WATCHING the News the past two or three years one has received the impression, message, point, sledgehammer emphasis of a world in total collapse, screens filled with scenes of war and riots, destruction of cities and lives– protests rebellions insurgencies marches hectic hysteria as media generates panic leading to more turmoil feeding more media coverage and– the real point– sustained ratings. Jobs for designated experts on all sides.
TODAY we present a story which conveys what’s been happening. The Chaos of NOW, well captured in “Report from the Capital” by Timothy Resau. Fiction which depicts today’s tumultuous vibe.
Resau’s story is like a modernist painting in which you can see what you want to see in it. No sides taken– only a portrait of contemporary reality.
In spite of the curfew, sniper fire, violence, and bloodshed, we went into the capital that night. No one was safe. The ambushing was constant; gunshots, it seemed, were being fired randomly. Everyone was a possible target. The limited radio and TV reports warned of certain danger. In short, chaos and anarchy prevailed. Law and order were not in place—not yet. Law and order had been removed or erased. Citizens were being asked to remain tuned to local media for updates.
WHAT’S the most exciting short story ever written? One written by Jack London or Richard Connell? Edgar Allan Poe or Ernest Hemingway? Or someone more contemporary?
Today we present a good candidate: “True Survivor” by Greg Jenkins. A story perfectly structured and written, with a strong opening, classic setting, tangible details, and at least one dynamic characterization, all centered around a chase. The story does what only well-written prose can offer– presenting the interior thoughts and emotions of a narrator engaged in struggling with a manifestly real exterior world. We trust you’ll enjoy the experience.
What really struck you, though, when you looked into that face, were his eyes. Cold and unblinking, they didn’t seem like human eyes at all, but more like the eyes of some large reptile; when he trained them on you, sharp and dull at the same time, you felt as if you were being probed by something vaguely Jurassic.
ON OTHER FRONTS, we’re in the late stages of putting together a new print publication– this one featuring what we call fun pop poetry. We should have room to squeeze into the modest issue a couple more offerings.
What does “fun pop poetry” mean? Decide for yourself and send one or two examples for consideration. (Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org.)
WE ARE putting this project this summer as much as possible into the zeitgeist the vibe the flow of angst and anger rushing on all sides around us. We’re caught in a sense of chaos. Of reality, the world, and all stability preconceived notions of comfort and sense dropping beneath us– as if the floors and earth under our feet have given way. In all likelihood the challenges we all face are temporary. Which doesn’t make them easier.
This summer we plan to have the writing– the art– we present reach a crescendo. Afterward which (we hope) the world will resume a course of peace and harmony. Setting the stage for a fun and reinvigorating pop culture revival.
FIRST UP in our literary symphony is a short story by M.C. Schmidt— “We Love You, Ringo”— ostensibly about a Beatles tribute band, but at the same time about a relationship, and maybe also, about the world we live in today. Humor combined with seriousness. We hope you enjoy it.
ALSO when you get a chance drop into our Special Projects room on this site and check out the latest piece of quirky writing there: “Aim For the Snyder Brothers” by Bud Sturguess. With more fun stuff already posted at the blog, and more (including a collaborative project?) to follow.
Don’t miss any of it!
WHAT could be more essential to summer than traveling to an exotic place (though it be another planet!) or playing in a rock band?
That, anyway, is where we take you with “Two Poems by Ross Taylor.” Consider it a vacation inside your own mind. (No VR headset required.)
Speaking of the mind’s capabilities, the second poem, “How to Get Through a Song,” is noteworthy because it presents simultaneous experiences. What does that mean? Read it and find out!
I couldn’t hear the band any more. I couldn’t hear anything
and the pretty girl Frank and I were looking at was blind.
They started freaking about not being able to hear anything either,
“The birds have all gone quiet!”
WE’VE BEEN accepting new fiction only sporadically of late, as we ready other aspects of our campaign. BUT we have new writing today– from long-time DIY scribe Wred Fright, an excerpt from his newest novel, Fast Guy Slows Down.
We’re running it because A.) it’s from Wred Fright, whose unique style combines fun with wit and intelligence, B.) it’s about a superhero. What could be more pop?
A superhero’s reflections on his career and crucial events through the decades. We chose for our excerpt the glamorous decade of the 1940’s, whose conflicts of flawed good guys versus evil Nazis brought about the need for pop superheroes– and led to their rise and maybe the birth of modern pop culture itself.
We hope you enjoy it!
The superhero is a child’s power fantasy, he or she all grown up and powerful. Big not small. To reach that, the parent must be gone, maybe because the child thinks he or she will always remain a child with the parent around, even though that isn’t true. Anyway, Superman’s an orphan. So’s Captain Marvel. So’s Batman. So’s Robin. Wonder Woman doesn’t have a dad, at least in the stories I read; I think they gave her a dad later on. Initially though, her mom makes her out of clay or something.
(Art: “Miss Fury” by Tarpe Mills c/o Camilla Nelson.)
Why read our web site?
Why “pop lit”– an intended fusion of the literary and the popular?
If you’re interested in writing and literature and believe literature can change the world (which at the moment needs an upsurge in cultural enthusiasm), then we’re a literary site to keep an eye on. None are more ambitious. (A sign of absurd confidence?)
