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:
Niżej 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.