My Writing

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Blog Post with Erratically Shifting Tone (For Adam Robinson)

Adam Robinson said, in a June interview, that he misses writers regularly blogging at length, because it allowed him to get a sense of their personalities and connect with them one to one. I relate to his perspective despite not being around for the halcyon days of blogging, circa 2008 or so. (The tone's not gonna be consistent OK it's a blog. Alright.)

I relate because I value people, the artists, more than the work they produce. I want to make friends--I know some people only care about the work ("good writing is all that matters dude I am an adjunct professor..") but I want to meet likeminded people. And it became apparent to me early on, when I first checked out HTMLGIANT in late 2009 (?), that there was a social scene going on alongside the writing scene, and I liked that. 

The internet has allowed me to make some of the best friends I've ever had. Like, in all my lifetimes. Many I met through commenting on HTMLGIANT and starting my own magazine, Pop Serial. Gchat has been big too, especially when I've been sad and lonely and...effing adrift in this zany world in which we live, my bbs.... 

Steve Roggenbuck, who has become an influential, popular figure in the 2012 online lit community, and who has greatly inspired the "alt lit" community which some see as antithetical to the '08 style of community, became my friend because I saw his blog via him reviewing I think Tao Lin, the first and biggest writer I've encountered online. I solicited Steve for Pop Serial, coincidentally he was to be moving to Chicago shortly, and we became friends in real life. I've said to many people he's the best friend I've made since childhood, friends I've had since elementary school or earlier.

I think the world of micro-blogging, as Adam puts it, which does seem to be the dominant mode, via Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr, does allow people to connect, to check out and appreciate each other's work, to get some sense of personality, maybe add the other on gchat or participate in Tinychats or Ustreams, but I could understand someone perceiving the new wave of writers on the scene as flashing a badge (via posting macros, post-flarfing on Facebook, via writing a certain kind of poetry, via having a sad persona on Twitter, tweeting about drugs, binge-eating, and various other tropes in many cases associated with Tao Lin/Muumuu House or Steve Roggenbuck) in order to join a club. And maybe that is alienating to people who are used to the idea of individual writers trying to carve out a unique aesthetic and showing their distinct personalities via blogging.

Some of this I think is a misperception. Of course there are only individuals in this new wave/new scene. Still everyone is different. No one is the same, even if they say "seems" a lot, or imitate Steve's misspellings, or say "boost" a lot, whatever else. 

I relate to the desire for striking, distinct individuals within a scene and Daniel Bailey's stated desire for writers to try harder and to work on having their own styles. I don't agree with his overall assessment of the new scene.

I also agree with many of Steve's points in his lovely essay posted yesterday. I don't think a literary scene needs to be a bunch of super-ambitious writers each striving to be as big or great or whatever as possible. I think it is a cynical, narrow-minded perspective to look at "alt lit," specifically the new community of poets inspired by Steve, and see them as remoras attaching to a shark, along for the ride. There will always be leaders in any community or movement. 

Circa 2008, Tao Lin and Blake Butler and others were leaders and many other writers then and now were inspired by them and probably did and continue to emulate them--this has led to lots of writing people value. 

Those two figures are instructive in that, in my opinion, Butler's direct influence has been strongest on other writers with significant ambitions (perhaps due to his style and difficulty, which may appeal more to other writers who aspire to be seen as "great" in their own right), whereas Tao has influenced a lot of writers and former non-writers who perhaps connect personally to Tao's writing, internet presence, and worldview as opposed to being inspired as ambitious writers themselves

This is a simplification to make a point, that different writers have different values and goals and will inspire community of different sorts. Accessibility and broader appeal (beyond other "serious" writers) is the result of style but also of promotion, and Tao and now Steve and nearly everyone in the "alt lit"/Muumuu/Pop Serial community self-promotes to a more significant degree than was once common. 

