Introduction: Issue 1.2
by Quimby Melton
A good deal has changed within and without SCRIPTjr.nl since we pushed our inaugural issue live in January.
For example, in the time it took issue 1.2 to materialize, Cupertino's newest miracle device went from rumor to reality. And while SCRIPTjr.nl is reluctant to measure itself, and just about anything else, in "Apple Time," an eponymous conclusion seems inevitable:
We now live in the iPad age.
Quarrels with commodity fetishization aside, the birth of the iPad -- along with the continued success of other eReaders like the Kindle, Sony Reader, and Nook -- seems auspicious for the literary fringe. As (Lesescenario) translator Hiroo Yamagata suggests in his issue 1.2 interview, eReaders may help screenplays, "readerly" and otherwise, find intellectual and commercial markets. The same could be said of code poems and asemic writing as well as graffiti and tattoos.
The relative impermanence and difficult-to-cite nature of the latter two will be ameliorated by the iPad's forthcoming built-in camera. (Since most cell phones already have cameras, one could argue this hasn't really been a problem for some time.) No matter how progressive the intellectual, academic economy may become, objects of analysis will always require a certain amount of citation and stability. And thanks to devices like the iPad, what was once fleeting and mutable can now be captured, documented, circulated, and archived in an instant. As a result, and perhaps even more importantly, these texts can be (close) read in detail, at leisure and can, therefore, be treated much more like traditional texts.
Liberated from almost all the paper publisher's production, distribution, and warehousing costs, ePublishing's roomy margins, coupled with robust niche demand, means publishing screenplays, code poems, asemic writing, and other forms of abject literature finally makes business sense.1 Beyond the obvious expenses common to all businesses -- payroll obligations, equipment and supplies, taxes and fees, &tc. -- the only traditional overhead with which ePublishers must concern themselves are marketing costs, cultivation of talent, and textual development.
A fixture of commerce, the first of these three is older than the Forum news crier, and as long as the indefatigable romance between seller and buyer exists, so will it. But while traditional marketing efforts are expensive and inexact as a soused Scot's Claymore, modern methods -- Google AdWords, Facebook ads, guerilla/viral efforts -- are significantly less expensive and much more X-Acto-like. They're also scalable, trackable, and, in many cases, virtually effortless to initiate and manage.
In short, contemporary marketing methods mean advertising demands will do less to hurdle the publication of fringe literature and much more to encourage it.
In "residual" publishing circles, talent cultivation and textual development invariably suffer because of bloated office ranks, the demands of shareholders, and the myopia of bankers and MBAs. Such business interests have effectively sacrificed writers, artists, and literary innovation to Mammon and let these critical points of aesthetic infrastructure languish under the tyranny of an "at-all-costs" profit motive. However, as the prevalence of and demand for eTexts increase, ePublishers -- who are poised to become the commercially successful Hogarth Presses and Sylvia Beaches of the twenty-first century -- will find themselves flush with capital and, unbound by the expenses outlined above, be free to exhume Maxwell Perkins' ghost and take chances on the next Faulkner and Joyce as well as on texts from the literary fringe.
Thanks to sites like Scribd and Lulu, as well as the internet and social media at large, self-publishing is also poised to experience a fabulous renaissance.
Before the early-to-mid twentieth century, "vanity publishing" didn't have the stigma it has today. Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons (1914) was self-published, for example, as were all of Virginia Woolf's novels after Night and Day (Duckworth, 1919), via the aforementioned Hogarth Press that Woolf and her husband Leonard ran.
(a) multinational conglomerates wrested textual culture away from writers and critics, and cornered the means of validating, producing, and distributing books,
(b) and as acute, widespread middle class consumer instincts began placing more and more value on the branded and standardized and thereby facilitated this trend,
companies like Bertelsmann (Random House, Doubleday, Knopf), Pearson (Penguin), and News Corp (Harper Collins) were able to refashion the phrase "literary fiction" into a cautionary label, neutralize their quality-driven competition, and stigmatize the self-published text. A few publishers like City Lights, New Directions, and even Norton -- mostly as a distributor -- have miraculously kept important textual artifacts flowing through the cultural bloodstream. But until the mass popularization of the internet, basic production and distribution costs, networking limitations, and cultural stigmas kept most independent texts out of circulation.
