- Postface: Positions on Postmodernism
Last year we expected that the essays we would publish—a good number of them anyway—would be affected by the electronic medium, but that has not happened much. Several of the essays do gain something from being in this medium—Ulmer’s or Moulthrop’s. In print they would lose at the very least the chance to exemplify some of their argument. But we have not seen too many essays that think the way they do or mean what they mean because they are in electronic form.
In an odd way, though, that observation is very much like one of the early and persistent misconceptions we ran into when we explained the journal to people: they always seemed to expect that, because it was a journal published, distributed and read on computers, it must be a journal _about_ computers—about its medium. We had a number of submissions, at the beginning, that had something to do with computers but nothing to do with postmodern culture. That was what forced us to stipulate that we wouldn’t consider essays on computer hardware/software unless they raised “significant aesthetic or theoretical issues.”
True, though I was thinking about the effects of the medium and not about subject matter. We’ve also not received that many essays that took risks—I wonder how much of our success we must attribute to what might finally be the conventionality of our first three issues. A conventional journal that looks radical: like a modernist from Yale. I think that we would have published more radical work (not necessarily more radical politically) if we had more of it to review. We did get some unconventional work, but from what we’ve seen I’d have to guess that most people out there are writing recognizable, assimilable essays.
Well, I wouldn’t say that our first three issues have been _thoroughly_ conventional, but I know what you mean. Still, the authors of some of the submissions we rejected might argue that, to the extent that our first three issues _are_ conventional in their content, it’s because we rejected risk-taking essays. But what kinds of risks are you talking about?
The unforseen: a new way of making things work. It seems that the essays we have published share certain structures of thinking, ways of being essays, however innovative and interesting their subject matter. Of course if they were saying something in an entirely new way they would be hard to follow, maybe in the way that Howe’s essay is hard to follow at times. But because so many of these works argue for new ways of doing things, for a radical redefinition of personal context (Fraiberg) or a new kind of writing (Acker, Ulmer), it is especially noticeable that they think in such familiar ways. You were saying before we started writing that, in a way, much of this thinking does not seem to have absorbed poststructuralism. In fact we’ve noted in both previous Postfaces that many works we’ve published tend to organize around familiar oppositions, specifically those of classical and popular culture, utopian and dystopian postmodernism, etc..
Well, wherever you go, there you are. We’ve been standing pretty far back from the first three issues; what we’ve said about them could be said about all theory and criticism, including the most innovative. If twenty years of poststructuralism haven’t changed our basic patterns of thinking, one year of electronic publishing certainly isn’t going to. But if we ask whether we’ve been unhappy with what we’ve published so far, the answer is clearly “no”: we’ve both been very pleased with the way these issues have come together. The essays themselves have covered a wide range of subjects in a variety of styles, and working with the authors and reviewers has been a lot of fun.
For a long time—editing the second issue—I used to go to bed late. I remember in particular editing Howe’s essay. Three of the four reviewers had made pretty much the same suggestions, but with variations. The work makes...