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.


Dan Holloway said...

Moxie, this is a great post (not just because of the lovely mention for Year Zero - our three first novels are also free ebooks, by the way).

What the "mainstream" doesn't realise about the creative ghetto is that we don't necessarily want to migrate into the mainstream - we're happy where we are - I think many of us also realise we'll lose something artistically if we cross over - just like The Clash did :p The danger for "mainstream" publishers is that they'll wake up and realise that this is the new hub of teh creative landscape - and when they come knowcking to poach our talent, we'll shut the door in their face.

I'd love it if you'd be prepared to be involved in some way with free-e-day (

Love the Password Denied thing, btw - my personal website ( is titled permission denied


jenn to the t said...

Thanks for the plug and commentary on Year Zero! We are motley, but proud, bunch, indeed. What struck me about your post is your portrayal of a creative ghetto. We'll always be in that ghetto, if that's where we feel we belong. The world will never turn inside out. There will always be a massive population of thoughtless, frightened sheep who serve as the income stream for mainstream entertainment and publishing corporates. No big deal. We will always serve as their creative heroin--dark, closeted, and addicted to what we have to say.

jenn ( and

Marcella O'Connor said...

Hey Moxie. Just dropped by to check out the blog. Nice work.


Anne Lyken-Garner said...

Thanks for doing this piece on us (Year Zero). It was very kind of you.
You've got so much here. How long did all this take you to put together? I'm impressed.

Larry Harrison said...

Great writing, great music, great artwork -- you should join Year Zero!


Piotr Kowalczyk said...

Hi Moxie,

thanks a lot for that post. This makes me believe that what I do makes sense. 99% of time I think it doesn't.
Im my case it's not about talent. It's about "a little time, a little talent, and a lot of drive". This becomes my drive phrase from now on:-)
You're right saying that DIY is great. Actually the most wonderful thing is that being a niche writer doesn't mean you can't reach a wide audience. Times change. If there are readers on the other part of the world, we can reach them. And how we do it - it's only up to our imagination:-)

Ryan A. Span said...

Interesting article. I'm not sure I agree with you on one or two points, though . . .

As a web-fiction author, I think it would actually be quite interesting to see some commercial projects taking root in the webfic arena. Something with a bit of budget and advertising clout behind it could prove a rallying point for the whole phenomenon. I for one would like the cash backing to really push the limits of the medium, combining writing with professionally-crafted images, audio, film clips, even games and other downloadable content where readers can participate and actually influence the story.

I've experimented with reader influence in the past, in a very limited way, by giving plot-related puzzles for the readers to solve. It turned out to be a pretty awesome experience. I would love to take it -- and webfic -- to the next level.


A. Sparrow said...

I disagree, Ryan. Any entry by big commerce would buff the edginess off of everything and spoil the vibe. Punk isn't punk anymore when it goes corporate.

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