editor’s note

 

Charles Valle

BUMMER DICTION FITS

 

A few months ago, a woman approached me at a party asking, in all sincerity: “Is the cover of Fence ironic?” My immediate thought was: “How are you defining irony?” I answered by kindly citing from Rebecca’s “Summer Fiction Tits,” saying: “I believe the Editor’s Note calls it a ‘more than slightly ironic comment’.” Silence. Insofar as the presence of a division in readers/viewers remains—that groups were excluded, even offended, whereas others felt compelled to voice praise—I cannot help but acknowledge an uneven economy of those who “get it” and those who do not. The reactions have been evenly mixed: from heartfelt compliments to passionate invectives (all with fairly even gender distributions). If anything, the cover of Summer 2005 issue has produced wonderful dialogue. Due to the volume of response, I feel a sense of obligation to address some of the readers’ comments.

Fence does not (nor will it ever) promote anorexia or bulimia. We understand the seriousness of eating disorders and, thus, have no desire to contribute to or construct social conditions that promote eating disorders. We consciously chose a “healthy- looking” cover model—someone who would not be perceived as being “on the verge of illness.” Similarly, Fence neither looks down upon nor encourages body modification, whether expressed in tattoos, piercings/scars, breast augmentations or other cosmetic operations. As Fence champions diverse articulations of textual bodies, we also believe in and celebrate individuals’ rights to present/express themselves as they desire. And while we understand that various media apparatuses aid, if not actively propagate, narrow and constrained views of how females should look, dress, or act, Fence is not in the corporeal business. Fence does not condone violence, whether by force or coercion. Fence is not telling young, impressionable girls that they should all look like Quinne.

The initial attraction to the Suicide Girls “brand” was their mission to respectfully portray women as they wanted to be presented. As Missy (one of the founders of Suicide Girls) wrote: “There are no men in their pictorials, no violence toward women, etc. The site is about celebrating strong, independent women and their sensual sides.” Fair enough. To clarify: Fence is in no way affiliated with SG Services, Inc. Because of Fence‘s non-involvement with SG Services, Inc., Fence will not comment on the accusations posted on the Internet concerning the owner’s political affiliations or management’s treatment of its models. With that said, Fence believes that corporate business practices that propagate the exploitation of human beings suck ass.

There are, of course, many other questions/comments/concerns that I cannot address in these two pages. Clearly, the task of highlighting the absurdity of the industry’s marketing practices while testing the rigidity of conventions present in literary journal publishing is a difficult task. Clearly, in some people’s judgments, we have transgressed. Others, however, have pushed the dialogue back to our initial concerns. Robert Archambeau in his samizdat blog (http://samizdatblog.blogspot. com) eloquently concluded: “many of the reservations literary types have about the cover come out of an affront to their inherited assumption that intellectual journals are public sphere stuff, not commodities in the market. [. . .] When Rebecca Wolff put the topless model Quinne on the cover of Fence to get some sales action going, she committed a sin against these cherished assumptions. She reminded us that, whether we’re members of a (real or hypothetical) public sphere or not, we’re also part of a market.” Aaaah, the market . . . and so from Habermas’ Public Sphere we turn back to Althusser. Turn back to Quinne’s gaze, then, and think of exclusion—think of her gaze as interpellating viewer as either reader or consumer.

Which brings us back to Rebecca’s “Summer Fiction Tits.” By evoking the language of economics (marketing and sales figures), the easy assumption (and perhaps rightly so for readers, or, in this case, viewers, not familiar with Fence and our 501 (c) 3 status) is to equate sales with profit. However, as those familiar with small press, not-for-profit literary publishing know, it is nearly impossible for small journals to turn a profit with the business practices of Ingram and Borders and Barnes & Noble exerting such control over bottom lines. From 3rd Bed to New American Writing, we continue to witness wonderful organizations struggle to survive. And lest we forget: for small, independent journals, it is not lackluster bookstore sales that kill us so much as lackluster subscription bases, lackluster fundraisers, diminishing patrons and dwindling opportunities for grants.

As we begin our ninth year of publication, the need to reaffirm our initial mission statement rings ever louder: redefine the terms of accessibility. Given our imagined community (to recall Benedict Anderson) of readers, poets, writers, critics, and editors, I cannot help but ask: who will take the census? and who are the cartographers drawing lines on the maps? Who will curate the museums of literature? And if we are all complicit in the cultural Ideological Apparatus (to use gross Althusserian concepts), why would we not question the reproduction of the relations of production? Why should we not question how literature is distributed/disseminated? Why should we not question how a journal should look? or act? or represent itself in the market? And what of content? of the constraints of labels and schools and movements . . .

Dear reader, I present to you, the Winter/Spring 2006 issue of Fence—filled with restless tensions, contradictions, anger, humor, beauty, inquiries . . .