Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I have launched Whirligigzine. I'd like to thank you all for hanging in with me and sharing my updates over the months as I've all-too-slowly gotten it together. Members of OW and others were unfailingly supportive and were there to help me over a few rough spots. But I'm happy to be part of the growing online lit world. Writers who don't realize the necessity of migrating to the Internet are going to be hurt in the long run.

I don't take the Internet's influence on reading and writing for granted and I see certain changes continue to be made to the dissemination of lit. A couple years ago putting one's own writing online was anathema, at least according to some like Hollywood writer Lee Goldberg. Today a blog like Diary Of A Heretic, that is comprised of nothing but fictional content from the author is nominated for a best literature blog award at the 2007 Weblogs Awards.

As 2007 was the anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac's On The Road, the question of what makes an outsider writer was forced onto countless blogs. And it gave us all a good view of an earlier version of what it meant to be outside the mainstream and then accepted by it, creating the greatly mixed results that the so-called King Of The Beat Writers met and which contributed mightily to his demise.

I followed with great interest a dustup involving the traditional and best known of lit's outsiders, science fiction writers. When the group the Science Fiction Writers Of America noticed that some of its writers' work was being put online without the author's permission they jumped the gun and rode into Dodge with cybersixguns blazing, angering other members of the organization to the extent that they retaliated with International Pixel Stained Technopeasant Day, where many members, including Campbell Award winning writer John Scalzi, posted their work online for free in protest. It is a long -- one might say labyrinthine -- news story that may not be clear in my brief summary. But it is quite interesting, especially in light of the current writer's strike centering on -- among other considerations -- compensation for online work. You may want to follow it through Google, or the search engine of your choice. The Scalzi Technopeasant link here is also a good place to start.

A number of litbloggers have proven themselves in other arenas, including, perhaps most notably, book reviewing. Ed Champion (edrants.com) and the writer who some consider the gold standard for litblogging, Maud Newton (maudnewton.com) have made appearances in the LA Times and the New York Times, respectively. And so the interplay between online and real world lit continues, as does the morphing from outsider blogger to insider mainstream journalist.

Whirligigzine will have a print version out soon, but it is really the online version that means the most to me. That is, the print version will be a reflection of the ezine and not visa versa. At the same time, the ezine will augment the print version, which will direct readers to the online site, where art and illustration that may be too complicated/expensive to print will be available for viewing at the cost of a few pennies of bandwidth.

I foresee a smooth melding of the two media and I'm as exited as I imagine early publishers and editors utilizing Gutenberg's new invention must have been many centuries ago. I'm feeling a bit like an amalgam of Max Perkins and Max Headroom, ready to have fun as one of the new hybrid editor-publishers, while leaving the shrieks of the Cassandras warning of the death of print echoing behind me. The brave new world of cyberlit, with all its possibilities, stretches out infinitely before us all.

Carpe diem!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Are we toying with fate? Not really, just trying to get it all right before it's given to you, The Whirligigzine's readers. To the left is a view of an early version of the print cover that will be seen in bookshops and in online stores soon.

And so the mistake doesn't come back to plague her in some form or another, our poet Ms. Drehmer's name is spelled "Aleathia", not the way it appears on the illustrated test cover.

Do I worry that The Whirligigzine might not find an audience? Not really, even though it may not be underground enough for the hardcore undergrounders or "literary" enough for the university/quarterly crowd. So who does that leave? Everyone else -- the majority who enjoy good stories well-told and poetry with heart and soul. (But I do know that it has at least one story that is bizarre enough for the Bizarro readers and anyway, one would never mistake The Whirligigzine as a mainstream publication.)

This is not the Whirligig of an earlier day. Means of publishing have changed and there is no good reason to stick to the raw kitchen table look of that day. The original Whirligig served its time well and its style set it apart from the crowd. But there are now accessible and inexpensive ways to produce a fairly slick product that still is full of authentic voices and future looking writing, based in the traditional, yet of a newness that makes readers sit up and take notice.

Zines are now very different things from what they were -- even traditionalists from the golden days of the nineties are producing zines with slick covers and (gasp!) ISBNs -- and those who will criticize The Whirligigzine for its form are missing the point.