What makes us stand out is A.) We believe the literary art, as well as the publishing industry itself, will change. As arts over time inevitably change. B.) We have plans to change it. Plans-– the plural, because we know many if not most of our ideas won’t work. Which is why we have a lot of them. We’re the innovation machine of today’s literary world.
This means: creating prototypes.
We have a primitive “3-D” multidimensional short story as our current feature, as one example of a writing prototype. We also have “zeens”– print journal prototypes– available for sale at our POP SHOP, in addition to the latest issue of a newsletter discussing more of what our plans are about.
Jump on the New Pop Lit bandwagon before it takes off!
MOST of the chaos is in our heads as the networks and social media pump images of violence, tragedy, and trauma into our heads 24/7. BUT there’s enough reality to it to concern everybody with a conscience and with half a brain in their head.
The populace is in panic.
OUR TASK as a literary site is to capture the current cultural vibe– the real one, not a watered-down and insular Manhattan-Brooklyn version.
At the moment, the strongest vibes aren’t coming from New York. They’re coming from hinterlands like Uvalde or Buffalo, where the already-unhinged have completely lost it, and the world explodes into chaos like a fictional Killtown.
Which we present in a short story, “Chaos In Killtown.” Its “3-D” multi-dimensional framework is an ideal vehicle for the expression of chaos. The narrative comes at the reader from every direction. The goal with this particular story is to be completely pop, but also to capture the hysteria of now. Does it?
The mayor sat in his riverfront mansion at an enormous table sampling yet another enormous meal. Calls came into his private phone from aides saying the city was in chaos and he had to do something.
“The city is always in chaos!” the mayor shouted back, and disconnected.
CAN there be a new avant-garde in the writing game?
Can an avant-garde be anything but new?
We started the year looking for writing which strives to set a different tone and appearance from the accepted and the acceptable. From the same and the sane. One of the works we’ve accepted along that line we present to you today: “Turning Over the CD,” a novel excerpt by Anthony Kane Evans.
ONE OF the first stories we accepted for this project was also by Anthony, and showed his unique style. Anthony’s writing is marked by its clarity and conciseness– which allows him the ability to toy with new ideas in presentation. This piece follows the first rule of artistic change: disorient then reorient the reader. As you’ll see.
I slam the car door behind me. A fat lot of good that will do. I mean, it is not going to join the two halves of this book together. I consider, for one awful moment, to throw the CD away. There is a pond in a field nearby. I imagine skimming the CD across its placid surface. I stop. There are frogs over there, I can hear them singing. My God, is it that time of the year again? Have we been so long on the road? Has this blackness which I am now a part of been going on since Vienna and am I only now aware of it?
But what of the avant-garde?
What is “avant-garde” anyway beyond a widely-used marketing phrase from the 1920’s? Is it intellectual writing existing in an airless John Cage glass box suspended over the heads of the potential audience: isolated; sterile; detached? Or should it not instead follow Richard Wright’s prescribed path (per literary historian Paula Rabinowitz): folk art to popular art, then to politics?
Or: Can an avant-garde be a vanguard (the literal translation) without a popular following to be the vanguard of? We’re not certain, are only asking. The difficult trick for all who pursue the literary game is to find or create that following.
The Writer’s Dilemma is that there are an estimated two million novelists in America, and maybe ten million self-styled poets– with many more of both writing in English in other countries. The performers are on the verge of outnumbering the audience. Or: writers have become the audience.
The only possible solution is to recreate the art. To construct works wholly new, to set those who write them apart from the innumerable crowd.
TOWARD THAT END we recently ran a contest for stories with two viewpoints. We present the winner of that contest now: Tom Ray. His winning story is “What He Thought Was Right.” His tale is about two Vietnam veterans, and their encounter with a World War II veteran and that veteran’s grandson. Has the clash of generations always been with us? A clash, maybe, not of generations so much as viewpoints. It’s an excellent story. We hope you’ll like it.
Harold said he served in infantry, and Art believed him. Old guys who lie about Vietnam would shut up and kind of drift off when they found out Art had been there. And Harold didn’t tell war stories that sounded like a movie script. He’d just make a few vague statements, always ending with, “I saw some bad shit over there, man.”
At the same time, we have new work at two of our supplementary blog. At our new Special Projects blog, home of quirkier writing, we have “The Little Squirrel and the Baby Eagle” by Wred Fright. At our News blog we have a look at what we’re up to behind the scenes, with a post titled “Prototypes.”
Something for everyone!
WHERE ARE THE WRITER CELEBRITIES?
THERE HAVE BEEN a few of them over the years, even recently, as we find with our atmospheric new feature set in Manhattan, “That Time I Stalked Nick Tosches” by Brooklyn-based author Scott Laudati.
We wish we could’ve met Nick Tosches ourselves!
The Next Best Thing: To discover or create a few new literary celebrities. Which may be part of what this hyper-ambitious project is about. Until then, enjoy the essay.
“He’s a writer,” I said. “These guys don’t get the face time. They don’t hate their fans like actors do.”
It was a gamble, though. Would he dig a young fan interrupting his drink? There was a war in every line on his face. I hadn’t seen anyone else recognize him, but maybe that’s why he drank there. There was no way to know if he’d shake my hand or put his cigar out on my eye.
(Painting: “Portrait of Victor Chocquet” by Paul Cezanne.)