The 10X Scenario

Many people fail to grasp that one of this country’s chief problems is too much productivity. Including in the literary world. We’re drowning in productivity.

Legions of tech fanatics on Twitter and elsewhere continually claim that A.I. chatbots are or will be ten times more productive, for writers and other creators, than what existed prior. Few consider the consequences.

A.) If a magazine staff is suddenly ten times more productive, will this mean eliminating nine-tenths of the staff?

B.) If authors– self-published or mainstream– are ten times more productive, will ten times the number of books enter the book market?

ALREADY a host of genre authors make a living off the sheer volume of their novels. The more prolific produce ten novels a year (some more), now. What happens when they can release a new novel every week? Or every day?

Opportunists and financial operators exist who will take advantage of any opening. (There’s the example of author “Mari Silva,” who’s produced 340+ books in the past few years, before ChatGPT. The books have been traced to a real estate guy in Canada. A slick business, no doubt profitable, with no concern with such niceties as copyrights.)


A figure as high as one-hundred times productivity becomes conceivable if every person who ever had the passing thought to write a book or novel, but lacked the ability to do so, decides to, using a chatbot.

(The figures of ChatGPT usage already are astounding, per this article, which sees increase in its use continuing at least until the end of 2024.)

It doesn’t matter if the resulting mass of books and ebooks are inept, or– as promised by AI tech fans– indistinguishable from human-written books. Of minimal quality or not, numbers of product will skyrocket. The question becomes: how many books will overwhelm an already-saturated market? Ten times what exists today? 30X? 100X?

Simple supply and demand: dumping too much product onto a market, without corresponding increase in demand, lessens the value of the product. In this case, books and writers.

The end of the Beanie Baby craze all over again: value plummeting to nothing.

The same situation will apply, by the way, to stories and poems sent to literary journals like ours. The increased bombardment will detract from the genuine article. For the serious individual poet or writer: the number of other poets and writers you’ll be competing against will be that much greater. It will be that much harder for the talented new writer to be discovered.


Another problem for online literary sites and small press publishers will be upstart AI sites like this one, which is publishing as many as fifteen new AI-generated short stories per day. Given that search engines give preference to frequency of publication, it might become impossible for any human-powered literary magazine, no matter how well staffed, to keep up.

NOTE: Dozens of AI fiction-story generator websites are already available, including those run by established outfits like Canva and Reedsy– which seems, for those two enterprises, a betrayal of their previous customer base of actual artists and writers.


A necessary first step is having all books which are generated by AI devices labeled as such, so readers know what they’re purchasing. Which is the point of our “Save the Writer!” petition.

Its real purpose: to draw attention to the problem and offer some pushback to the growing storm of AI operators.

Have you signed it yet?


-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit News.

Dimensions of Disaster

Are there reasons I’m pushing hard for writers and readers to sign the “Save the Writer” petition– whose purpose is to alert the literary world about the coming storm of botbooks?

Yes! I’m doing so because ailments which afflict literature and publishing didn’t just begin two months ago with AI-generated books. The devaluing of the writer has been ongoing for the past twenty years. Now the dimensions of disaster are accelerating.

All one need do to realize this is to look at how many tech reporters there are at every news outlet, magazine, and mainstream website. They’re ubiquitous– and they’re biased toward the wonders of technology. They have no doubt of the domination of AI– their only questions are how “ethical” it will be (if the term can seriously be used); how effective, and which of the monster corporations and hyper-wealthy plutocrats– Gates, Musk, Bezos, Page, Brin, Thiel– will have the best products and make the most profits. And there certainly will be a funnel of money and profits headed straight toward the top.

The change in this Internet Age has been gradual enough that few people have noticed what’s occurred.

What HAS occurred?

Where are the book reviewers and reporters on happenings in the publishing world? Book review sections in newspapers across the country have vanished– as newspapers themselves have been vanishing. Books are an ever-diminishing realm. The attitude of techies glorying in the arrival of Artificial Intelligence– the ultimate sci-fi dream becoming reality to satisfy the fantasy cartoon world within which they live– is dismissive. “Adapt or die” is their mantra, seen across social media. (Or at least on Twitter.) They consider books an obsolete and possibly unnecessary technology. Why would anyone read– they think– when a chatbot can give them all information?

In all seriousness, the position of books and writers within the greater culture is shrinking. The arrival of chatbots and botbooks is merely the latest assault.


A complete sea change, in attitude and art, is required. To find a way to turn the culture upside down, and thereby return literature to its previous position of cultural prominence.

