Consider the Source
It’s safe to say that creative writers are awfully good at imagining the possibilities, as the lines on this issue’s cover, featuring the extraordinary work of graphic novelist Chris Ware, so simply state. As literary artists we are constantly flexing our imaginations to dream up the dynamic plot, the prevailing metaphor, or the thematic arc. Yes, we can imagine the result just fine. But it’s the doing—the action by which that result is brought about—that can prove even trickier. That’s why I look forward to this, our annual Independent Publishing Issue. As usual it’s filled with examples of writers, editors, artists, and others who are engaged in truly amazing, even awe-inspiring projects designed to get the work of writers in front of readers. Nothing new about that, right? Indeed, the authors of the three main articles in our special section all trace the work of their contemporary subjects back to rich historical roots, such as the founding of the Hogarth Press in 1917, Sylvia Beach’s publication of Ulysses in 1922, and the mimeographed zines of the 1960s. But the literary magazines and small presses featured in this issue are all responding—albeit in vastly different ways—to a publishing landscape that has undergone unprecedented changes in just the past decade. The growing popularity of e-readers, the dizzying rise in the number of self-published authors, the loss of brick-and-mortar bookstores, and the ever-amplified digital barkers vying for the last unclaimed minute of a reader’s attention—they’re all pushing today’s (and tomorrow’s) entrepreneurial editors and publishers to forsake the status quo and do truly innovative work. As a result these folks aren’t just selling a product; they’re changing the way we think about books. Whether it is by experimenting with analog and interactive formats, as Carrie Neill explains in “The Medium Is the Message," or, on the other end of the spectrum, banging out a low-fi magazine on an old typewriter, as described by Amelia Gray in “Strange How These Things Happen," the work of independent publishers is pointing to a future that is necessarily uncertain—and therefore extremely exciting. How that future shakes out will be the result of some very determined individuals imagining the possibilities—and then doing whatever it takes to make them a reality. Through it all, of course, one element remains the most important of all: the actual stuff we’re trying to get in front of readers—our words. Let us not, dear poets and writers, forget that.