Interview With [out of nothing]

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Authors: Janice Lee, Eric Lindley & Joe Milazzo

What makes [out of nothing] a unique part of the publishing community?

JM: Our interdisciplinary focus as expressed in our interest in uncategorizable works (that nevertheless have a strong textual or linguistic component); that we approach design not just in terms of legibility, ease-of-use etc., but in terms of making each user’s / reader’s experience an integral part of how each issue functions as work itself; that we ask the question, with each issue, “How are reading and writing related to ‘being,” and what does it mean to read, to write and ‘to be’ online?”; our willingness to incorporate critical discourse into the publication itself, not as adjunct content (i.e., a blog post in which a contributor unfolds his or her artistic process / practice… though we hope to do more of that via our blog,, but on equal footing with the more apparently “creative” work we showcase; our commitment to publishing the previously unpublished, including that which has heretofore been deemed unpublishable.

JL: Ditto everything JM says, but additionally, a further emphasis on the online medium itself. Unlike many other journals that have gone online, we weren’t primarily interested in economical reasons or issues of accessibility, though of course these are both advantages. But we also wanted to contribute to the expansion of a definition of an “online journal,” or what it means to be a literary “journal” in today’s literary and technological landscape at all. Partially I’m reminded of Scott McCloud’s TED talk where he talks about the early mistake of trying to transport comics from print to computers and making the classic McLuhanesque mistake of appropriating the shape of the previous technology as the content of the new technology. And I think too of the the many limitations that early hypertexts encountered in terms of execution. Part of the restriction is that writers don’t always have the knowledge or skillset, but today it’s not that hard to imagine something and then find a way to do it. And by drawing attention to what it means to utilize the internet as a form or landscape, or what it means to be a literary “journal,” we draw attention to the complicated relationships between authors and their work, between editors and writers, and the very notion of what it means for a work to be “published” –a ll these issues and relationships that are already tenuous and complex in more traditional journals.

EL: I want to add on to the interdisciplinarity aspect that the others have touched on: we really do consider any type of work for submission, and would actually like to see more pieces that are adventurous. This isn’t to say that we want to see more literally dangerous or culturally edgy things (because what is “edgy” except bolstering a boring dichotomy? I suppose it’s fine in moderation…), but we love to see pieces that speak to theoretical, scientific or cultural issues in ways that transcend or question the media across which they appear, and I think that impulse shapes a lot of what we accept and enjoy in the journal.

What sort of qualities do you look for in a manuscript or piece of work that you are considering for publication?

JM: Imaginativeness; creative (especially perverse) use of whatever medium / media the artist has chosen to work through; content that challenges without being self-consciously transgressive; work that is honest, is not animated by overly manipulative intent, yet remains active, even interventionist… basically, work that extends, plasticizes, surprises, makes something somehow new out of its own raw materials. This last especially applies to the raw material the journal generates via the individual issue themes, which are not themes in the traditional sense; they don’t exert a gravitational pull, if you will, are more centrifugal, push outward to make contact with unknown and unsuspected likenesses rather than drawing such likenesses to them (“send us your work related to ideas of…”). I look forward to reading and re-reading and discussing — sometimes heatedly — those submissions that I feel have taught me / are teaching me something, or revealing to me new aspects of what I thought I already knew.

JL: Imagination, yes. Both intellectually and emotionally challenging. Work that might be deemed difficult in other publishing spheres. Work that challenges the reader, but has also evidently challenged its creator. Work that doesn’t necessarily fit the increasingly limited label of “experimental” or “innovative” writing, and instead isn’t afraid to go into unknown spaces (psychological or otherwise), isn’t afraid to contain emotion and “feeling,” (as writing seems to emphasize more and more the visceral, the body, material language, the intellectual and cognitive – I find myself wanting more of the romantic poeticism of some of our predecessors). Writing that makes me think and feel something. Writing that is aware…

EL: Like I said above, plus yes, again echoing the others: a certain kind of imagination; I like to read and share pieces that sincerely engage in creative acts that threaten the stability of the writer’s own notions of being and interaction, rather than writing that purports answers or performs desultory genre acrobatics. I like reading things that feel compulsive and sincere, and those are the types of things that feel important to share with others.

Do you have a specific aesthetic preference? How would you describe that aesthetic?

JM: I’m a maximalist, and will always advocate for the work that succeeds on maximalist terms. (I also like / will read / can appreciate spare, taciturn, forbearing work in its time and place.) This probably comes out of my love of and desire to write egregiously long / dense  novels. But I won’t lie: it is also a reaction to stylistic (I hesitate to call them aesthetic) trends that have prevailed in the literary arts since at least the late 70s. I am also interested in the notion that “too much” is effectively “nothing,” judged to be without worth (since plentiful, not scarce, devalued? maybe)… this inverse synonym of nothing. So, if you encounter something [out of nothing]-related that seems excessive to you, I probably had a hand in it.

EL: Chillwave-meets-dubstep. Or, maybe I can talk about our journal name? The brackets around [out of nothing] are not there to be pretentious (though they definitely help); they were put there to indicate our intention to have more of a concept of what the name means, rather than what form it takes. That is, maybe the name of the journal one issue is an image of something coming from nothing, or a sound, or a video or a treatise on the subject. The title represents a fluidity of form with a constant of meaning, and I think that our aesthetics with regard to the work we take are similar: we read all submissions with joy and thoroughness, and take away what we hope is ideological intent and implementation, where the role of an aesthetic is not to rest glossily on top of the structure, but to frame and inform and affect the ideas themselves in a way that is synergistic and not merely adjective.

JL: Can I just echo both JM and EL here?
Or this:

What is the readership like for [out of nothing]?  What do you imagine your typical reader is like?

JL: Fortunately or unfortunately, other writers. (& artists) I think we’ve got a pretty diverse readership, but the two “camps” that stand out most to be would be (1) Writers who read other journals like Sidebrow and Action, Yes and follow blogs like Harriet or HTMLGIANT or The Big Other, who are published in or follow small experimental presses like Les Figues and Jaded Ibis, who attend conferences like &NOW, who identify as “experimental” writers or a similar category whether or not they too detest said label, etc. and then (2) Writers who aren’t a part of the above community at all but are wonderfully working through their own experiments, who come from very particular lineages or no lineages at all, who wouldn’t know what a “experimental writer” even is, and until now haven’t found an appropriate venue for their work because the work they’re doing doesn’t fit the necessary parameters of many large journals or publishers or doesn’t neatly fit into already established literary lineages. I love to discover writers from this 2nd group.

JM: I would like to think that we have a growing readership, and that it consists of individuals who have no real prior connection to the worlds of independent or experimental literature, i.e., Janice’s (1) and (2) above. Not that I mean discount how those individuals have supported [out of nothing] and kept it going, because they have. But I would hope that the journal’s readership is as interdisciplinary as its aesthetic is, and, further, that [out of nothing] does — in part by existing mostly on the Internet — reach individuals “out of the blue.” I think the great thing about being web-based in that, potentially, you have no typical reader. Access is free, global, connections can be made at random (for example, we can’t predict how Google indexing will influence when and how individuals “find” us)… but maybe this is a feature of the “old”, pre-social network Internet… I’m torn, just as I am on the overt Utopian-isms of an outlook predicated on “anywhere! anytime! anyone!” The risks and volatility of “anywhere! anytime! anyone!” fascinate me more.

EL: So yeah, we do address a lot of writerly concerns of form, and writers seem the ones most likely to be interested in that, given most people wouldn’t spend enough time with those forms to begin to question them. But other artists and civilians also read the work—we do like to take our approach and apply it to non-written forms as well, particularly given that the three of us make work across all sensory domains.

What is the next exciting thing happening at [out of nothing]?

JL: Continued efforts in the online issues (which will continue to be “different” every time), perhaps another print issue, and most recently the new blog: where we’ll be expanding some of our aesthetic relations from the journal into a more regular and casual sphere, with guest editors, interviews, and other extras.

JM: Issue #6, coming soon, which is very strong, and features some of the best / most interesting fiction we’ve yet published; reading for and assembling Issue #7, the theme for which will be announced upon the publication of #6; the yet-to-be-and-hopefully-indefinitely-resolved narrative of our first print anthology, #0, which will continue to “interface” with the [outward from nothingness] blog; and the possibility of an [out of nothing] reading (or IRL event) later in 2013.

EL: I’m just about done with the Issue #6 design (we each take turns designing the online issues), and then the others have covered the rest.  Very exciting!