If it can be imagined it can happen.

-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit

Shakespeare and Creativity

Shakespeare and friends at the Mermaid Tavern by John Faed

ONE THING to be noticed about the use of A.I. programs for writing, copyediting, and education is the way the programs enforce conformity and stifle creativity by forcing written language into an ever-narrower template of rules. Type something “wrong” in a document or email and the “correction” instantly appears. I’m sure most writers, especially new ones, immediately comply.

(The latest step in conformity is ChatGPT, which will do all your writing for you, by recycling lines and ideas from past writing– with not a shred of originality. We have a petition ongoing about that matter, which we suggest everyone read.)

Yet these processes, spawned by top-down systems, work contrary to the mode of operating of the greatest writer of them all, one William Shakespeare.

Stratford Will grew up in a time and place that was still largely an oral culture. Written communication was used first for legal documents, while the printing of books was strictly controlled and limited. Language was a verbal phenomenon, and that’s how people used it. Dictionaries had yet to be invented, while grammar was in a state of flux. Spelling was creative, to put it mildly– often used to give cues for how sentences were spoken— which words or syllables to emphasize, depending on context. Spoken language was the main thing– especially for Will and his colleagues in their acting company, as their art was a verbal, not written, art. Literature, for them, was a very different creature for them from what it is for us today.

In other words, it was a milieu designed for creativity. Everything about William Shakespeare’s life enhanced that freedom of creativity. Rules? What rules?! Shakespeare invented hundreds of words, often by turning nouns into verbs. (Today he’d be told, by a teacher or professor or bot, “You can’t do that!”) He was the son of a glovemaker, perhaps learned some of the trade himself, receiving the mental stimulation which comes from skilled manual labor. Also of course, he wasn’t just a writer, or just an actor, but more. Like his fellows, Will was a businessman, stagehand, salesman, and part everything else that went into the acting company’s productions. A jack-of-all-trades, or a “Johannes Factotum” as he was once scornfully described.


Ironically, it’s the Stratfordian establishment itself which has perpetuated misconceptions of the man, his friends, and his times, in their effort to canonize him.

(Something similar happened with the Beats here in the USA. Free-wheeling fun-loving bohemians taking joy in words and art, they’ve been co-opted in total by a rigidly elitist literary establishment– canonized; or rather fossilized, preserved in amber and placed behind glass– though no one should dare write or behave, in this constipated world, too much like them. As evidenced by a protest at Columbia University back in 2006 by a performance troupe of which I happened to be part.)

The mistake academies make about Shakespeare’s poems and plays is treating them as artworks to be read– when they were created to be seen and heard. To be performed. Without that performance one can’t fully understand the plays or the men who created them.

To find the real William Shakespeare one has to read up on his friends and partners in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men acting company, started by working class carpenter, actor, and entrepreneur James Burbage and his two sons. The company was a collection of characters. My favorite might be Robert Armin, a goldsmith apprentice who was sent one day to collect a debt owed his master. Unable to collect it, he scrawled witty verses of complaint on the walls of the inn with chalk. Queen Elizabeth’s personal jester, Tarlton, noticed them and recruited young Armin into a different form of apprenticeship– one of acting, comedy, and playwrighting. (Note the suffix of “wright”: one who builds, repairs, or creates, such as a shipwright. The connection between skilled manual labor– dextrous work done with the hands– and literary creation.)


Vincent van Gogh’s artistic wonders were based on his ability to escape the systems of his day– to seek grounding in earthy reality. Here’s a quote from one of his letters to his brother Theo:

I wish those who mean well by me would understand that my actions proceed from a deep feeling and need for love, that recklessness and pride and indifference are not the springs that move the machine, and this step is a proof of my taking root at a low level on life’s way. I do not think I should do well in aiming at a higher station or in trying to change my character. I must have much more experience, I must learn still more, before I shall be ripe, but that is a question of time and perseverence.

(Interesting that Van Gogh’s emphasis on experience undoubtedly opened new neuropathways in his brain and gave him a stronger foundation of empathy and knowledge. On the path to genius.)


We have more systems today than ever, enforcing conformity by regulating and controlling every aspect of our lives. The artist’s job is to throw off those shackles and escape those controls.


Coming soon: The Burbage Spoken Word Prize


-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit News

More Thoughts About A.I.


Tesla’s proposed A.I. robot.