And as for the slight change in name, from The Whirligig to The Whirligigzine: let it remind those who may have forgotten, and inform those who never knew, where this litmag came from. And how it carries on in the tradition of the zine world: with unbroken DIY spirit and without fear or concern about the "big boys" of publishing.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Check Our Pulse

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Linkage at The Whirligigzine

Fiction writers who appear in The Whirligigzine are now linked from the site, which is about to go live with fiction and poetry and surprises. See what these great writers are doing besides The Whirligigzine. What do Nick Mamatas, Karl Koweski, Kevin Dole 2, and Jeff Somers have to offer besides what you'll see in The Whirligigzine Issue 1.2? Please go and find out.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Inside The New Whirligigzine

Into SF, Fantasy, writing that is bizarre, as well as that existing outside of the usual categories? Then you'll want to read the forthcoming issue of The Whirligigzine.

Meanwhile, Whirligigzine.com is going live in a matter of days, followed by the print version in early November, around the time of the World Fantasy Convention, Nov 1-4 in Saratoga NY.

Included in The Whirligigzine will be Bram Stoker nominee Nick (Move Under Ground; Under My Roof) Mamatas with another of his well-wrought entertaining/disturbing stories. Longtime zinester Jeff Somers, who has a new novel called The Electric Church (Orbit) out now, will be represented with a hard-edged story that almost needs a new genre to describe it -- how about avant-noir? Jeff will be at WFC, as will I, to catch any stray rays of his reflected glory, which I'll use to illuminate the wonders of The Whirligigzine, Issue 1a. Or something like that. (Jeff's site, http://the-electric-church.com/ is worth a visit.)

And if you like hard-hitting stories, where horror is an everyday occurrence and the writing keeps you off balance from first sentence to last, Karl Koweski and Kevin Dole2 will set you up with a couple that make Palahniuk look like a sissy. And top it all off with an excerpt from August H. Bjorn's novel The Prodigal sending you on an all-expenses-unpaid trip to one of the circles of an outrageous and hilarious Dantesque hell in the modern world.

And then the poets...

But I'll tell you about them in another update. They deserve one of their own.

And then I'll tell you about a couple editorial surprises.

If you need a zine that is SFnal and fantastical/bizarre, while literary enough to shut up the inevitable naysayers, write to me at jdfinch@whirligigzine.com. Or go to http://www.whirligigzine.com in a couple weeks to order. Prepublication updates will continue to be found here on The Whirliblog.
Daily Kos

The Whirligig gets a mention.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Whirligigzine Update

The Whirligigzine will not be ready for its unveiling at the 215 Festival in Philly this coming weekend, which is just as well, because thanks to timing the World Fantasy Convention will be taking place in Saratoga NY just as The Whirligigzine is coming off the presses in early November. As its pages will offer a number of stories more in line with the focus and interests of the Con and its attendees, that gathering is a natural launching pad for TW. More updates to follow.

For those looking for a zine fix in Philadelphia this weekend, look no further than the Rotunda:

4014 Walnut St
Philadelphia PA 19104
Sun. 10/7, 12-6pm

The Philly Zine Fest

"Our goal is to embrace written and verbal communication as much as
possible without constraints. At the zine fest, be prepared for
everything from personal experiences to artistic talent to first-hand
politics. Trading of information is in abundance, and in many formats.

This year, the Philly Zine Fest is part of the 215 Festival,
Philadelphia's own home-grown literary arts festival, celebrating
writers, writing, books, art, and independent publishing. Events
include readings, films, and "cross-pollinated performances" held in
galleries, bars, museums, and theaters citywide. The Festival is a
showcase for performers that are as smartly engaging as a book and
authors that are as fun to watch as a band."

