Saturday, January 30, 2010

Why "Pop"?

Obviously, I'm rebranding myself and my ideas. I'm also branding the new kind of fiction several of us have talked about.

Why am I using the word "pop"?

The word is easily understandable. "Pop Lit" conveys the nature of the art in two words. It's also inocuous. For myself it represents a tactical shift away from "literary rebellion," which many people ultimately found too dangerous.

Pop signals fun. For my uses it has three connotations beyond itself. (To be effective a brand needs resonance beyond itself.)
1.) Pop songs, which I see epitimized by the Beatles (or even 80's New Wave and Brit-Pop) more than the overproduced pop of now.
2.) The word populist.
3.) Pop art.

With any attempt to displace "literary" writing, those with a vested interest in the status quo will attempt to label all alternatives as "bad writing." The defense against this is to tie pop lit to art. Lit as art.

Finally, "pop" creates a broader category than other possibilities like "pulp" or "noir."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Book Under Assault

One has to accept that in the next few years, the book as we know it will be under crushing assault-- from the line of "Kindle"-style ebooks and the Internet, but also through the indifference of most of the public. Official literature will become more narrow, more elitist, more ensconsed among an affluent minority of the populace. It will be sustained by academia and by a downsized infrastructure. (The New York Times and the Washington Post, two pillars of book culture, are in trouble.) Lit's position will be defensive only.

Which leaves room for a dynamic literary movement which reinvents every aspect of the art. It's possible, with the right plan, to completely outflank the status quo. The plan should have the understanding that the standard $25 well-written novel is an obsolete product.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Literary Art

We're in the midst of drastic technological change transforming the way people receive their news and information-- and their culture also. One art has scarcely budged in response-- the insulated realm of literature.

Ten years ago I saw books and their big box delivery systems as on the edge of obsolescence. I still believe this. Aspects of the ULA campaign we never got to would've addressed this.

Those who'll prevail in the coming world will be those willing to rethink EVERYTHING.

The first step is to reinvent the art itself. It should be obvious to all that weighty and expensive scarcely-readable postmodern novels aren't designed to connect with 99% of the Twitter generation.

We can make new literary art that's readable and exciting-- and make it consciously ART at the same time.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Baffling to me is the realization that most underground writers won't even try to compete with the mainstream. At every prospect of making noise the stance has been to back away, back away, back away.. The attitude is typified by Outsider Writers, whose writers glory in their marginality. For the last two years the ULA has also followed this strange philosophy.

How anyone can be satisfied with this situation is beyond my understanding. Say what you will about me, but I was always in the arena COMPETING-- doing whatever it took to stand out, with the belief that by competing we could become hugely successful, and not incidentally make literary history. More than this I believed in the necessity and urgency of what we were doing. I saw openings on the game board which still wait to be exploited.

Without huge belief and ambition artists of any kind are noplace.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pop Stories

My new blog is up, "American Pop Lit" at

I'll soon be looking for submissions-- which should address the question,
"What is a pop short story?"

I'm not completely satisfied with the story I put up, "The Strange Case of Mr. Box." It could be better, shorter, tighter-- but it has some good points.


Noteworthy are two recent big happenings with the potential to change the cultural landscape.
1.) Philly-based Comcast buys the NBC empire.
2.) Kirkus Reviews folds. (Albeit since resurrected.)
These happenings alter the game board.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Everything in this society, this culture, is presentation and promotion. One has to be aware of this.

For example, the Rolling Stones were a creation of their manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, who followed a designed approach. He set the model for them to follow. After he left, they continued with his model.

Understanding the mysteries of promotion is the key to success.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Why the Short Story?

One has to know where the competition (the establishment lit scene) is vulnerable. Novels are their strongest point. Short stories are their weakest.

Short fiction is the easiest way to capture new readers; a new audience.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"By the Book"

In promotion, with certain things you have to go by the book. Keep in mind your competitors are all reading the same book! In many areas it's better to throw out the book.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The New Short Story Part I

The best opportunity for those seeking to compete in the arena of literature is the once-glorious American short story, which is no longer a popular art form. To judge by mainstream products, it's in poor shape.

The story needs to be reinvented. This is simpler than it seems. The Beatles reinvented rock n roll with a few tweaks-- superficial changes which gave the shock of the new. Standard rock n roll astutely repackaged.
My interest is not in literary stories but pop stories. That's what was successful in the past. That's the way to capture an audience.

That doesn't mean redoing O. Henry. It means accomplishing a few of the same objectives: readability; form; fun; humor or color: "popness."

Wred Fright's short fiction isn't O. Henry, but achieves some similar things. His pieces are new and artistically innovative, and so present one possible direction for the pop story.

Another direction is in combinations of simplicity and melodrama.

The models to be followed will be found in the stories we write.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Branding means grabbing words and territory for ourselves within the mental universe. For instance, "avant-garde." Who "owns" that term? With what writers is it identified? Is its use for some styles of them anachronistic?

My thesis is that any attempts to promote underground/outsider writing should have labels/brands ready to go, beyond "outsider" and "underground," which in the bigger picture weren't/aren't good enough.