THE BIG NEWS in the publishing world revolves around science fiction magazine Clarksworld closing submissions after being swamped with ChatGPT-created short stories– an increase over three months from under 25 to over 500.

In other news, a spate of A.I.-generated books have already begun to hit the market, per this article from Reuters.

OR: disruption of the publishing industry has taken place much more swiftly than anticipated. We at New Pop Lit have attempted to be open-minded regarding the new technology. It’s usually futile to fight progress, or what’s marketed as progress. The new technology has undeniable benefits for the individual writer, in speed and ease of writing. We also believed that using it more astutely than others might be a way to take on publishing’s Big Five, who are slow at adapting to anything. (Much of their way of operating is lodged in the early 20th Century, if not the 19th.)

However, techies themselves have decided to become major players in writing and publishing. Here’s a Tweet from the founder and CEO of OpenAI, the company which has inflicted ChatGPT and Dall-E upon the world: the two A.I. devices most directly aimed at the literary world.

Keep in mind that Sam Altman, like his technology colleagues and peers, is utterly ruthless. Who were the other original investors in OpenAI when it began business in 2015? Reid Hoffman, Jessica Livingston, Elon Musk, Ilya Sutskever, Peter Thiel: billionaires all, almost a Who’s Who of technology venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. (Corporate investors included Amazon Web Services.)

Elon Musk is the most well-known of the bunch (Peter Thiel perhaps the most infamous). These are people who have their interests and money invested in everything.

Over the past few years I’ve been researching Musk, reading every book I could find on him. Why? Because he’s disrupting the automotive industry. Being from Detroit, I’ve worked in an auto plant, and have friends and relatives in the automobile business. As do most people in this area.

Elon Musk exemplifies the mindset. Move into a vulnerable field and with new technology and aggressive tactics– including hyperbolic salesmanship– take it over. These are not preppy Ivy Leaguers taking casual three-martini Manhattan lunches and dawdling over the perks of upper-level publishing. An entirely different animal is entering the literary arena.

Technology for these people isn’t a job or a game– it’s a religion. They want it all: spaceships to Mars, A.I. robots, eternal life: everything. They won’t stop until the science fiction world of their fantasies is reality.


In the meantime, what’s the impact on the cozy world of letters? Publications large and small, online and print, will be overwhelmed with submissions, as anyone who ever had a vague thought of becoming a writer can now create a manuscript in minutes with a few prompts. It may become difficult to tell real from fake. A culture which already has too many writers will see their number multiplied– which will make it that much greater a task for any of us to stand out from the mass. Connections to the right people– already a determining factor– will become even more important. Who you know and who you suck up to. Got a book you want to market? Good luck!

There may be solutions or ways to overcome the obstacles, but the odds against have increased.

-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit News

Why Ted Gioia Is Wrong



A RECENT Substack essay by cultural historian Ted Gioia, “The State of the Culture (2023),” has received a level of attention on social media the past two weeks. It’s an interesting analysis of the dilemma the arts face at the moment, where there’s far too many choices, too much supply for static demand. As Gioia states: “The metrics for our culture have never been. . . well, they’ve never been larger.” And: “Our culture is one of abundance and instantaneous gratification . . . Never before has so much culture been available to so many at such little cost.” The problem amid this abundance, Gioia says– for literature in particular– is a dwindling audience.

In his analysis of the situation Ted Gioia is undeniably right. He’s also right that the demand for writing– for books and literature– needs to greatly expand. Where’s he’s wrong is in his prescription for how to accomplish that.

His tried-and-failed solution is education. More and better education! “– let’s focus our efforts on creating a discerning audience for these offerings.” Audience development and institutional outreach– geared toward bringing good writing (and music and painting) to the masses instead of the usual large conglomerate offerings of generic pop music, big-budget CGI Marvel movies, and predictably bland mass market genre fiction.

The problem with Ted Gioia’s solution is it doesn’t work. Music education has been a part of public schools for at least seventy years. Billions have been spent by nonprofits and universities on training skilled new musicians while promoting appreciation of the art. You want outreach? A huge portion of any major orchestra’s budget is spent on outreach, through education programs in schools and at the orchestra’s facilities itself. I’ve worked as a salesman for a major orchestra (and other arts organizations), and part of my job was simple outreach. Letting the public know this art was there.

What’s been the result? Classical music, which circa 1955 accounted for 20% of the record-buying market, is currently down to 1%. Jazz, Broadway cast albums, and other forms of “serious” music are faring no better.

