Saturday, October 24, 2009

The future... and people far more talented than me

Since my last post was self-indulgent and nostalgic, I thought I'd flip the script this week and focus on the future and other people who are far more talented than me.

You see, the most fascinating thing that has happened since I began e-publishing my own stories is discovering the mad, brilliant, beautiful, and quirky works of other e-published authors.  If uncovered so much that I wanted to read that I finally bit the bullet and bought an e-book reader (Sony PRS-300, if you're interested).  Honestly, I've read more in the last month or so since owning the e-reader than I have probably in the last year, possibly two.

There are two things that I love about reading e-published authors:

1. The raw, DIY aesthetic creates works that are truly personal; they look, feel, and even smell completely sincere.  Yes, they can be a little rough and unpolished.  Sure, there are typos.  But it's refreshing to read something that hasn't been processed, pasteurized, and artificially sweetened by the traditional publishing assembly line.

2. E-published authors (or at least the best among them) aren't afraid to explore and experiment with the applications of the new media.  They give away free downloads.  They encourage you to read their work on cell phones. 

Enough blathering, here are some examples, a few of my favorite e-published authors who are getting it right:

Ni┼╝ej Podpisany / Nick Name

Nick Name is self-styled "writer 2.0" from Poland who has a collection of tech-absurd flash fiction called Password Incorrect.  You can download the free e-book at Feedbooks.

What I love about his stories is the nuanced, sophisticated relationship presented between human beings and technology, which is often belied by the absurdity of the humor.   He seems to present technology not as a boogey-man, but rather as the tools human beings create to fill real needs, whether they be emotional, spiritual, sexual, etc.  The problem, of course, arises from humans' preternatural abilities to epically fuck up even the best intentions.

Beyond his writings, however, he is also one of the people most aggressively innovative e-publishers and e-book evangelists out there.

#hashtagstory is a literary project he runs through his Twitter account (@namenick) that I saw described as Burroughs-esque cut-up for the web 2.0 era.  The idea is to take the most popular "trending topics" from Twitter and re-arrange them into a single tweet-length micro-fiction.

He also runs a blog where he shares e-book and e-publishing news as well as tips for budding authors like tutorials on turning your literary tweets into an e-book and gives away free e-book cover designs under a Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike license.

One of his most recent ideas, which I am thinking about "borrowing", is creating a mobile-friendly site for his short stories, so readers can access them on any cell phone, smart phone, or other mobile device.

Year Zero Writers

Year Zero is a collective of independent writers who pool their resources to cross-promote each others' work, and since they started up they have been literally everywhere on the internet.  Which is a great idea, but what really matters is how good - and I mean, really fucking good - their work is.

Each writer had their own unique thematic focus and style, but they all share a tendency toward gritty, hard-edged urban realism.  Theirs are stories about artists, junkies, seekers, and other imperfect souls who stay out too late, wake up with morning-after regrets, dig themselves in too deep - in short, people like the rest of us.

A good place to start, if you're interested, is the anthology Brief Objects of Beauty & Despair, which was my introduction to them.  It's available for free on Smashwords.

They also have a blog, to which the various members contribute flash fiction, bios, and assorted thoughts on literature and self-publishing.

But what does it all mean?

Okay so I plugged a few deserving authors, but what's my real point?  It had something to do with the future, right?

So the point is this: e-books as an art-form/medium are at a really exciting place right now.  On the one hand, almost any one can do it.  It's like punk rock - all you need is a little time, a little talent, and a lot of drive. 

On the other hand, the world-at-large still views it as more or less a ghetto, creativity wise.  It's hard for big media to control, even harder to monetize, and there are too many DIY-ers in the neighborhood driving the property values down.  So as an e-book writer, you can do whatever you want, because there's no one with a financial stake in reigning in your creative control.  Unlike film, there's no investor whose sunk millions into production and marketing who wants to make sure you'll play to the right demographics.  Unlike major publishing, there's no vulture circling overhead, hoping to turn you into the next sexy teenage vampires franchise or perennial Oprah pick.

We are where comic books used to be before Hollywood's mad dash to turn anything with 32 pages and a couple staples through the middle into a summer blockbuster.  We are Sub Pop/Seattle before Nevermind.

We are the future - as long as we have the courage to be.

Password Incorrect cover copyright Nick Name.  Brief Objects of Beauty & Despair cover copyright Larry Harrison.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A coming-of-age-story that never comes

I think part of the reason I like writing fiction is because I've always been better at lying than telling the truth.  However, in the true spirit of goodwill and bloggitude, I figured my inaugural post should probably tell you a little about myself.

The question is - how to do this in the easiet (least awkward) way?  So I decided to write 9 facts about Moxie Mezcal that in some (possibly obscure) way relate to my short story, 1999

[Quick aside: In case you haven't read it yet and want to, click here.  My cheesy faux book jacket summary for it is "It's New Year's Eve, and four teenage friends are waiting for the world to end" - since then, I've decided that a better description is "a coming-of-age-story that never comes."]

9 facts about Moxie Mezcal & 1999

1.  I wrote the story in a single afternoon/ evening in September 2009.  I had been receiving notices about my 10-year high school reunion in October; even though I had no intention of going, I was nonetheless feeling a little nostalgic.

2.  The night that I wrote it, I was 38% convinced that I was dying from a poisonous spider bite.  Turns out, that was not the case.

3.  The text says that nothing in the story really happened and nothing really happened in the story; at the same time, most of the events in the story are almost entirely autobiographical and based on things that happened to me or people I knew in high school.  Feel free to parse that sentence however you like.

4.  I love Dolores del Rio.  My favorite movie with her is La Otra.

5.  My first car was an '89 Toyota Camry, and I still get nostalgic when I think about it.

6.  I always somehow end up dating girls who smoke clove cigarettes. I smoked them myself for a short period of time when I was trying to quit smoking; they were too sweet and therefore I was less likely to chain smoke them than regular cigarettes.

7.  I have shoplifted before - eyeliner (back when I was too embarrassed to just take it up to the counter and pay for it).

8.  Once, driving along the highway in the middle of the night without another soul around for miles, on the way to a beach rave, my friend and I managed to convince each other that we had died in a horrible car crash on the way without realizing it, and now in the afterlife we were doomed to keep driving along this same stretch of highway for all eternity.  It should be pointed out that we were most likely high.

9.  I always thought the Y2K scare was kinda entertaining, and I have to admit I was a little disappointed when nothing happened.
    Anyways, I'm not sure how interesting all that really was.   If by chance you haven't read it before, and somehow this post convinced you that you'd like to read 1999, click here.

    Most of this post was true.