This Is Not Exactly a New Year’s Resolution

Still, it’s in the spirit of the thing.

Our first issue is coming out in a little over a month.  So we thought that now would be a good time to explain exactly what we think we’re doing, starting a literary magazine.

Why do we need a thousand literary magazines and journals looking for “the best of new and established writers,” as so many journals claim to do?  In what sense is it even possible for each of a thousand literary journals to showcase the best of new and established writers?

The fact is that every editor has some aesthetic commitment, and every journal has, or should have, a project.  These two things don’t have to be the same; not every journal’s project is to push a certain aesthetic.  But the journals and magazines we love, or passionately hate, or at any rate feel something for are those that take a stance, that make a claim.  Those that say, implicitly or explicitly, “I’m interested in x, but not y.”  Some journals do this by genre, and these journals tend to be the most explicit in asking for what they want.  Other journals do this by tone, and these journals, even if they clearly have a certain aesthetic, often still ask for the best of new and established, etc.

We’re saying, why not be explicit?  Why not take a stance?

We want to explore, and hopefully to further, a certain aesthetic tradition.  Specifically, we’re interested in finding the descendents of Acker, Ashbery, Barth, and Barthelme, et al.  Work descended from or influenced by that literary moment that (like it or not) has come to be called, occasionally with a sneer, “postmodernism.”  Work that’s “aware of its own artifice,” work that engages in metafiction, pastiche, cut-ups, collage, formalism, fabulism, etc, etc.  Which is to say, all of those things that prose or poetry can do when they’re not ignoring the essential made-upped-ness of prose and poetry.

We believe we’re coming to the end of the generation raised on Carver’s “No tricks.”  We’re done with “No tricks.”  We want to see what comes next.  Which is to say: we want tricks.  Not cheap tricks.  Deeply moving, deeply felt tricks.  Committed tricks.  Compelling tricks. 

We are not interested in manifestos or schools or anything that might ossify into some dogma of what does and doesn’t count within the Artifice aesthetic.  Part of the reason why we’re interested in the aesthetic tradition we are is that we believe it is still changing, still developing, still vigorous and exciting.  If we ever reach the point where we can pick work by rote, or where readers aren’t surprised by the appearance of some piece or another in Artifice, that’s the day we close the shop.

But we don’t think this is the final word on all of this.  Hell, we’d love for this to become a discussion, either here in the comments, or elsewhere.  And we do plan to write more about all this in the future.

Now go enjoy 2010.

5 responses to “This Is Not Exactly a New Year’s Resolution

  1. I firmly believe that those two little words, "No tricks," have done more harm than good since Carver published them nearly 40 years ago in the New York Times Book Review. "No tricks" became a maxim in creative writing classes, an unbreakable rule of the discipline, a way to prohibit any work that wasn’t straight-up realism. It made the job of teaching creative writing easier. "No tricks." But Carver also said in that essay that "real experiment in fiction is original, hard-earned and cause for rejoicing."

  2. Carver did also say that, but unfortunately, even that many years ago, people liked a sound byte. "No tricks" is a stand-in for so many things… & thanks for the link to the .pdf. I’ma gonna download that little sucker.

  3. What I love most about everything I’ve seen from Artifice so far is the fact that y’all find the power and sincerity in the trick. Tricks that perform feats, not of fancy, but of perspective and of invitation. Postmodernism encompasses a great deal of mistakes but Acker achieved something that would have been impossible without shaking the very foundation of what a narrator is. And if I can admit it here, I’ve gotten my sneak peak. I didn’t love very piece but I am devoted to the collection. Your contributors aren’t hiding behind their artifice, they are using it to demand that we look harder, that we see the patterns, that we refuse to reduce what they’re saying to some pattern. I’m gettin’ all carried away. I should just say that y’all are onto something magical and I’m delighted that I get to watch.

  4. I heart Artifice! It makes my one trick pony want to learn new tricks, even magic tricks, just to make things go boom. I’m tired of ‘no tricks’. I want dirty tricks. I even want tricks that don’t work per se because they try to be something. Plus, where would some of us be without them!

  5. I was trying to articulate this non-manifesto to my girlfriend last night. I failed. Perhaps it was not your intent for pre-emptive failure insurance. Perhaps it was.Fearless Vampire Killers and so on

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