Here's a list of everyone tabling so far:

Cake & Pie Press - Mary Tasillo
Childlike Empress - raequel solomon
CHiNesE SwEAtSHoP - Elsie Sampson
Collagen Books of Cara Christopher and Ashley Purciello. - Cara
Decades Of Confusion Feed The Insect - Justin Duerr
Dimanche Zine - Sabrina Simon
girlsnotchicks.com - Jacinta Bunnell
Howzit Funnies - Andrew Cohen
Microcosm Publishing - Steven
Old Weird America zine - Rosie White
Parcell Press - Taylor Ball
Pony Express Zine - Rebekah Buchanan
Q.E.D. - Jessica Greif
Queen Anne's Revenge Press - Katie Baldwin
Radical Rabbit Distro - Luke Romano
Say It Loud, Make It Plain Press - Ianna
Sisu zine - Johanna
Slip Into Something Human - Tracy Youells
So Sue Me - Sean Moran
Suburban Blight - Stephanie Basile
Sugar and Spite - Ali Thompson
The Idiom - Mark Baird
The La-La Theory - Katie
Three Crows Press - Matt Dembicki
Trabant and Revelling in NY zines - Megan and Heather
Tric Zine - Casey Grabowski
True Grit Distro - Paolo and Claryn
Typeset - Sean
Wayward Press - Jeff

- Background music will be DJ'd by Chucky La Counte.
- Vegan Food to be catered by 2 Potato Catering. Bottled water will
also be available.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Undying Words

I've finally decided, a month before its release, keyed to The World Fantasy Con, that I will dedicate the first issue of The Whirligigzine (which will be numbered 1a for reasons I'll explain on TW's blog at a later date) to my father.

While my father was surrounded with all the trappings of middleclassdom, with a few added privileges for having been born into a modestly privileged family, there was always a restlessness and gnawing unhappiness behind his mask with the deferential smile. And his conforming deeds and compliant words were belied by a rebelliousness that was the underpinning of a soul that desired anything but what he was fated to do.

I always got the impression that he would have been much happier in some little cabin on the border of a treed wilderness, of the kind many take to so they can avoid the drag and pull of the nine to five world.

But it turned out I was the one who wound up almost in the woods. Brattleboro Vermont does seem like one of the last outposts before the real wildernesses of the US northeast, though it is still far too civilized and full of the conveniences that keep the wheels of commerce turning and bringing ever more people to enjoy unspoiled nature, which may not remain in that condition for much longer.

But Brattleboro is the last outpost of my personal wilderness. I'd been here for two years and had not made one true friend. And I'd forced this upon myself because of all the potential writing time I wasted for years. I could not deal with being alone for any significant amount of time as I wrote, so I partied and hung out. This was one of the less exemplary legacies handed down to me by my father. If anything, he was, more than I, unable to be alone: in a house by himself for more than 5 minutes, he was dialing the phone to talk to someone...anyone.

I remember walking into his hospital room as he was dying. His eyes closed, the end quite near, his hands were beating at the air in search of...what? The magic numbers to let him talk to someone so he wasn't really alone? All the others in the room looked on in pity and despair. The look on my father's face was fear and desperation. His hands continued to beat the air...And still no one did anything!

I walked over and grabbed his hands. He was in an odd state of semi-consciousness, but it wasn't on account of drugs, because all the drip tubes and mysterious lines of life-support had been disconnected.

Hands in hands he calmed, all over; his face relaxed. Was that a smile? He never opened his eyes but I felt he knew it was me. We held each other's hands for minutes and I occasionally touched his head.

As his grip started to become tighter I knew that the moment of giving up everything had come to him. (Later I thought how crass and moronic is the well known expression "everyone dies alone." Only a fool and a coward that doesn't have the guts to help another being at perhaps the moment of their greatest need could have coined that phrase.)

My father didn't die alone: I was right there with him.

Like all writers I need someone -- the reader -- to be with me or my words die alone. Separately we writers are mostly little noises, not much more than individual pathetic squeaks that few will take notice of. But together, even if only together in spirit, we can shake the rafters. And we can thank each other, but especially the reader, for being there for us. And our work will not die alone, even if the marketplace and the naysayers declare it unworthy. And The Whirligigzine, among the many outsider publications that have been featured on the site I share with others, The Guild Of Outsider Writers is here to assure any writers in its sphere with a soul, a voice and something to say, that they are not alone, and to remind them that it is not our role to "go gently into that good night."