The exceptions to my characterizations of Butler and Tao are notable: Steve was inspired by Tao and now he is an ambitious writer and leader in his own right, with a unique style. I am big into Joyce and Beckett, the kind of writers people who like Blake tend to like, yet was drawn to Tao. I aspire to be like Tao not necessarily in style but rather in impact, in philosophy, in his spirit, which is very exciting and moving to me. 


There is nothing to worry about. Everything is going very well.


Also of interest, maybe, to anyone who misses 2008 days, or to anyone who is into longer texts, or loves the rare book that isn't boring, that is like an old new friend:

There's lots of sweet-ass writers emerging now! Many who have emerged in the last couple of years. The ones I especially like I have published in Pop Serial.

Richard Chiem exists. He is a sweet dude. His book is coming out. Dennis Cooper has praised his writing, a wonderful endorsement.

Ana Carrete exists. She is awesome. She has a lit mag, New Wave Vomit, she was first to ever publish me. I love her. She has a book coming out. It is depressing and Ana-like and beautiful.

Frank Hinton, that mysterious Frank, who foisted Alt Lit Gossip back on us, has a book coming out. Frank writes about death and shit, I like it.

Ben Brooks exists. He's from the olden days, even though he's young as fuck! He's dedicated and productive and cool and talented. I envy his life and wish to swap with him and I like him a lot.

Crispin Best is awesome guy. He's an OG. Very clever. Everyone loves Crispin.

Marshall Mallicoat exists. I like his poetry a lot. He is very interesting online and in real life. Is he joking? Is he not joking? Is he kind of not also joking? I love it.

Shaun Gannon loves to tell you he exists. He writes big bangers, like the one with his name in it.

DJ Berndt is a wonderful nice guy, he takes writing seriously, he is a friend to everyone.

Cassandra Troyan exists. She has a book coming out, it looks good. She is a force as they say. She is a performer.

Madison Langston exists. I like her writing, I hope she keeps doing it.

Jackson Nieuwland exists. Fuck you if you don't like that he "like"s. Jackson is a force. He is beautiful.

Omar De Col is funny and cute and has been studying the writing he likes. He recently quit Twitter and Facebook to focus on writing. It was terrible for me and I hope he never does it again. Literature is not that important. Omar is wonderful I am biggest fan.

Maggie Lee has a great voice, she is using it on Twitter and in poems. It's cool, I really dig it.

Mira Gonzalez exists. I like her a lot, her personality is great. She's working on poetry, I think she's working on a book!

Spencer Madsen is not always sad you fucks! He is working hard on his writing. He is very funny, he is a nice guy. He has plans and ambitions.

Cassandra Nguyen exists. She's really cool and nice. I like her poems. She is one of the best people at making friends I've ever encountered.

I'm not sure if Elaine Sun wants to be a poet but she could be if she wants to lol!

Andrew James Weatherhead is a wonderful poet. I like his poems a lot. I think he has ambitions.

Michael Inscoe exists, he is beautiful! I hope he writes and makes many more things.

Timothy Willis Sanders is fucking cool as hell and nice and good-looking and gainfully employed and also a good writer (as Adam well knows!) Lol! He's got a novel coming, fuck you!

I'm excited, coffee!!

Fuck you, I write shit, I don't know. "I've only just begun." Check my sidebar. I feel very encouraged 'cause Dennis Cooper liked my one story. I'll do 10 more of those and a novel. Let's go!

Many more names!

Zachary Whalen, he's hilarious and good, he probably hates you and me both, I'm not sure.

Heiko Julien only has 1 e-book so far, but I thought it was real good! He's cool and makes music. Maybe he'll write more (I hope so.)

Guillaume Morissette is a funny writer, I like him. I interviewed him recently about his new book.

David Fishkind. He's talented I think.

Jordan Castro. He's got books coming. He was in the Wall Street Journal and some Spanish newspaper. You mad?

(Confused about the tone of this post, gonna keep going lol...)

