On the Go-Forward

The next step would be to launch an open-access publishing house specializing in long fictions.

It’s already being done for short fictions. No technical or logistical obstacles hinder extending the open-access model to novels and novellas, single-author and single-themed compilations, and other more experimental formats. The economic obstacles are minimal: most short story writers don’t get paid and published novelists get paid next to nothing, yet there’s no shortage of newly submitted texts. The obstacles are psychological and sociological…

If in the course of hosting this website, after 16 months and 144 posts, I’d been able to find any fiction writers who wanted to collaborate in exploring alternative models for publishing novels, I’d be eager to get started. That hasn’t happened. Alternatively, if I’d ever been a publisher or editor, or if I was now or ever had been enrolled in an MFA or undergraduate creative writing program, or if I’d ever taught in such a program, or if I belonged to a formal or informal writers’ group, of if I wrote short fictions and participated actively in the litmag scene, or if I’d had a novel published by a traditional publisher, or if I’d attracted significant numbers of readers to my self-published long fictions…

I imagine fiction writers getting together with their writer friends over drinks or over cell phones, talking about starting a co-op publishing house together. I imagine open-access litmag publishers wondering about branching out into novels. I imagine that some open-access novel publishers are already up and running and that I’ve just not heard about them yet…

Which future is going to show up? Maybe the system is working fine: novels still get published and read, authors still get paid, publishers and bookstores still make money. Supply and demand might seem out of whack, but the invisible hand of capitalism is always-already on the job, continually maintaining a dynamic equilibrium. Or maybe the system is broken beyond repair and it’s just a matter of time before enough fiction writers stop kidding themselves and wise up, organizing themselves into a different system. Maybe — probably — something else will happen…

Ficticities has been a work of fiction. Forecasting has always been part of the project: tracing multiple interacting trajectories from the past through the present into alternative possible futures. More importantly, Ficticities was to have been an alternate present reality in its own right — a collaborative laboratory, an experimental zone, a heterochronic heterotopia, a ficticity. When, in characterizing the agenda of this imagined laboratory, I invoked the term “postcapitalism,” I wasn’t so much pointing down the road toward what comes next, what succeeds capitalism. After all, anticipating the next thing and accelerating into it is the engine that drives capitalism. The word “novel” is a paradigmatically appropriate term for a capitalistic work of fiction, the production apparatus continually extruding the next new thing and displaying it on the shelf for a couple of weeks, then clearing it out to make room for the next next new thing. I anticipated that Ficticities might open up an alternative fictional reality inside the already-existing reality that surrounds it, an expanding bubble universe…

#####

For the past year and a half I’ve been occupying this bubble universe. The bubble has continued to shrink, down and down, until by now it feels like I’m the only one inside it. I find myself shrinking right along with the bubble…

Here’s what I think I’ll do now.

I’m not going to launch an open-access publishing house focusing on long fictions.

I’m going to abandon my efforts to build a collaborative laboratory.

I’m going to step back from this website. It’s easy not to write any more content; it’s harder to stop thinking about the ideas. I want to to both, before I disappear along with the ever-shrinking bubble that enshrouds me.

What’s going to fill the void? I’ll probably get back to writing fictions. Not like this kind of fiction, the fiction of this website, the designing of an imagined reality that could serve as a catalyst for constructing an actual material reality —  kind of like how a blueprint catalyzes a building. Trying to engineer a way out of capitalism into some preferable alternative entails a lot of problem solving, working through and around constraints via systematic logic and Bayesian probability trees, generating requirement specs and design parameters, collecting data and analyzing it, simulating and modeling, tinkering and iterating and overhauling. I used to do this sort of thing for a living before I got tired of it and started writing novels. I remember hitting the problem-solving phase in the middle of my first novel — it felt too much like work. A year or two later when I picked up that novel again I found myself writing with a freer hand. I’ve already written several interconnected long fictions, but nothing lately. I want to get back to it, to freehand imaginings, see if they’re still there. Let the catalysis operate in the reverse direction, the architecture of the actual world serving as blueprint for imaginary worlds.

What about blogging? For years I’d run a blog before launching Ficticities, where I wrote a lot of posts and engaged in a lot of online discussions. Blogging affords its satisfactions and frustrations. Ficticities wasn’t meant to be a blog. Originally I set it up as a staging ground for collaborative projects, but when those didn’t take shape the site morphed into a blog. Surely the most different sort of posts I’ve written here on Ficticities were my engagements with online published short stories. Those posts were moderately successful in generating visits from the stories’ authors and from their social media friends, though those interpersonal connections petered out after a few days without extending conversationally into the website’s collaborative experimental agenda. Not reviews, nor even commentary, the posts unfolded more as a strange sort of fan fiction. Even though I was maneuvering within the thematic and stylistic terrain laid out in the short fiction I’d just read, it felt freeing, even adventurous, to write my way into some alternative pathway that I’d find opening up through my active interaction with the text, moving around freely inside the fictional worlds revealed by these stories. Even if the authors of those short stories didn’t quite get what I was up to, I experienced a sense of intersubjectivity — or, better, a subjective sense of intertextuality.

I’ll continue reading fictions, novels mostly. In trying to track down writers on this website I found a renewed appreciation for the short form and for writers who excel at it. The open-access litmags open up the possibility of authorial experimentation unconstrained by commercial interests — constraints that too often render published novels more polished but also more predictable and less interesting. So I’ll leave open the possibility of reading more online open-access stories and writing something about them: probably not fanfics this time, not reviews either, but brief commentaries on aspects of the texts that resonate with my interests. Instead of posting my written responses on this website in hopes of luring the authors into my project, I’d send my observations directly to the authors if I can figure out how to reach them.  Somehow though I’ve got a feeling that this possible personal interactive future might not take shape — it’s too tied up in the Ficticities microcosm I’m trying to escape.

I could try to write up a brief rationale for the open-access novel publishing idea. I’d not try to persuade writers or recruit them into a joint venture or even engage them in discussion. I could imagine sending it out in an email to the writers whose short fictions I read online. I’d just present the idea for consideration. Maybe it’ll trigger something in their neural or social networks, if not now then later. Maybe some of them will be better positioned than I am actually to do something with the idea. This project too is probably a bad idea; hopefully it’ll fade over the next few weeks.

Another aspect of Ficticities that I’ve liked is investigating fiction not just as a vehicle for storytelling but as a way of imagining, both individually and collectively, aspects of reality that don’t exist in the here and now — the future and the past, the possible and the impossible, hopes and fears, nostalgia and regret, purpose and meaning. I could imagine extending this interest into a project, writing up my findings and musings here on Ficticities. I also see these more abstract musings about fiction finding their way into the worldbuilding and narrative aspects of my own long fictions. But here and now as I’m writing this I’m experiencing déjà vu, so maybe I’ve already been here before. We’ll see what develops.

So, on the go-forward, here’s where you’re liable to find me online:

  • For possible further meta-explorations of fiction, look here at Ficticities. As I mentioned in my last post, the URL will soon change to ficticities.wordpress.com, though now it seems that the transition will happen a month from now.
  • For my novels and other loose-handed fictional texts — the novels and novellas already in the can, the ones that need final editing and formatting, the fictions that haven’t yet been written — go to salonpostisme.com. All e-books, all free, all open access.
  • If you want to get in touch, you can send me an email at portalic@gmail.com.

À bientôt,
John Doyle

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