How to Change Literature

WHO NEEDS THE 3-D STORY?

mosaic photo a lesik via shutterstock(Photo: A Lesik via Shutterstock.)

I’ve been engaging in a lot of talk about the three-dimensional story, and will engage in more of it, BECAUSE whether or not we at New Pop Lit are able to perfect the idea– or someone else does– it’s a way out of the box into which the literary art has placed itself.

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WHO needs the 3D short story?

EVERYONE involved in the literary game in any way needs it– including at the highest levels, which are filled with caretakers and functionaries as much as literary artists. The scene is starved for a new kind of product– akin to the automobile business in the early 1950’s before the arrival of the Corvette, the Thunderbird, and the Mustang.

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(Especially had the only models available back then been stodgy Studebakers and Ramblers. Which is the condition of today’s established literary world.)

TIME FOR A NEW MODEL

The 3-D Story is the key to unlocking the future of literature. At this time, at New Pop Lit headquarters, in our labs and workshops, we’re furiously designing story prototypes– discarding some, keeping others, with a single goal:

To create the most brilliant and exciting short story ever written.

Once the new model is perfected and street-ready– fully readable and unique– the task will become leveraging it. Properly announcing the better literary product to the world.

These posts, at this blog, are laying that groundwork.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

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The 3-D Story IS Coming!

DESIGNING A BETTER SHORT STORY?

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THE PROBLEM is that the new-style three-dimensional short story (now on our drawing board) is ridiculously difficult to write. The original plan was to have five or six prototypes finished by summer. As of now: One completed, another being worked on. I’ll be lucky to have that story revised and polished by summer. I have another 3-D story outlined (sketchy notes for others), and still hope to have that one ready by Halloween, as it has a Halloween theme.

My partner is trying the idea with a novel she’s been writing.
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My first half-assed attempt to place into reality ideas regarding “literary montage” was in 2014. That story attempt morphed into a novella–

ONCE the improved 3-D story is launched and successful, the price of “X” will be set dramatically higher, because– as imperfect as it is– the work contains enough clues on what the fully-realized version should look like to give the game away. IF the idea truly works, the trend-following literary herd will be certain to grab onto the concept. We plan to hold a monopoly on the style as long as we can.

The goal: To surpass-not-match ANY contemporary short story written by anybody.

With the 3-D story we fully intend to SHOCK the literary world.

Cassius Clay After Winning Championship

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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Literature Living in the Past

(Editor’s Note: With this post we’re living in the past, in that this short essay originally appeared under the same title on August 9, 2013, at the Attacking-the-Demi-Puppets blog. It’s being reprinted because its approach represents the impetus behind our quest to reinvent the short story form– and because in five-plus years things haven’t much changed.)
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SHIRLEY JACKSON AND THE NEW YORKER

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The centerpiece of The New Yorker’s August 5 summer fiction issue is a story by Shirley Jackson named “Paranoia.” In style the short story reads like any other New Yorker short story published over the past year. Being from Shirley Jackson, it’s more entertaining than the run-of-the-mill NewYorker story. The biggest difference between “Paranoia” and other well-crafted New Yorker stories is that the story “Paranoia” by Shirley Jackson is sixty years old.

Did the run-of-the-mill New Yorker reader notice?

Likely not. In the first place, fiction appearing in The New Yorker is never read, A.) because the magazine’s purpose isn’t to be read, but to sit upon refined coffee tables in upscale residences from Manhattan to Newport Beach (but not very much in Newport Beach) as a marker of breeding and good taste—the unique cover announcing the week’s message; and B.) because the pieces that are actually read when an ambitious subscriber decides to read the magazine are the movie reviews and show listings, maybe the week’s big think piece, but never—never—the fiction. That the magazine still publishes “fiction,” even if no one reads the fiction, is all that’s required. “Oh, the fiction,” a person responds, looking at the Table of Contents. “Still there. Good.”

In on-line blurbs for the issue, The New Yorker hearkens back to a previous New Yorker story by Shirley Jackson, “The Lottery,” which received more mail response than any story they’ve ever published, before or since. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson was published in 1948!

With today’s establishment-produced “fictions” we’re not talking about a healthy art form. There’s not been a lot of change in it. After sixty-plus years of presenting the same thing, the few remaining publishers of literary short stories have lost their audience. Renowned-but-little-read short story writer Charles Baxter acknowledges as much in a Daily Beast interview this week, with hardly a shrug. No attempt to understand the reasons. No desire to create something strikingly new. Charles Baxter has been writing the same kind of short stories for thirty years (not a long period from The New Yorker’s perspective). One thing we can bet about the short stories Baxter has published then and now is that they haven’t changed one iota. Since no one reads them, beyond dutiful writing students eager to learn how to duplicate them, does it matter?

