Yesterday I wrote a draft of a Call for Submissions for Strands, the proposed initial writers’ collaborative project that I’d been sketching out in the preceding posts. It’s not a bad call, comparable to calls issued by literary magazines and other publishers of short fiction — calls like the ones posted here. But that’s just the problem: the call issued by Strands sounds so much like the other calls as to be nearly indistinguishable. Worse: the Strands call sounds weaker than many: no track record, no regularly scheduled publication cycle, a DIY TBD editorial policy, no honoraria paid to contributors.
The main point of Strands isn’t to provide yet another venue for writers to publish their short fictions; it’s to chart an alternative course that leads toward the formation of writer-controlled syndicates for publishing long fictions. The Strands publication format is too cautious, too incremental, too concerned with veering so slightly from the main channel that writers barely have to adjust their trajectories.
As a next step I planned to email notification of the Strands Call for Submissions to writing teachers in MFA programs, in undergraduate writing classes, maybe even in high schools. It’s not unreasonable to assume that these teachers would know a lot of other fiction writers who have taken their courses, with whom they went to school, whom they’ve gotten to know by being visible hubs for fiction writing in their communities — writers who for one reason or another have become disillusioned with the publishing status quo and would like to explore alternatives. But the writing teachers will be very familiar with the existing call-for-submissions short fiction marketplace, will likely evaluate the Strands call according to standards they’ve been taught and acquired over the years, will likely judge Strands an inferior outlet, will probably not want to risk their professional and social capital as Writers by referring students, graduates, and colleagues to this Johnny-come-lately operation.
I’m not prepared to abandon the writing teachers as vectors for disseminating the writers’ Houses idea. But the alternate route needs to veer more decidedly off the main shipping lanes, and its intermediate destinations need to look more like anarcho-syndicalist Houses than do the nicely edited and formatted compilations of short fictions envisioned in Strands.
Back to the charts and astrolabes…