Megan Boyle and Zachary German wrote sweet books. I hope there will be more.

Noah Cicero exists. He is a fuckin veteran in the game and continues to inspire and help newer writers.

Sam Pink is alive, from 2008 to now! Sam Pink is sweet as fuck, fuck your granddaddy! I wish I could write something as good as "Training" or Person or something else he wrote. One of my favorite writers.

Tao Lin is alive. My favorite living writer. His inspiration never wanes for me.

Alright that's it for now. Hey Adam Robinson, I can try and blog more man. Here's a start.


  1. one day, I will be on a list like this one.

  2. great post bro, i love the shifting tone and ur awareness and commentary of it, hehe :)

    love u so much!!!

  3. thank u for brightening my day

    (Confused about the tone of this post, gonna keep going lol...)


  4. fuck yeah woop woop swoge blam blam i love you bro :*

  5. :) Maggie may be the best tweeter around.

  6. Watching this "debate" unfold over the last few days, I have the impression there are two groups talking past each other, somewhat.

    On the one hand, you have people who are highly engaged in the social aspects of alt lit who feel attacked and want to defend their friends and the community. It is natural that they would view any expression of disfavor as mean-spirited and assert their freedom to write whatever, whenever, however. Writers are engaged in a high wire act "constantly risking absurdity" and it seems unfair to deal with hecklers down below. Very valid position.

    On the other hand, you have people who are not interested in the social scene or making friends, but very interested in the writing. Naturally, they debate, assess and, yes, criticize the writing. Not to discourage anyone from writing or being friends, but because they find debate and criticism enjoyable. Steve said "what we are doing is bigger than and aside from abstract ideas of literary merit," which is true, for people who want to be part of that. But for people who aren't looking to join a new community, abstract ideas of literary merit matter most. Very valid position.

    Artists have always engaged in inspired craziness, experimentation, etc. while generally giving the finger to critics and the idea of criticism, which is great. Meanwhile, critics have continued analyzing, judging and engaging with the text, which is also great. The two camps are not inherently opposed (in fact, each depends on the other and there is frequent crossover between the two), though I feel sometimes there is confusion about this.


  8. remember the tully shot
    thank you for this, stephen =]

    ╔═══╗ ♪
    ║███║ ♫
    ║ (●) ♫

  9. @Derek M hey man

    @steve thanks buddy! i love u too

    @elaine i'm happy u liked it =)

    @Michael thanks man

    @Jackson yea man! <3

    @Willis maggie's awesome yea, i agree

    @Wallace yea man. i think i understand what you're saying. thanks for your interest. i've seen a lot of nice thoughtful comments by you on Htmlgiant if i'm not mistaken.

    @Tao hi Tao =) that's a funny pic of Blake, nice

    @richard i do man haha, i love that video of u and ana trying it. thanks for doing what u do! feeling positive today

  10. Steve,
    this is a fantastic post, one of the most enjoyable I've read recently. your assessment of both 'scenes' are right on. i love it. thank you.
    you ought to add yourself to the list of influential contemporary writers. if you are keen to self promotion.

  11. good work STD. also don't tell anyone but I really love blogger.

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. posted what I had commented on altlitgossip instead.

  13. Stephen,

    This is terrific, I'm becoming more and more drawn to the alt lit community, since college I've felt like a lost writer and now I feel like the end of Land Before Time when they find the Great Valley. Thank you for the informative post and the work you put in to create a space for ffricked up artists.

  14. @ron thanks for your nice words

    @cassandra hey! thanks =)

    @crispin no you are! :')

    @rollerfink thank you man. secret's safe with me...

    @guillaume hey man. nice

    @PittWriter cool, i'm glad

  15. Stephen you are the greatest :D

    love you/miss you


  16. stephen reading this made me happy :)

  17. @DJ hey man, you're sweet, miss you too <3

    @joe hey man, thanks

    @megan i'm glad :)

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