A healthy art form—think of rock music from 1964 to 1967—is engulfed in explosions of creative discoveries everyplace, new trails blazed, the standard centerpiece of the art (the pop song) presenting radical new experiments and experiences by the week.

In literature, we get the unchanging literary story. As unchanged in 60 years as the proverbial generic McDonald’s hamburger left on a plate that never changes, always looking the same.

But The New Yorker is happy, and if they’re happy, the unthinking unblinking literary herd is also happy. Yes. A good year for the short story. 1948!

Maybe next they’ll bring back Joe DiMaggio to play for the Yankees.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit News

Why Change?

WHY CHANGE THE SHORT STORY ART?

THE ATTITUDE throughout the literary world is that our stories are very good no one could do better so why change anything?

Yet art like everything in nature needs to adapt, mutate, change.

The Rolling Stones

THERE ARE scores of bands today who can do anything the Rolling Stones did– in presentation, posturing, music– likely better, but the Stones got there first. Or almost first. Early enough.

Bob-Dylan

Hundreds, maybe thousands of wannabe folk singers can sing and play the guitar as well or better than Bob Dylan ever did– some even write as well– yet Bob Zimmerman got there before them.

ABBA_-_TopPop_1974_1

Dozens of singers in groups and bands can blend their voices as well as did the 70’s Swedish pop act ABBA. But ABBA did that kind of thing before them.
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Here’s a photo of an ABBA sound-alike group from California, Music Go Music. They’re pretty good. Ever hear of them?

music go music****

MEANWHILE, there are at least a hundred rock bands out there influenced by– and sounding and looking very much like– the classic rock band Led Zeppelin. Most prominent among them is Greta Van Fleet, which won the 2019 Grammy for Best Rock Band. (You know rock lost its cred and impetus when they created a Grammy category for it. Tamed and neutered.) Here’s a photo of the band:

greta van fleet

What, are we back in the 1970’s? This is not called reinventing an art form, or even renewing it. It’s called recycling something which lost steam more than twenty years ago. It’s art going through the motions– staying alive in a culture, but barely. On life support. (The situation “Literature” has been in for decades.)
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THERE ARE EVEN today painters who can paint just like Paul Gaugin and Vincent van Gogh (if not with quite their amount of passion and soul), but when those two artists came onto the scene no one was painting like they were painting.

We remember the pioneers, the innovators, the creators-not-regurgitators, in any field.

WHAT are we asking of short story writers?

We’re asking them to be prepared to scrap their current beliefs on how to write, to be ready to radically alter their present modes of writing– to be willing to change the way they view the art, because one way or another, from this corner or another, artistic change IS coming.

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Not “Literature.” Instead: POP LIT.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Busting the Supply-Demand Equation

THE NEED FOR FICTION REINVENTION

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People fail to realize the extent to which most things in life are influenced by the supply-demand situation.

For instance in politics, the enormous oversupply of liberal arts graduates is one of the drivers of left-wing activity. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who after college worked as a bartender) is a classic example.

But what about art? Writing?

WHEN GOOD ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH

Many competent short story writers are published every year in literary journals across the country. Several of them are crafting short stories better than vaunted New Yorker magazine fiction– which for decades has been the model for writing programs across the nation. We’ve published a few of those better writers at our main New Pop Lit site.

Having fiction placed in The New Yorker has been thought of as the Holy Grail for the standard MFA writing student. Thousands of MFA grads are attempting to follow that model. To squeeze through that narrow doorway. Lining up. Jamming up. A department store before the doors open on Black Friday.

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THE PROBLEM

The problem is that there are too many creative writers, and too few paying-or-prestigious outlets for their work. A vast oversupply of product. To meet it, tiny demand: very few people who read the overwritten New Yorker model. Today the creative writer’s audience consists of other creative writers, who’ve been trained to read and appreciate that obsolete style of story writing. (New Yorker stories themselves, with rare exceptions, are unread by most New Yorker subscribers.) Well-crafted literary stories are made to be admired, not read.

Today it doesn’t matter how well you the writer can write. The margin of difference between the best and the merely competent is small enough that decisions on who deserves publication and attention are made for reasons other than quality and talent. Instead, they’re made for reasons of politics, correctness, or connections.

THE SOLUTION

breaking glass

The solution is to bust the supply-demand equation which currently exists in writing. This can be done on both ends.

1.) Create a faster, vastly more readable and exciting short story model– one so new and thrilling it demands to be read. Done right, this could grow the audience for short fiction several times over.

At this point the art is so marginalized there’s ample room for growth.

2.) Create a short story prototype so different from the standard– and difficult to do well– that few writers will be able to write it.

Doing this will create the “perfect storm” of jump-started demand, with few writers able to fill that demand. Those writers a step ahead of cultural history will be in a valuable spot. The vocation of fiction writer will become a worthwhile pursuit, for the first time in years.

