Every few years, it seems two more publishers merge, and fewer companies control what we read. Despite the ballyhoo about self-publishing and print-on-demand, the reality is that six publishers now dominate. The literary market is edging toward the same blockbuster mentality as that of the music and movie industries. Thankfully, there will always be a few who are willing to speak up. Last October, Ben Marcus made a call to arms in his Harper's essay, "Why Experimental Fiction Threatens to Destroy Publishing, Jonathan Franzen, and Life as We Know It."
This weekend at PSU, FC2—Fiction Collective Two, a not-for-profit publisher of experimental fiction based in Florida—will hold The Writer's Edge, a workshop dedicated to innovative fiction, one of few in the country. Lidia Yuknavitch, FC2 board member and head of local publishing company Chiasmus Press, was kind enough to answer a few questions via email on the event and the state of publishing today.
WW: How do you define innovative fiction?
Lidia Yuknavitch: The mission statement goes like this: "FC2 is among the few alternative presses in America devoted to publishing fiction considered by America's largest publishers too challenging, innovative, or heterodox for the commercial milieu...." I think I'd add that innovative fiction asks different formal and content questions than mainstream fiction. Perhaps, too, innovative fiction at its best radicalizes literature.
What are some good books to start with?
A few I'd suggest that are wickedly fun would be Lance Olsen's Nietzsche's Kisses, Lucy Corin's Everyday Psycho Killers and Brian Evenson's The Wavering Knife.
Do you ever think it would be easier for writers interested in more experimental works to get published by mainstream media and reach a larger audience?
I'm willing to risk saying no, I do not think it would be easier for writers interested in more experimental works to correct culture by getting their work published or distributed by more mainstream media ... for the most part because mainstream media is market-driven, not art/aesthetically driven. In other words, mainstream media focuses on turning art into a product, and experimental art's emphasis is the practice of making/writing itself.
What gives you hope for the future of indie media, mixed media or challenging fiction?
The Internet, the dominance of television, film, digital, image-based living, cell phones, blogs and just plain speed—all of these give us the opportunity to not only tell stories differently, but to read them differently.... Lots of new readers and viewers are hungry for "something else" besides the Oprah-ization of literature. The participants of the Writer's Edge conference are evidence of a growing body of writers, artists and readers ready for (r)evolutions in language.
Friday, July 28, 9 pm: Michael Martone and Susan Steinberg read, open mic for workshoppers, music by Metal. Valentine's, 232 SW Ankeny St., 248-1900. Free. Saturday, July 29, 6-7:30 pm:
Faculty reading feat. R.M. Berry, Steinberg, Lance Olsen, Martone and Yuknavitch. PSU SMU, Rm. 327-8. Free. 10 pm: Berry reads, open mic for workshoppers, music by Mike Daily/O'Grady. Ash Street Saloon, 225 SW Ash St., 226-0430. Free. 21+. Sunday, July 30, 2-4 pm:
Small-Press Panel (feat. FC2, Chiasmus, Future Tense, Clear Cut and PSU's Ooligan) PSU SMU, Rm. 333. 9 pm: Yuknavitch and Olsen read, open mic for workshoppers, music by Adam Gnade. Towne Lounge, 714 SW 20th Place, 241-8696. Free. 21+. For more info, visit www.fc2.org/edge/edge.htm