San Diego Poetry Guild

notes on guild, poetry, and San Diego


Poker Sub Fic Ant [cont.]

All of which (please see 1.2.04) brings me to what I wanted to write about in the first place -- these three zines and their object or artifact or pseudo-artifact status in a communication framework, assuming that's even a fair place to start.

Editor Mark Wallace, for example, introduces the first issue of Submodern Fiction with a call for "alternative fiction to go sub-modern" -- his rally cry concluding an editorial that lays out the journal's purpose and makes some rather bold (if sweeping) statements about the current state of fiction publishing in the U.S. as well as the prevailing relationships between a "non-mainstream" poetry crowd and their fiction-writing allies.

SMF, Wallace writes, is "devoted to alternative forms of prose narrative" or a non-traditional narrative typically passed over by major publishing outfits due to its "postmodern" bent. Two forces conspire, namely the prevailing interest in (due to marketability of) realist/magic realist strains and what Wallace characterizes as the avant-garde rejection/anathematization of narrative as the "essential enemy of socially engaged writing."

One of the interesting things about Mark's intro is the use of "alternative" about five or six times to mark this "non"ish (non-realist, non-mainstream) kind of writing. It's a tough job, obviously, to classify and label (for purposes of editorial framing) the kind of writing one is looking for particularly when the commercial activity of labeling and classifying is one of the things one hopes to resist/undermine/avoid in framing an "alternative" work. What transpires, it seems, in trying to open up a space for work typically rejected for not being "X" enough is the dialectical call for "anti-X" to fill up its own (alternative) space. What makes something "alternative," however, is not all that clear, aside from its "non"-ness. An old problem.

Mark does suggest some positive values, such as "radical cultural critique" and (as above) "socially engaged writing," and I'm not too concerned about this problem of (non)definition because fresh journal efforts like this are fun to watch precisely because they risk communicating their own otherness in this kind of subtle maneuvering around (evasion of?) the self-replicating trap of main/alternative. What's "non" is what's there, I guess, between the lime-green covers, and for the record those who have so far answered the call for "alternative fiction to go sub-modern" are Susan Smith Nash, Cydney Chadwick, Joseph Battaglia, Jefferson Hansen, Anne Bogle, Stephen-Paul Martin, and Harold Jaffe.

So, maybe these are some of the "natives" of this particular sub-set of alternative writing, and they know who they are and know (they know) the particular genre knowledge required to identify oneself and one's work either in or outside the range of this somewhat vaguely stipulated "alter." Again, that's cool. Communities, maybe, should know theyself, and that self-identification work is enough to both float the project and keep the "realists" out, which is obviously part of the project as well.

[ be continued, again..]


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