Interview with D F Lewis
There have been many words used to describe the author/editor D.F. Lewis - "a national treasure" (Graham Joyce), "a legend" (Simon Clark), "eccentric, wilful, retiring, and yet conspicuous" (Rhys Hughes)... But I like to think of him as an affictionado, a literary revolutionary, and, yes, a mad man.
He is the author of over 1500 short stories, published in numerous printed and electronic magazines between 1986 and 1999 aswell as in a number of short story collections, Weirdmonger ("One of the most interesting experiments in fiction in recent years" - Time Out) being the most recent. He is currently working on the Weirdmonger Wheel, a massive project to collate and electronically re-publish each and every one of those 1500 stories, (along with some brand new pieces) in which Sein und Werden is proud to be a part. Click here to read the short story 'Lowered Lashes'.
He is also the editor of the much acclaimed Nemonymous, a late-labelled anthology of short stories, now in its 5th year.
"There are three subjects on this earth that are sure to start an argument; religion, politics, and DF Lewis" - Brian Keene.
Lewis might be the devil. But he is also a very nice man, and for a moment, just a moment, he invites us to share his universe...
- With Nemonymous now in its fifth year, do you feel the initial concept behind it has changed in any way - evolved, become lost or perhaps moulded itself around its readership?
That's an intriguing question and one that has set me thinking. In my mind, Nemonymous has developed greatly, almost beyond my control, with the various elements of input from readers and writers over the years on the Internet together with discussions of philosophical/ Aesthetic/ commercial/ review culture/ publication customs/ minimal presentation/ emptiness/ (non) -existence and reality etc etc., seeming to have had some bearing on how I've handled subsequent issues and justified the investments I've made. This hindsight effect would not have happened without the easy interaction provided by the Internet (which remains an unbelievably frivolous novelty and serious tool for me). However, the actual physical artefacts of the Nemonymous editions and their presentation of contents, late-labelling etc have remained remarkably unchanged and unaffected by both the frivolous and hopefully serious environment I've tried to provide on the Internet. The artefacts are the important things and, aspirationally, should outlast any flummery and publicity that I have often misjudged...
Yes, Nemonymous has evolved (in my mind at least) as well as moulding itself to the readership (as you put it), without actually changing one iota! A paradox? A success or a failure in these terms? Whatever the case, this effect is not what I intended. But I don't know what I intended, and even if I think I know what I intended, The Intentional Fallacy (that lies behind Nemonymous?) would prevent me from truly knowing. But that's me getting pretentious (or absurd?) again on the Internet!
- You do seem very open to feedback from authors and readers of Nemonymous, including the recent posting of questions concerning the future of the project and changes to submission guidelines. I myself have found it to be a very personal experience, being a member of the Nemonymous 'team', knowing my comments and/or criticisms will not be dismissed. As an editor, do you think this kind of feedback is an important cog in the machinery of magazine publishing?
This derives from the 'paradox' explained in the last answer - i.e. gaining input and, more importantly, encouragement from others on the Internet (and without this feedback I don't think I could have continued) at the same time as having broached many possible changes (i.e. having by-lines, 'shared universes' etc etc) with nothing then basically or observably changing. The potential for change (derived from discussion) has been the powerhouse, however.
The only real change, I suppose, is as follows: for the first 3 issues, I allowed known and anonymous submissions - whilst they all now have to be anonymous. Anonymous submissions have been the clearest aspect of success, I feel, and I can now think of no argument whatsoever why all editors do not use anonymous submissions (a method which has been possible since the arrival of the Internet). This is another example, too, of how Nemonymous and the Internet are symbiotic, whilst still allowing the artefact itself (the paper journal) later to subsist alone and almost literally forever (with the electronic parasite sloughed off?)
One aspect of feedback that really generated enthusiasm in me and hopefully the readers is the observable (but, for me, originally unexpected) effect of publishing a collection of stories without by-lines: i.e. a drive towards a (fortuitous?) gestalt as well as an equal drive towards separation of the stories as autonomous entities. All rather psychological and/or subconscious, but many people have described this effect without any solicitation from myself.
Nemonymous was the first to do this in literary history!
And I am delighted to hear, Rachel, that there is such a thing as a Nemonymous 'team' effect! Thanks.
- You have talked, in the past, of a purity of text and I think issue 4 of Nemonymous has been closer to this ideal than its predecessors, with its pure white cover and lack of any imagery inside. I wonder if you would consider the story's title to be a different kind of distraction. Can it give too much away and have you thought of producing an issue of completely untitled text flowing almost as a complete entity?
What a wonderful idea! I've not actually thought of that before, but what you say certainly makes attractive sense within the context of the Nemonymous phenomenon. Practically, however, it would be difficult to refer to a story without a label... but, maybe, for example, 'Nemonymous Five Story Three' would be an alternative. But, then, that makes no sense of 'Nemonymous' itself having a name ...and this way perhaps lies madness! Indeed, I am, of course, mad, yet I think, on reflection, that the story title is an intrinsic part of the story's prose texture (semantic, graphological, phonetic and syntactic) just as there may be sub-headings with the body of the story itself. On the other hand, the author's by-line (in the context, again, of Nemonymous) certainly is not intrinsic to the story and is aesthetically and plotically/poetically irrelevant and, thus, should be removed for later labelling.