Altered States

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Guild of Outsider Writers - Todd Moore's Outlaw Blues

I've been spending some time over at Outsider Writers, my home away from home, but now that our birth pains are over I can really concentrate on stuff having to do with The Whirligig.

I'm finalizing things for the summer release of The Whirligigzine, but am still not happy that it is largely a testosterone fest, with not a single lady in evidence among the completely fine contributors. For some reason none of them heard my calls for submissions. Perhaps I wasn't loud enough? The mystery remains, though there will be changes in issue 2, which will benefit from a woman's touch.

I just posted the above mentioned "rant" at OW in the Naked Opinion column that I edit and will be interested to see what sort of feedback we get on it.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Friday, April 06, 2007

H.P. Lovecraft in a letter to Clark Ashton Smith

"My own rule is that no weird story can truly produce terror unless it is devised with all the care and verisimilitude of an actual hoax. The author must forget all about "short story technique" and build up a stark simple account, full of homely corroborative details, just as if he were actually trying to "put across" a deception in real life...as carefully as a crooked witness prepares a line of testimony with cross-examining lawyers in his mind. I take the place of the lawyers now and then-finding false spots in the original testimony, and thereupon rearranging details and motivations with a greater care for probability."

A bit of twisting of Aristotle's Poetics, but what the hell, the Greeks didn't have zombies so I suppose it all evens out somehow. (JDF)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

New York Times Says "Now Easier Being A Geek"

March 18, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor
It’s All Geek to Me


A WEEK ago Friday, moments before an opening-day showing of the movie “300” at Seattle’s Cinerama, a 20-something moviegoer rushed to the front of the theater, dropped his shoulders, curled his arms into a mock-Schwarzenegger pose and bellowed out a timeless remark of King Leonidas of Sparta that has in the last week become the catchphrase of the year: “Spartans! Tonight we dine in hell!”

Groans, roars, macho hooting noises and sardonic applause rained down on him. The audience had been standing in line for an hour. Only a few of them were dressed as Greek hoplites. They were much better balanced between men and women than I’d expected and, racially, looked like a fair cross section of Seattle’s populace. Over the next couple of hours, they enjoyed “300” with roughly the same level of energy and audience participation as one would expect in an N.C.A.A. Final Four game.

The film contains a lot of over-the-top material, reflecting its origin in a graphic novel. As often as not, when I found myself rolling my eyes at something particularly mortifying (the tactical corpse-pile avalanche, the Persian executioner with serrated fins for arms), the crowd reacted much as I did, some even hurling catcalls from the balcony or blurting their own lines of dialogue. It was all pretty festive for a movie about ancient history in which almost all of the characters end up dead.

This, apparently, was no anomaly. Though it opened on a relatively small number of screens, “300” made money far beyond the most optimistic projections of its producers, racking up the third-best opening weekend ever for an R-rated movie.

The critics, however, were mostly hostile, and frequently venomous. Many reviews made the same points:

• “300” is not sufficiently ironic. It takes its themes (duty, loyalty, sacrifice, the preservation of Western civilization against enormous odds) too seriously to, well, be taken seriously.

• “300” is campy — meaning that many things about it can be read as sexual double entendres — yet the filmmakers don’t show sufficient awareness of this.

• All of the good guys are white people and many of the bad guys are brown. (How this could have been avoided in a film about Spartans versus Persians is never explained; the distinctly non-Greek viewers at my showing seemed to have no trouble placing themselves in the sandals of ancient Spartans.)

But such criticisms aren’t really worth arguing with, because they are not serious in the first place — and that is their whole point. Many critics dislike “300” so intensely that they refused to do it the honor of criticizing it as if it were a real movie. Critics at a festival in Berlin walked out, and accused its director of being on the Bush payroll.

Thermopylae is a wedge issue!

Lefties can’t abide lionizing a bunch of militaristic slave-owners (even if they did happen to be long-haired supporters of women’s rights). So you might think that righties would love the film. But they’re nervous that Emperor Xerxes of Persia, not the freedom-loving Leonidas, might be George Bush.

