There's a kind of comedy that is more depressing than humorous, because it speaks of that which is beyond the pale of what I think of as the decency of sanity, where someone will go as far as they can in the wrong direction, without any shame. Others who are equally pathetic, and similarly lacking in a soul, will catch on, and do their version, becoming part of an ilk that tries to normalize such behavior. Word of it may reach you, or you could be in a line of work or a place in life where it stares you right in the face, in all of its soulless absurdity. That's depressing, but you also laugh.
We've talked a number of times in these pages about the unceasingly corrupt literary journal, American Short Fiction, which is run by two bigots in Adeena Reitberger and Rebecca Markovits, who have done nothing of any substance in their lives, and never will, who charge writers money to send them stories so that they might get published in American Short Fiction, but who are hooking up their friends and people like them, whom, of course, don't pay a penny. These two boss-bigots go around to the likes of Laura van den Berg, whose prose is as interesting as an emery board, and say, "Laura, you are terrible at writing, you are so boring! We like that, and we like that you are as lifeless as we are. And you have connections! You're in the club! We would like to publish whatever you might have, and then it can win some awards maybe and get anthologized. Do you believe how corrupt our fake ass system is! Don't you love it? What would people like us do if it were any other way?"
That would be how that works. Should we do that thing we do on here where I go to the website of a place like this and put up a link to the first story I see, and then we can collectively observe--without fail--how basic and pointless it is, a story from which one can practically get a hit of vanilla coming through the screen?
Okay. This is called "A Random Strike" by Betsy Boyd. Prose as extract of vanilla. You can partake of the latest from Laura van den Berg--who, if anything, is even worse--in the new issue. And for those who enjoy doing the prose Pepsi challenge, here's a little something I did recently. The kind of thing--though different every time, save in matchless quality--that I do every day.
Bigots Reitberger and Markovits have their marching orders carried out in part by managing editor Nate Brown, who has done absolutely nothing as a writer over the course of his life--yet who teaches writing to kids at George Washington University and Johns Hopkins--unless you want to count this would-be masterpiece from the Barrelhouse website--now there's a feather in the accomplishment cap, no?--which is also bigot-based--so this was a cronyism deal, even at this sad little level--on how he went to "pee." That's some good stuff, sir! Brown once launched a petition to change the word "beta" to "bitch," because he said that though both words aptly described him, he found the latter to be better-suiting and more useful in describing people like himself overall. I'm joking. See? That's actually funny.
But back to depressing funny. No one cares about American Short Fiction, and yet, because the publishing system has made it so that no one cares about reading literature and has created a system in which no one can write actual literature or anything worth reading, a venue such as this one gets recognized as among the best. There's nothing else here. There are no venues for amazing writing, and there is no amazing writing because what these venues espouse has become all that anyone tries to do, and now all that anyone can do. So what do you do if you write actual masterpieces that should be read by millions of people and you're not one of these odious, bigoted, talentless people? That person is the devil to people like this. Worse than the devil. They'd never be included in the reindeer games, and there's never been anyone strong enough, who is as accomplished as I am, who is inarguably an infinitely better writer--again, put the work side by side; put the records of publication side by side--who can come along and expose this system and these people for exactly what they are. They can't do anything they haven't already done because of what they know me to be. They can't say anything. They can't put something out there on their own saying, nah, it's not that bad, it's all on the up and up, this piece here that we ran is brilliant, just look at it! All they can do is take it, and hope the problem goes away, and doesn't become a bigger problem. But the problem is not going to go away, and it will eventually become big enough that people like the people discussed in this entry will be no more.
But I was speaking of depressing humor. American Short Fiction runs a scam, in which they ask writers to give them $750. You like that? You pay them $750--these bigoted idiots--and you get to take a workshop with their former editor, Stacey Swann, in which this bad writer, who has done nothing in her life, and can't write worth a damn, teaches you how to be a good writer.
One of her "greatest hits"--like, among the first things listed on her nothing of a bio, because she's done virtually nothing--is this piece from Texas Highways. Wow. Amazing! What a master of prose, right? Definitely should pay $750 for that. Doesn't sound something like your kid, who is not a writer, could write at all, does it? I mean, if you pulled that out of her backpack, you'd think she was going places as this brilliant deployer of words, would you not?
And you know what? People will pay that money. They'll brag about having done so. You are being conned. You will learn more reading a single sentence from me--any sentence--than you will this poseur of bloat and nothingness. People who pay the $750 will think this gives them a leg up with American Short Fiction. They're not going to publish you. They're publishing the people of the system they've identified as the people of the system. It's mean girls at the lunch table in junior high. But not the cool mean girls, if that's not too much of an oxymoron. It's the loser mean girls.
So, there it is. That this is typical is why we have those depressing laughs all around.