. In a culture marginalizing fiction and literature, the industry is rapidly transforming into a game of monkey-see-monkey-do. In this world, the avant-garde, historically on the margins, is being further marginalized—to the detriment of our culture.
Fiction and literary fiction in this hyper-real, digital age, an age in which the line between “reality” and “simulacrum” is vanishing, suffers the same existential crisis that visual art—paintings and sculptures—suffered with the advent of the camera.
Over the past two decades, films and television, interactive entertainment and the internet have collided with the nuances of everyday life. As a culture, we’ve moved from the digital age into a sort of hyper-digital age, a period in which we’re experiencing the merger of the digital realm and the physical realm. This new period is revolutionizing the way we communicate, and consume entertainment, even more so than it did a decade or two ago. (more…)
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step into any bookstore or library and you’re bound to discover at least one book professing to be capital-t the underscored book to learn how to write a book that publishers and agents and readers and Hollywood producers and the Dalai Lama and maybe the Pope or some low-rent Mafioso will recognize and idolize and adore. Fiction, according to the reality in which these writers write, is an algorithm. Replace variables with values and, viola, book is done. Sale is imminent.
And that might work for some people. But if you have integrity, then you should buy or borrow that book, tear out each and every page, and use those pages to roll cigarettes or joints or to wipe your ass.
Inhale the words fermenting on the pages.
Or cover them with shit and piss.
Those rules are better to inhale and exhale, they’re better as permanent scars on your lungs, than they are to absorb and incorporate into your writing.
Now let’s make a distinction. Some rules are useful, such as word economics or showing in lieu of telling.
I’m talking about structure.
I’m talking about form.
I’m talking about what information is necessary, what isn’t—but I’m modifying it: ambiguity and disconnection constitute important information as well.
I’m talking about the algorithms writers and agents and editors and authors of ‘How-to’ books drill into your head.
The algorithm of fiction is what we want to avoid.
How else are we going to invent new ways of telling stories—and new ways of seeing ourselves—if we stick to the same tired rules?
Which leads to a question: How do we invent new forms of storytelling?
Which leads to Step #1:
Experiment. Break the mold. Try to write in new ways, try to shake things up—to use a cliché—try to change how sentences and paragraphs and chapters flow. Try to alter what information you find necessary and what information you don’t find necessary. (more…)
Life as an independent author is different than life as an author published by a transnational corporation. You’ll make little money and find few opportunities to travel to promote your work—and if you do, you’ll probably pay for it yourself. You’ll also see little-to-no mainstream exposure. If you’re lucky, your readers will number in the hundreds. With writers publishing more books now than ever before, thanks in large part to self-publishing, your book could disappear in a universe of white noise the moment it’s released.
If you’re not prepared for the realities of existing as an indie writer, the prospects might appear bleak. They might even thrust you into an existential crisis as they did me: I assumed my books would find readers, I assumed I was meant to write, I assumed I could focus on my writing while other people helped me along the way—and I was wrong in every case. (more…)
Writing is hard. Sometimes it’s harder and sometimes it’s easier. Putting words to paper—or producing them on screens—takes blim blam a paramanam focus and attention. Boy you don’t know nothin about anything, ya hear? Aside from the actual work, and writing requires work, you’ve got to find time and motivation, and fight voices shouting doubt and producing anxiety. All day anxiety. Fuck, what the fuck is wrong with me? Why can’t I sit down and just do something without turning it into a catastrophic, life or death scenario? Jesus.
READ READ READ
Before you attempt to write, you’d better read. A lot. Don’t read casually or for the sake of entertainment: study short stories and novels. Dissect them as you read them. Approach a novel as a mathematician might approach a seemingly unsolvable problem. Break it into parts, analyze each part, search for underlying presuppositions. Learn to clench your eyes and crack your neck and scream in tongues. You might even consider approaching text like the exhumed corpse of a flower wilting on decayed flesh. You dig? Nothing means anything and we’re all going to die. Let that sink in. But most importantly: read. No writer worth his or her or their weight in salt should choose not to read—or should forego reading texts closely. The best way to experience and understand the inner workings of a machine is to tear one apart and examine it. (more…)
Julius M. Henry.
Daulton Dickey is a nobody. No one’s interested in him. Yet he runs around the Internet begging for attention and whinging about how no one will publish his artsy-fartsy novels. In a blatant and unapologetic act of theft, I’ve decided to ripoff Kurt Vonnegut’s interview from the Paris Review and track down Daulton—spoiler: he wasn’t hard to find—to ask him questions about life, writing, philosophy, and whatever else popped into my head. Knowing Daulton, I expect pretentious answers. And bullshit—spoiler: he’s an asshole.
Daulton Dickey [DD]: So. Here we are.
Daulton Dickey [Dd]: Indeed.
DD: I wanted to start by filling the audience in on a few things.
Dd: What audience?
DD: The audience reading this.
Dd: Are you high? No one reads this.
DD: This blog has had over 18,000 views.
Dd: Maybe so, but no one’s going to read this twaddle.
DD: Let’s agree to disagree. [Pause.] Now why don’t we start by telling the audience a little something about you?
But first, a theory on branding:
The Internet, paragon of a revolution, the digital revolution, itself the beginning of a new epoch of human civilization. From online videos to on demand television, to interactive entertainment featuring photorealistic graphics and films sporting mind boggling visual effects, the digital revolution has altered entertainment. With the advent of smartphones and tablets, and innovative social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, with the advent and increasing popularity of ebooks and print on demand services, digital technology has also irrevocably changed the landscape of the written word.
It is now easier to publish a book—as an ebook or a hard copy—than ever before. In a sense, the digital epoch democratized the written word. Literary agents and New York publishing houses are no longer the sole gatekeepers; now, with the help of digital technology, the barbarians, to evoke a cliché, are at the gates, and in many cases have stormed it.
Anyone so inclined can now publish a book, and many do: by some accounts, more than 400,000 books are published annually, many by writers without agents or publishers or the help of what was once considered traditional PR and marketing firms.
But with so many people producing so many books, how does a writer distinguish him- or herself?
Branding—a concept you cannot escape, and the key to setting yourself apart from dozens, if not hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of writers.
When we hear the word “Branding,” we might imagine Coca Cola or Apple or another corporation whose logos and slogans, images and products permeate our culture. And we wouldn’t be wrong. In a sense, to brand is to imprint a specific company or property or product onto the brains of a consumer.