Monday, June 30, 2008

Joyland.Ca: Finding New Ways To Publish Short Fiction (Not Currently Accepting Submissions)

I discovered this site through Facebook. Facebook seems to be where everything's happening. It's the dream site for every viral marketer, every as-seen-on-TV product. And it's the perfect delivery vehicle for niche clubs, pages, and online societies.

Called, the online literary journal's manifesto promises to find "a new way to publish short fiction," declaring, "rather than just start a 'web magazine' we’ve wedded a strict mandate (only short fiction) to some principles of social networking sites. We’ve chosen several editors to select and post stories by authors in a given locale. We think this is both simple and full of possibilities for authors and fans of short stories to discover work they normally wouldn’t."

Honourable. Publish short stories by young-old-new-experienced writers; post the stories on the 'Net; build a readership (or at least make the work available). And maybe make some money and get some attention. There's no reason not to like that idea. In fact, I was thinking about creating a page for unsolicited Jewish-themed fiction. And I still might. The content's out there; people'd love to send you their work.

But I had to laugh when I went to Joyland's "Toronto" page--they accept fiction from four hubs: Toronto, LA, New York, and Vancouver. A dialogue box informs readers that their [Joyland's] Toronto editor, Emily Schultz "is not currently accepting unsolicited submissions for Toronto."

So you start an online magazine/journal to rebel against the postmortem of the short story, then you tell authors not to submit their work? Not to submit unsolicited work? If the aim of the site is to provide an untraditional venue for short fiction, then create the venue and accept (or reject) the fiction. Yes, I know that I said there's plenty of content out there and that writers would love to email their work. Which could mean a lot of reading. But, realistically, this is a very small site. And short stories are short.

There's also some prestige involved in reading unsolicited submissions. It means that people are reading your site and that you're building traction.

The first "Toronto" story's entitled Clear Skies; it's by Lynn Coady, and it's not bad. It's clipped, clear, and postmodern, but just too humming for me. It's about the awful-brilliant solipsism of the creative mind; it's about the way that writers (or those who write) are physically and socially isolated within an adjunct culture. When Joyland talks about the changing form of the short story, they mean the shifting cultural inflection that makes some people say that Russell Smith is the new Alice Munro. Coady's story is very "new," and very Smithian. Neil Smith, too.

Which isn't bad. But the '50s will be back. Soon. And then we'll see what characters in (Canadian) short fiction are eating/smoking/screwing.

Coady was lucky enough to get her work onto Joyland's server, and for that I congratulate her. To the editors: Don't cheapen the project by accepting everything, but don't go New Yorker from the day the doors open.

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