Creating that new product won’t be easy. I’ve been working intensively on the matter for many months– really, longer (did my first rough version five years ago)– and am finding the going anything but easy.

Then again, life isn’t easy.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

 

Value of the Mind

REFLECTIONS THE MORNING AFTER THE SUPERBOWL

patriots

The NFL will have to invoke the mercy rule. The New England Patriots have gone to the Superbowl too many times. They’ve turned the vaunted National Football League into something of a joke. Despite all attempts at creating parity in the league, one increasingly creaky team continues to dominate.

They achieved the Lombardi Trophy for winning the Superbowl with a 41 year-old quarterback against three teams each with more talent than them.

HOW DO THEY DO IT?

The New England Patriots’ success illustrates the truth that value in the world, as in an economy, comes from the mind.

For 18 years the Patriots have leveraged some incremental intangible advantage– somehow out-training and out-thinking their adversaries. Not by a lot, but by enough. Over the years that edge has multiplied so that even this year with a team of players literally in some cases off the street, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, instituters of a slightly better system, have devastated the league– to the extent that critics continue to cry “luck!” or “cheating!” Which illustrates the critics’ lack of understanding.

HOW THE WORLD WORKS

Isn’t it the way of the world that an enterprise gains a slight edge over its competitors, and that edge multiplies itself again and again until the business dominates its field? In some cases becoming a monopoly. This explains the success of Starbucks and McDonald’s. They have a slight intangible edge– are able to in some way out-think and outperform their rivals. A better plan. Better thinking.

The key part of this is the way an edge is leveraged. Which explains the creation of billionaires.

This phenomenon applies to history. It explains, for instance, the rise of the West– how a better economic system combined with a stronger belief system gave Europe an edge which continued to increase, and increase. The phenomenon explains how America became, in less than 200 years after its founding, the greatest civilization the world has ever seen.

THAT America continues to value the individual mind more than do other countries– the key to American success– continues to give it an edge which draws value, in the form of ambitious go-getters, from around the world.

BETTER THINKING APPLIED TO LITERATURE?

Our bet at New Pop Lit is that creating and discovering better literary products, and presenting them in a better way, will give us an edge which will multiply quickly throughout the literary realm– and draw ambitious talent to our modest site.

WE SEE how the wrong way of writing has multiplied itself throughout literature and publishing, via MFA programs and take-no-risks conglomerates– which explains the stagnation of the dominance of mere competence in fiction and poetry circa 2019.

The task is to change that.

New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08/28/09
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Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

 

Thinking Beyond the Flat Narrative

ABOUT THREE-DIMENSIONAL THINKING

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(image per uncyclopedia.)

Social media is forcing us to change how we see things. Because of social media, our minds are changing how we perceive and process reality.

PREVIOUS THINKING

The previous way of thinking and perceiving is to take a news story handed us by the Big Screen at face value. Yet what you’re receiving has been heavily edited– often in order to present a rigged, structured viewpoint. It looks at a news item from a single angle. Everything from established news outlets is geared toward narrowing and focusing the story, for greater impact.

QUESTIONING THE NARRATIVE

Social media adds more information– often from unapproved sources like your average citizen. (The essence of democracy.) Unexpected video– or the full video before editing. New, different angles. The truth of a matter is suddenly not as certain as we were originally led to believe.

Many of those trained to think one-dimensionally have trouble handling this. A leftist friend of mine recently tweeted out this statement:

The idea that there are two sides to every story, and that you gotta hear ’em, is probably the most destructive ideological position operating today.

In truth there are more than two sides to every story– but at least two. We should accept two at minimum, because the alternative is totalitarianism.

SEEING THE FULL PICTURE

Modified by CombineZP

The person who wants to be more than a blind follower of this herd or that one, has to think in as broad a fashion as possible– and engage in games or exercises designed to get the mind outside a narrow corridor. Chess runs on rigid rules, but trains the player to think side-to-side as well as straight ahead. More importantly, to be good at chess you have to put yourself in the shoes of your opponent, to see the game board through his eyes, from his viewpoint. Poker trains the player to study the person as well as the cards– to try to understand the minds of a variety of players.

The three-dimensional thinker is ahead of the curve. Within several years, those who aren’t seeing the world three-dimensionally will be far behind.

Examining a variety of views and opinions simultaneously isn’t comfortable or easy. For indoctrinated ideologues especially, confrontation with contrary viewpoints is especially painful. It goes against their schooling; against every part of the way they’ve been trained and educated.

Standard education practices teach students in a linear way. The student progresses in stages, from one level to another, as if in a corridor– using texts which proceed in a linear fashion. Everything is geared to reinforce the impression that the universe works in a linear, one-dimensional mode. But it doesn’t. The environment we emerge into is far more complex than we’d like to believe. Linear thinking is a shorthand way of understanding the world– but only that. Extremely limited and ridiculously incomplete.