Our so-called conservatives, who have cut all ties to their own intellectual moorings, now espouse policies and personalities that would get them laughed out of Periclean Athens. The few conservatives still able to hold up one end of a Socratic dialogue are those in the ostracized libertarian wing — interestingly enough, a group with a disproportionately high representation among fans of speculative fiction.

The less politicized majority, who perhaps would like to draw inspiration from this story without glossing over the crazy and defective aspects of Spartan society, have turned, in droves, to a film from the alternative cultural universe of fantasy and science fiction. Styled and informed by pulp novels, comic books, video games and Asian martial arts flicks, science fiction eats this kind of material up, and expresses it in ways that look impossibly weird to people who aren’t used to it.

Lack of critical respect means nothing to sci-fi’s creators and fans. They made peace with their own dorkiness long ago. Oh, there was momentary discomfort around the time of William Shatner’s 1987 “Saturday Night Live” sketch, in which he exhorted Trekkies to “get a life.” But this had been fully resolved by 2000, when sci-fi fans voted to give the Hugo Award for best movie to “Galaxy Quest,” a film that revolves around making fun of sci-fi fans.

The growing popularity of science fiction, the rise of graphic novels, anime and video games, and the fact that geeks can make lots of money now, have given creators and fans of this kind of art a confidence, even a swagger, that — hard as it is for some of us to believe — is kind of cool now.

Video games have turned everyone under the age of 20 into experts on military history and tactics; 12-year-olds on school buses argue about the right way to deploy onagers and cataphracts while outflanking a Roman triplex acies formation. The near exhaustion of Asian martial arts themes has led a small but growing number to begin reconstructing, or imagining, the forgotten martial arts of the West. And science fiction, by its nature, has had to equip itself with a full toolkit for dealing with alien cultures, mindsets and landscapes.

Which is exactly how the creators of “300” approach the Spartans and the Persians. The only people in the film who don’t seem as if they came from another planet are the Arcadians (non-Spartan Greeks), who turn tail once the battle becomes hopeless.

Classics-based sci-fi is nothing new. To name the most recent of many examples, the novelist Dan Simmons published “Ilium” and “Olympos,” science-fictional takes on Homer. When science fiction tackles classical themes, the results may look a bit odd to some, but the audience — which is increasingly the mainstream audience — is sufficiently hungry for this kind of material (and, perhaps, suspicious of anything that’s overly polished) that it is willing to overlook the occasional mistake, or make up for it by shouting hilarious things from the balcony. These people don’t need irony or campiness self-consciously pointed out to them, any more than they need a laugh track to enjoy “The Simpsons.”

The Spartan phalanx presents itself to foes as a wall of shields, bristling with spears, its members squatting behind their defenses, anonymous and unknowable, until they break formation and stand out alone, practically naked, soft, exposed and recognizable as individuals.

The audience members watching them play the same game: media-weary, hunkered down behind thick irony, flinging verbal jabs at the screen — until they see something that moves them. Then they’ll come out and feel. But at the first hint of politics, they’ll jump back behind their shield-wall, just like the Spartans when millions of Persian arrows blot out the sun, and wait until the noise stops.

Neal Stephenson is the author, most recently, of “The System of the World,” the last book of “The Baroque Cycle” trilogy.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Zinesters and Underground Writers Take Note --

There's no reason why The Whirliblog shouldn't be all about underground writers. How many blogs cover this area? Desperately few.

That is what TW will be dedicated to. If you have any info about yourself, authors you know and like, or if you are a small publisher with any info about underground writers, send it my way. (Big publishers need not apply.)

The Whirliblog is also a part of the The Guild Of Outsider Writers, and will highlight the actions of that group, of which I am a founding member.

So send me any news you may have of undergrounders, but remember: I'm not looking for glitzy gossip items, to turn this into another frothy litblog, beholden to corporate publishers and making a big deal about yet another interview with already overexposed writers. News, entertainment and support for underground writers is the goal.

Friday, March 16, 2007

We'll Be Open All Night For Your Pleasure

The Guild of Outsider Writers will soon be with you to change the way you think about underground writers and writing. Our edge won't make you bleed, but will give you a chance to sharpen your own. What you do from there is up to you.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Writer's Guidelines Are Available!

Please send your request to jdfinch@whirligigzine.com