When I founded Stirring in 1999, I became immediately enamored with the idea of online publication – the alacrity with which you could send and receive submissions, the notoriously fast turnaround times, the fact that I could again utilize my stamps for the more pedestrian use of bill-paying. It seemed that there were no drawbacks to the medium. It was cheaper. Quicker. More malleable. If a writer found a typo in their piece, it could be fixed within hours. Some journals would publish pieces the moment they accepted them thus creating a constantly in-flux publication. Not to mention our readerships were much higher than that of print journals; there have been years when Stirring has received over 50,000 page views, a number more on par with journals like The Atlantic Monthly than your run of the mill university-funded literary journal. As a friend stated once, “More people will read my online work in a month than they will in a lifetime in the same caliber print journal.”
Yet in the last ten years, both the Pushcart Prize as well as the Best American series have been notoriously lacking work published in this medium. In fact the NEA considers an online publication to count as only half of a publication credit. And why is this? Perhaps it’s because it is so easy. The belief might very well be that if the medium doesn’t require significant capital, it is therefore not legitimized in our increasingly less democratic society. Or maybe rather it is because there is the lack of peer review by a university committee. Or perhaps rather that the folks who are making these decisions simply aren’t reading new journals at all, let alone the internet-based ones. Could it be that it isn’t the medium as much as it is that the journals are run by independent writers rather than a board of professors and their graduate students at a miscellaneous Midwest state school? Not to undermine the work of university journals, which are home to a great deal of excellent writing (the McPoem be damned!), but the lack of respect given to Internet publications by the writing community, the college English community, as well as the publishing community is shocking, especially since so many of those writers are currently publishing online themselves.
Thus the Best of the Net was born. For years I’ve batted the idea around with various editors, but we were convinced that the collection must appear in print to be legitimate and thus become a costly endeavor; of course this is patently ironic considering that what we were attempting to do was validate the medium by removing it from said medium. Why this didn’t occur to us years ago, I don’t know. Why publish a Best of the Net on paper? Is it to pander to the print journals? To somehow make the publication of a collection feel more “real”? Or it is to negate the very availability which makes online publishing a true movement in the accessibility of literary writing? So many belabor poetry’s early demise, yet if you look to the net you’ll see more people creating art than ever before, and the communities which spring up through message boards, journals, and chat rooms have fashioned a new vision of literary camaraderie. Not to say that the café shop writing circle or the MFA workshop is no longer necessary, but rather these online forums work to network both these and other writers that might have never had an opportunity to work together otherwise.
So here for your enjoyment are the top six stories and twenty-one poems published online between June 1, 2005 and June 30, 2006 as chosen by our guest judges Paul Guest and Jaimee Wriston Colbert. We look forward to continuing this publication yearly and hope to see even more outstanding work appearing on the web.
-Erin Elizabeth Smith
Managing Editor, Best of the Net
Founder, Sundress Publications