THE CHOICES

The creation of smartphones and the rise of social media have given us a bombardment of information. There are three ways for ourselves and our brains to handle that.

A.)  Our personalities and our brains break down in the face of it. We go insane.

B.)  A totalitarian state or giant monopoly drastically restricts the flow of information the public receives. Unapproved participants to be kicked out; shut down; disallowed.

C.)  Our minds adjust. We learn to adapt, to process information faster. Which means, for one thing, faster reading. Not quite speed reading, but close. (The direction our Attention-Deficit society has been going in anyway.) Which will have many consequences for the literary art.

I’ll discuss those consequences, and the effect of three-dimensional thinking on the arts in general, in a future essay.
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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

 

Decline of a Corporation?

ANATOMY OF A NEWS STORY

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THE LATEST GENERAL MOTORS FIASCO

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SIX WEEKS DOING NOTHING

News in the social media age evolves swiftly. Too fast for the moribund PR bureaucrats at the General Motors auto company, apparently.

THE LATEST PR fiasco is news breaking nationally about virulent racism at a Toledo parts factory, covered in a story at CNN– a cable network with international reach.

TURNS OUT the story first broke on November 29, in an article written by Jamie L. LaReau at the Detroit Free Press.

According to the CNN story, response to the lawsuit and the initial accusations has been tepid at best.

I FIRST HEARD of the matter on my twitter feed yesterday. I checked both @GM and the twitter account of their CEO, @mtbarra. Hundreds of disgruntled customers were posting on their twitter feeds. Their response? Nothing.

The story had gone viral nationally, with articles at Slate, New York Post, and other places. Locally, with the NAIAS Detroit Auto Show taking place– positive press the order of the day– there was hardly a murmur. A couple perfunctory article eventually appeared. A recycling of the November 29 article by the Detroit Free Press. A short piece at the Detroit News. (I was traveling about, keeping tabs on my twitter feed on my phone.)

From General Motors, not a peep. Not a tweet.

This from a company which has received a mountain of bad publicity over its abrupt closure of several area factories during the holiday season– one the Poletown plant, about which many questions remain. Such as: HOW MUCH were the massive tax breaks General Motors received to build the thing?

The Poletown plant was built upon the bulldozed remains of a historic Polish-American Detroit neighborhood. (Disclosure: I was born in a hospital in that neighborhood.) An example, one could perhaps say, of ethnic cleansing.

MEANWHILE

Meanwhile, today, Friday, this evening, new congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and DSA people are to lead a protest downtown Detroit at the Detroit Auto Show, protesting the recent plant closures, among other things.

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They may as well add to their actions a protest about GM’s inaction, its inertia, its lethargy. Just saying.
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-Karl Wenclas for NEW POP LIT News

Year-End Wrap-Up 2018

CONCLUSIONS OR DELUSIONS?

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(Painting c/o wikipedia commons, “outsider art.”)

2018 was a challenging year, as we injected ourselves, on several occasions, wisely or unwisely, into debates in defense of free expression and of truth.

A score of posts at this blog were devoted to our investigation of the Junot Diaz Controversy. See one of our reports here.

We also came out publicly in opposition to the depublishing of poets in response to pressure by what I called “Poetry Cops.” One of our reports on that matter is here. In this post we asked the question, “Is American literature becoming a censorship horror show?” As of this writing it remains an open question.
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AMID the noise, we found time to present some of the best fiction and poetry found anywhere, from present and future literary luminaries and of all kinds and styles. Examine them and their work at our Features line-up here.
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OUR own highlight at this blog and in our lives in 2018 was this trip back up to northern Michigan’s Hemingway country, this time for distinctly personal reasons.
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What’s in store for New Pop Lit for 2019?

More new fiction and poetry,

BUT ALSO–

We’ll attempt to reinvent the short story. That’s all.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit News

Blackballing 2018

A FICTIONAL EXAMINATION OF DEPLATFORMING AKA CENSORSHIP

hate free 2

WE BELIEVE that fiction is a valid way of addressing current issues. “Fiction” can illuminate truths escaping other forms of investigation and argument.

The trick, of course, with writings that are in any way political, is making them credible. Putting balance into them so they’re not simply polemics. Not merely an unbalanced screed. Toward that end I focused as much on the failings of the lead character as on the issue he deals with. That much-dissed concept of objectivity comes into play.

The short story is “Safe Zones,” posted at one of my several personal blogs. (When deplatforming of myself occurs, eliminating all my forums and writings will be no easy task!)

***One of the things I wanted to convey in the story is how we’ve completely lost control of our own lives. That everything we do today requires a technological platform of some kind– without them, it’s difficult to live; to survive.***

Feedback to the ideas expressed, and to the writing itself, is welcomed.

-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS