A couple days after "Progress: A Play in _ Acts" went up on Wigleaf, its author sent along an accompanying postcard. He wrote in the email that he understood if it was too late. But as FRiGG editor Ellen Parker once told me: on the internet, it's never too late.
This was a few days ago, around the time when I was posting Stefanie Freele's story, "Because Condoms Seem So Desperate..." At first I was thinking that I would recode, so as to have Sean's postcard appear in the usual place, beneath his story. Then it would have been sort of hidden, though, four spots down in the column. Plus it would have taken work (a technical issue, to do w/ photos being on the right or left side). So I broke with format. I put the postcard beneath Stefanie's story, where readers would usually expect a postcard, if there was one, to be from her.
That's two things that would never happen in a print mag.
Another: Matt DiGangi, editor of Thieves Jargon, recently removed Blake Butler's story and bio from the archive. He was pissed at Blake, apparently because Blake hadn't granted a request to link Thieves on HTML Giant. Anyway he removed Blake's story, then said so in a comment on HTML Giant, then received a whole lot of derision. If I'm sitting on my ass in the jury box here, I'm going to end up siding w/ Blake, who should be able to link what he wants for his readers. At the same time, I'm interested in what DiGangi did, and glad that he did it, in a way--because it gave rise to some revealing discussion.
Some of the comments @ HTMLG reflected the line taken by HTMLG contributor, Justin Taylor: "When an editor of an electronic journal... threatens or actually carries out such an action," he wrote, "what they seem to reveal to me is the cravenness and intellectual bankruptcy of their own enterprise. When you do this, you deal a serious blow to your project’s institutional memory, its continuity, and its integrity."
That last part I agree w/. For practical reasons I woudn't do what DiGangi did--because for readers and writers, the mag's integrity might be damaged. I wonder about the rest of what Taylor says, though. I don't think DiGangi's move was "intellectually bankrupt," or that it's fair to say that about Thieves. I mean, from the human side, you can say what you want--it was petty, it was bold, it was rash--but in terms of e-publishing, there's easily more intellect here than in 3 out of 4 net lit ventures. Think about it this way: DiGangi didn't delete Butler--which would have been possible. To bend Jimmy Chen's term, DiGangi 'ghosted' Butler. You can still go to Thieves and click on Blake Butler, and this is what you'll find. Is that not something? Really, who's not delighted by this? I'm pretty sure Blake is.
This all gets to how you think of e-publishing. I'm not a hundred percent sure what Taylor means when he talks about net mags in terms of 'institutional memory' and 'continuity,' but when others use such terms they're often implicitly comparing the net mag to the print mag, with the sense that the net mag has something to prove. A print mag--would the argument go like this?--is solid. It forms its own memory--no matter whose hands it gets in, or who reads it--because it is an object, and we tend to preserve objects, especially when care has been taken w/ them, that's in our nature.... So even if the print mag in question dies, even if you have no contributor's copy and know of nobody who does, you're 'published' there. That's for sure. That's immutable.
You know, maybe.
Without getting in to the question of distribution, I want to say this: a net mag isn't a print mag without the paper. A net mag isn't just the 'light' of the print mag, minus the absent body. If that's how you think of them (and Issuzu clearly does), you'll always see the net mag as secondary -- the image of something else.
No, man. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Look at Juked. Look at elimae. What you see here--real liberation from the concepts (many of them deriving from economic factors) associated w/ publishing in print. John Wang and Cooper Renner--they're alive to what the net mag can be.
For Wigleaf, if I can get back to that, one thing I love is that w/ each new posting, the publication 'is' something, on the main page, that it will never be again. Yeah, Jennifer Pieroni's kick-ass new story, "Now, Right Now," will be archived eventually. But for now it and its thumbnail are at the top. That story 'articulates' w/ the title of the mag, on the left, in a way that's different from how it will three days from now, when the next story goes up. For three days you have something that you'll never have again. That's net publishing. Sometimes I think it has more in common w/ performance than w/ publishing in print. Which gets back to DiGangi. Performance. Applause.