There was this writing thing called “alt lit.”
I use it in the past tense because it’s over.
I ran a literary review website that took some tropes of older indie writing and styles to the extreme, gently mocking it, but hopefully evenhandedly reviewing books and writers. But it’s gone, too. For better For worse.
People that were apart of this writing community rightly confronted some other members about their behaviors this past fall. Things blew up. (Yes, I’m weirdly mis-named in that link).
Just to be clear, I was not friends with all of these people or knew the situations, but it made me (and many others) think more about how we interact and make changes where necessary.
I wrote more about some of that here, but I really enjoyed Michael Hessel-Mial’s recent Facebook post reflecting on this. Michael is one of the people I got to meet this year, after spending several years(?) reading and observing his writing/art from afar. I like his perspective and it needs to be shared.
One of the things I liked that Michael said is this:
It’s clear that this generation of writers, these styles, these aspirations, aren’t going anywhere. But the stakes are higher. We need to be realistic about abuse in creative communities. DIY, independent and local does not mean safe, just or radical. We need writing from people of color, women, queer and transfolk, the disabled, the marginalized voices, and altogether writing that augments and changes us for the better. Because we need to tell new stories, adequate to the world we’re living in, worthy of the best of what’s to come. The pain of sexual abuse in the community, the trials African Americans are facing in the events following the killing of Mike Brown, should be reminders that if this literature means anything, it’s in making things better.
What’s to come? More books? More unexpected styles? An anthology of image macros? (winky face, editors hmu). Will other writers use “alt lit ” to describe what they do, or will people come up with new names for what they make? I’m optimistic about the future either way.
I’m optimistic about the future either way.
Couple the above with the unrelated end of another popular literary site, HTMLGiant and an era is over. We’ve grown up, we’ve learned, we’re forging new connections.
From the HTMLG scene, it’s satisfying to see someone like Roxane Gay have such a big year. She published a novel, Untamed State and a book of tremendous essays called Bad Feminist that I just finished.
I’m not friends with her, but I’ve read her writing for awhile, she ran in some of these same lit circles, if I checked my archives I might be on a mass email-CC with her at some point. It’s great to see a smart person rise through the ranks and really make a name for herself.
The same goes for Blake Butler, one of the creators of HTMLG, who continues to put out weird, crazy fiction and it’s getting recognized for it. Roxane and Blake show that there is a way through. And most of it involves prolific work.