The internet offers agent- and publisher-less writers, as well as those who choose to work on the literary fringe, unprecedented opportunities to produce work and share it with an audience. As a result, literary consumers will find themselves increasingly flooded with extra-corporate literary choices. Writers like Jaron Lanier may argue this trend devalues creative output2 and others may may suggest it overwhelms readers with choices, but one can't help but wonder if we prefer bean counters and northeastern editors making our literary choices for us.
The intellectual and commercial marketplaces -- and the readership constituencies each form -- have the power to sort the newly liberated literary mass and validate, empower, and circulate certain texts within it. This system also offers a more catholic choice system in which the preferences of one group don't necessarily cancel out those of any other. The corporate system that grew out of the second half of the twentieth century works substantially more tyrannically: not only are access points for new talent tightly policed, the opinions of a few executive cabals determine the output of an entire industry and thereby limit consumer choice.
Therefore, if the textual culture of the late twentieth century was decidedly oligopolistic, the literary culture of the twenty-first will be assiduously democratic. And as self-(e)Publishing continues to empower itself, and media conglomerates continue declining, the prevailing cultural opinion of self-produced texts will invariably shift back to that of Stein and Woolf's day.
Beyond business variables and eReaders, abject (e)Texts of all sorts -- including eJournals like SCRIPTjr.nl -- have something else going for them: the great law of arts history which holds,
Today's avant-garde inevitably becomes tomorrow's institution.
Decried as pornographic and unreadable in the 1920s, Ulysses and The Waste Land eventually became literature seminar staples. Stravinsky's Rites of Spring and Marcel Duchamp's Nu descendant un escalier n° 2 -- which caused contemporary audiences to riot -- found similar places in the world of ideas. Retiring baby boomers wistfully tell their (grand)children tales about Jim Morrison's swinging dick, Joe Strummer wound up DJing for the BBC, and even Snoop Dogg finds himself carrying on civil conversations with Larry King.3
It makes sense that as the world becomes ever more visual, interactive, and digital so, inevitably, will its literary texts. And as eTexts evolve and become more prominent thanks to devices like the iPad, demand for post-literate works and asemic texts like Nico Vassilakis' Language Is Hell and ted warnell's code poetry (both featured in SCRIPTjr.nl 1.2) will increase as well. It could be, then, that the sorts of texts SCRIPTjr.nl concerts itself with simply needed the right device to unlock their commercial potential. And since even the world of ideas lives and dies by the whims of the marketplace, as these texts begin circulating on eReaders around the world so too will they in the minds and pens of man.
As a result of this shift, what once seemed like exotic textual outliers will inevitably become dissertation fodder. Far from cynical about such a prospect, though, this in fact would represent a good deal of success for SCRIPTjr.nl which seeks to be nothing quite so much as a facilitator of the law of arts history vis-à-vis today's literary margins.
Next door in cyberspace, our brothers across the pond did a good bit of the heavy-lifting for this issue, and SCRIPTjr.nl 1.2 can be read as a true Transatlantic effort.
Editorial board member, and UK-native, Gary Shipley provided an article about Charlie Kaufman's film(script) Synecdoche, New York and an interview with the British SciFi satirist and Slipstream/Bizarro writer Steve Aylett in which the two discuss Aylett's career generally and LINT: The Movie specifically. English screenwriter and director Si Wall contributed an excerpt from his screenplay Drinking Chocolate which illustrates the script form's lightweight hollowness (as opposed to emptiness).