The situation is little different for literature. Despite hundreds of writing programs throughout the country churning out many thousands of well-trained writers, the literary art has never been more culturally marginalized and socially irrelevant than now. The Big Five book conglomerates don’t have a clue how to excite the general public, and neither do college professors and literary critics, most of whom bemoan the decline of “serious reading.”


The preferred solution, in our eyes, is a completely revamped art, which the New Pop Lit project is about. Creating new kinds of short stories (once the most popular American art form), which can grab the reader from the first lines and never let go, and at the same time, be topical and relevant and maybe polemical but in all aspects engaged with the world and the lives of those who aren’t reading much of anything. This will include more striking-looking print vehicles than books with their predictably-formatted black-and-white texts accompanying linear single-viewpoint narratives. We’ve put forth some prototypes of alternatives, available at our POP SHOP.

The solution is all-new art, unlike anything yet seen, which demands to be bought. Art which can create true excitement among a lethargic, jaded public.

Is this possible? The music industry of the past offers a road map: the consolidation of strands of roots music into rock n roll, which via pure energy burst big-time onto the American cultural scene in the mid-1950s and pushed all other offerings to the sidelines. Rock was a demand-centered phenomenon, as record sales multiplied several times over during a twenty-year period, and vibrant music became an indispensable part of everyday life.

Could a similar cultural earthquake happen in the sleepy world of letters? If it can be imagined it can happen.


The Anti-A.I. Journal



Yes, the robot-busting publication expressive of human authenticity is already here. We anticipated the A.I. assault and the response needed– which is, affirmation of the skill, craft, intelligence, and good humor of human beings.

Put together by hand, produced in limited quantities, with emphasis on art and style, FUN POP POETRY SPECIAL EDITION is guaranteed to be Robot Free. All poems within were written by actual human beings.

Our zeens, as we call them, mark a return to the DIY authenticity of print zines, but taken to the next level of quality. The idea behind a zeen or zine is that you can hold it in your hand. With its tangible reality it’s something you can definitely NOT experience online. NOT processed by a dystopian megaconglomerate at far remove from individual artistry. With all of Walter Benjamin’s aura about it. NOT merely seen on a screen.

ZEENS are a step toward what we call post-A.I. culture: emphasis on real-world actuality. Like impressionist art– or punk rock– we seek to give people the “shock of the real.”

Here is your opportunity to fight the insanity. To rebel against the takeover of the culture and our minds by a handful of superplutocratic hyper-billionaire technological geeks. Help put ChatGPT and its like into the trashcan of history!

Order your authentic copy of Fun Pop Poetry SE at our POP SHOP today.



ONE OF the first steps in creating the New is development of a prototype. That which can hint at innovations to come. As Henry Ford did with his first prototype, an automobile constructed largely from bicycle parts.

A prototype is a demonstration model intended to serve two purposes:

1.) To show potentials of the design or concept.

2.) To reveal flaws when ideas become reality.

By definition a prototype is not a finished product, or the ultimate expression of the intended product. But it should point a direction– a new path for creators to follow.

Prototype of first Tesla Roadster c/o Tesla Motors.

We’ve developed prototypes of new kinds of literary journals (see them here). But we’re also working on what we call the multidimensional or “3-D” short story.

One of the simpler ones we’ve released to date is “The Perfect Candidate.” Note how the opening is intentionally disorienting– the idea to disorient readers then quickly reorient them. (“Where am I? Who’s speaking?”) The narrative in this one is linear– but the changing viewpoints allows the writer to hint at what he wants, obscure what he wants, and reveal what he wants.

The story is designed-– as designed as a modernist skyscraper or the layout of a glossy New York magazine. The goal: a more rounded version of reality. The idea behind this story, this prototype, is to point to the endless possibilities of the well-designed story.

THE NEXT STEP is looking upon the short story– or the nonfiction essay– as part of an entire aesthetic.


The objective is to put the literary world into a state of flux, where change becomes constant– the only way to diminish the built-in advantages of an institutionalized, monopolistic status quo. Then– to stand out among the innovators.

Timing is key, as it was for Henry Ford. No one remembers the other tinkerers and pioneer automobile innovators, the other hundred-or-so fledgling car companies in the first couple decades of the Twentieth Century.

No one will remember this project unless we achieve artistic breakthrough.

The UNLV Believer Mag Matter


A host of questions are raised by the decision of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas to shut down iconic literary journal The Believer.

