Answered by: Tibor Vass editor in chief
Editors of online literature journals not only do their job with unbroken enthusiasm but they are also keen on reflecting on it and its circumstances and underlying mechanisms. At least this is what those recently organized conferences having this segment of the national journal-culture on their agenda suggest. As in the 2012 year-end issue of our periodical we dealt with the more and more space gaining phenomenon of slam poetry, in the 2013 year-end issue we ask the editors of internet based literature journals a survey question. We asked academic organs, fellow online journals of classic magazines, especially literature and literary criticism focused surfaces and total work of art portals so we can provide a more complex picture of this area and of the related mind and culture organizing efforts. The answers are sometimes paralell, other times very divergent. Not only do they let us see the features of the online literary scene and its differences from the printed media but they also reveal the actual state of the medial turn that has profoundly affected the traditionally journal focused literary life in Hungary.
1. Is it a change to the whole paradigm or only the platform: does online journalism require a different approach to writing texts and editing?
It should make a difference how and where you read the word Tízeset: is it engraved in a stone or written on the birthday cake of Spanyolnátha for its 10th anniversary. If the question is whether the approach to text writing and editing will continue to be different next year in the journal celebrating with Tízeset from other online magazines; the answer is yes — otherwise it would not be characteristically different from the rest of the online journals. If you ask whether it is different from a printed journal then the answer is no, it should not be fundamentally different and in the same time in numerous aspects it should indeed be fundamentally different. It makes no sense to compare every aspect of the stone engraved texts with the birthday cake type. It would be awfully boring if our authors wrote in the same way in a printed magazine as they write in our online journal i.e. if it wasn’t us who generated co-related texts which only work on our online surface. We must indeed bake our “stone birthday cakes” for each and every issue of the journal. One example is the HiperSpan project which has used the idea of hypertext several times to combine works of art of different types. Here the hypertext consists of a main text and the additional texts, images and music linked to it, which apart from referring to the basic situation by certain expressions and words also become related to each other. “HiperSpan is the artistic rethinking of hypertexts and linking, it is Spanyolnátha's reflection to one of the most important achievements of internet: the encouraging role of thinking within a virtual environment.” — says Zsolt Székelyhidi the founder of the project which he has been leading since 2009.
I actually run the journal today based on the knowledge and experience I gained during working with printed periodicals since the 90s. So is my avatar out-of-date? I do not get shirty if they call the journal conservative for this because the principles were a matter of conscious decision and it is like that today as well. We have put a lot of effort into applying and forming these principles consequently. It is an honour to see that the new generations admittedly follow them, it is good to know that e.g. based on the practice we introduced, they insist on first publications to the maximum. However, it makes me tense when sometimes even today it happens we have to reject the work of an older author we work with, because he posts it on Facebook in the meanwhile. Because in their oppinion it is not the same as Spanyolnátha. Well, I agree. It is not a secret that the average ratio of arguments about these cases per year is only 0.75, but it is still frustrating isn’t it.
2. Has the great debate over online or offline been settled, or is it necessary to maintain both channels to reach and keep the readers?
Referreing to Kosztolányi, there is a nice word: “make-believe-war”. Sabre blades were flashing and dust filled the air over the borders there too. Alien vs. Predator. Paralell surfaces converge in the infinite; the I-need-it-as-everyone-has-it type and/or commercial portals are just having a good time beside the reforming, unique or special sites, similarly to what happens in printed media in the same relation. We are not a generation without war either. If there is a war, its outcome will not be clear until there is an acceptable “critical order” among the periodicles on the internet: until the exclusively internet based journals are evaluated on the same platform with those moons of the printed ones ( i.e. “B version” portals) only for the fact that they are all on the internet, there is no chance for online publishers to form a decent battallion while they also struggle with online traffic issues. Moreover it is not even necessary to form a battallion: battle sould not even be a question in the relation of online and offline journal culture. It would be dull to compare the value of a fork and a knife at a fish dinner: in the war against fish-bones they only function well together.
3. How can one hold one’s ground in the online competition, how can one excell in it, are online journals competitors at all?
If there is a competition at all could the competitors tell what they are competing for? We should start one like: Who could amaze the world with the biggest lies about page hit and readers statistics in 2013? You can observe how eduacted colleagues are still trying to mock online journals: “So how many people read it? Does it pay (well)?” They fail to really understand that if they only compared the printed journals they consider cutting edge based on these values, their positions on the list and the rate of their reputation would dramatically change. This reminds me of a visual artist friend’s cartoon: snails are peeping slugs sunbathing on a beach from behind a dune. Let’s say the dune is the internet. I’ll let the readers decide how the story continues.
4. Are there real readers behind “likes”: do we know who we write to and what the needs of the readers of online literature magazines are?
Are there readers among people who subscribe to printed journals because their institution requires it or they get sponsored for it or just subscribe as a snobish passion? Not many people will read a journal without a unique design or individuality, one that cannot describe its own mission and target group — whether it is online or offline. There are many less appealing journals both online and offline. Of course a nice look will not necessarily mean a well edited, well written content. Our job is to attract the readers and keep them for a long time not to merely exist.