In reading, most script forms are reminiscent of Hemingway's parataxis. In the case of Wall's script excerpt, the connection is even more accentuated because of the "Hills Like White Elephants"-style, in medias res glimpse it offers of Lola -- who hopes to transcend the British caste system via the (perceived) democracy of celebrity and the arts -- and Johnny's complex romantic situation. Moreover, like much of Hemingway's fiction, reading almost any script as (excerpted) short fiction means experiencing the narrative opaquely where many details, necessarily omitted by the writer, must be imagined and filled in by the reader who, in effect, becomes the director of his/her own subjective film.
Of course, this could be said about other textual, narrative forms like the novel and short story. But these forms can, at times, seem disingenuous and in denial about the limitations of the written word to connect writer and reader. Avoiding the misleading bulkiness of these other forms, the filmscript offers readers a robust opportunity to exercise their own wills and actively participate in the world of the text. The read screenplay seems more aware of the limitations of the written word and answers this futility with a bold minimalism. The generous, trademark line leading and formatting of the form, therefore, can be read as a sort of metaphor for the textual narrative experience itself: where fewer things are known than unknown and any verbal bridges created between writer and reader are tenuous at best.
Like Wall's script, Hebermehl and DRZ's graffiti mural grows out of a uniquely urban landscape. In the mural's case, Hebermehl and DRZ indulge art nouveau's trademark ethos by merging an urban, southeastern context with the imagery of the rural southwest. Their graffiti text thereby asks readers to come to terms with a peculiarly American form of "national cosmopolitanism."
Engaging in the internet's unique form of borderless networking, between SCRIPTjr.nl 1.1 and 1.2 we added hundreds of Facebook fans, and our traffic rates, according to Google Analytics, have climbed 10% every month. If these trends continue between SCRIPTjr.nl 1.2 and 2.1, by January 2011 we'll have well over 1,000 social media connections and serve approximately the same number of site visitors every month.
Conversely, our Google AdSense leaderboard and sidebar squares generated virtually no revenue so the editors dropped them in the interest of aesthetics. Instead, those inclined to financially support SCRIPTjr.nl can buy ad space (like our friends at The New Post-literate) and/or pay to list their feed in the "Au courant" section of the current issue homepage (like our friends at Art Crimes, RENEGADE, and foffof). All revenue will be used to defray SCRIPTjr.nl's operating expenses (hosting, marketing, &tc.) and thereby help the editors continue exploring "Literature's last frontiers."
This phrase, in fact, is SCRIPTjr.nl's newly adopted tagline which, the editors feel, both captures the journal's fundamental raison d'être and reflects the sorts of texts it concerns itself with.
Interested in cultivating reader participation additional to Facebook and Twitter, the editors also integrated two commenting features into the site. The first, Get Satisfaction -- which may be launched via the black "Feedback" tab on the left-hand side of the browser window -- can be used to comment on SCRIPTjr.nl generally, suggest special topics, ask and answer questions, and otherwise give the editors site-wide assessment. (Similar things can be achieved via the Google Sidewiki.) As part of our on-going attempt to achieve popular-academic hybridity, SCRIPTjr.nl also integrated JS-Kit's ECHO comment management system into the site. Located at the bottom of each article, readers can use this feature to discuss SCRIPTjr.nl content and thereby help the editors merge the discursive immediacy of the modern web with the sensibility of a traditional belletristic journal.
- Two excellent articles on (e)Publishing recently appeared in The Economist (29 April 2010. http://www.economist.com/business-finance/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15819008 [31 March 2010]) and The New Yorker (Ken Auletta, 29 April 2010. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/04/26/100426fa_fact_auletta?currentPage=all [26 April 2010]). ↩
- Elegantly-argued and thought-provoking, this is the only major quarrel I have with Lanier's manifesto You Are Not a Gadget (Knopf, 2010). (Q.M.) ↩
- See http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=snoop+dogg+and+larry+king&aq=f (29 April 2010). ↩