The Believer magazine has long been the flagship for a particular kind of upper-middle class literary self-importance. From the beginning they presented themselves as a better-than-thou cultural aristocracy, as indicated in their “belief in the good book review” and “nod to the inherent good” (per Wikipedia).

The Chief Question: Will that presumed aristocracy– including the many names published at the magazine, and the magazine’s founders– rouse themselves to save one of the pillars of their kind of literature? To date there’s been hand-wringing, but no action.

Other Questions:

-WHY did the journal fail so spectacularly to pay its way that UNLV’s Black Mountain Institute felt compelled to drop it from their line-up?

-IS the type of precious-if-not-pretentious literary writing featured in the journal itself to blame?

-WILL there be pushback from UNLV’s faculty and students for the university’s choice to drop the publication (while at the same time spending $43 million per year on its sports teams)? Is this an indication of higher education’s real priorities? In an era when sports are dominated by gambling, and the gambling industry remains centered in Las Vegas, should a university located in that city be more concerned about the message sent by its bread-and-circuses choices? (Or, is UNLV in fact a sports program with attached university, instead of the reverse?)

Priorities? Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

In the meantime, at least one staffer– Kristen Radtke, The Believer‘s listed press contact person– has already jumped ship, taking a position with The Verge as art director.

Does anyone believe in The Believer?

(FOR THE RECORD, the author of this editorial was once discussed in an issue of The Believer, in its first year, 2003. I retain some nostalgia for its existence, am surprised no one else appears to strongly feel the same.)

Do we live in a casino society?

Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Where’s the Literary Underground?


WHERE is underground culture?

NO ONE online is underground. We’re on a system this instant– the Internet– that was initiated and in large part paid for by the United States Defense Department. An electronic arrangement where every word can be recorded and tracked with a few keyboard clicks.

With our new state-of-the-art print zeens, we at New Pop Lit are partially underground. They’re handmade in-house, and unregistered. No barcodes.

Why is this important? Because print underground literature is an actual alternative– samizdat!— a free space of ideas not subject to self-appointed hall monitors and censors. Breaking the hive mind. No bureaucrats, official or unofficial. In the tradition of Thomas Paine, Davy Crockett, Walt Whitman, Stephen Crane, Robert McAlmon, the Beats– and including Alexander Solzhenitsyn and a host of other international samizdat writers. The genuine article. The authentic American yawp.


We’ve begun exploring ideas behind new analog culture (vinyl, zines, film) in a newsletter, The Analog Experience. We’ll soon send copies to our “prestige” customers– those who’ve purchased three or more of our zeens. BUT you can subscribe to four issues now at our POP SHOP.

Doing so will keep you abreast of underground happenings, ideas, and debates. Plus in some small way it keeps this project alive.

Consider it a door to another world. A portal to underground culture.


The Strategy Behind Zeens


FROM THE START the thinking behind our zeens was to create a better literary product. We’ve done that by incorporating color and design into the inside pages, not just the covers. Big Four publishers– as well as some boutique outfits– do this to a minimal extent, usually for non-fiction offerings (on diet and fashion particularly). Seldom for novels or short story collections.

The idea no doubt in not doing it– besides inertia– is to keep the reader focused on the text. Our approach is to enhance the text by incorporating design into the narrative. Use of colors– pages or text– or changes of font, or font size, to emphasize conflict or emotion. Breaking all accepted publishing rules in so doing. 

Being from Detroit, we’re influenced as much by car design– emphasis on sleekness and efficiency– as by standard graphic design.

In addition to innovative design, we also use different types of printing paper to enhance the visual effect of our zeens. The goal: to have words, colors, and art “pop” off the page. Effects which can never be achieved on an electronic screen.

Our first zeen, Extreme Zeen, released in April 2020 during the first surge of the pandemic, is fairly crude by the standards of those we’ve produced since, but does contain striking visuals, including a blown-up photo of a rose to illustrate a poem about same, and psychedelic centerpiece art, “Lucy in the Sky,” by our own Kathleen M. Crane.

Our latest, Extreme Zeen 2, goes further in utilizing design– not solely to enhance the individual stories and poems, but predominantly to project a consistent aesthetic theme throughout the issue. The overall impact is both apparent and subliminal.

Among our models are upstart record companies of the past like Motown and Subpop, but also the many new EV motor companies of now who are challenging the giants. We consider Extreme Zeen 2 a prototype pointing the way toward further innovation in creating the Ultimate Literary Publication.

(Purchase one of our zeens at our POP SHOP.)