Dolan Morgan

“Who sets these rules anyway?” On the Merits of Innovation

Here’s an interesting piece about Chet Baker (a favorite of mine), who, according to his critics, may have been talented, but wasn’t really an innovator. Chet was a pretty boy, playing smooth, listenable, not-particularly intellectual West Coast Jazz while his East Coast counterparts where actually honest-to-god changing music forever.

Frankly, the word “innovative,” when applied to fiction, makes me flinch. It’s my wariness of writers who break the rules before they know how to follow them (or indeed what the rules are). Appearing experimental can be a short-cut to being taken seriously. It’s the emperor’s-new-clothes problem. True innovation make look like crazy crap when it first arrives on the scene, but so does crazy crap. It can be difficult to distinguish brilliance from b.s.

I often gravitate toward more formal pieces of writing– traditional story structures– when I look for new clients or pieces for Armchair/Shotgun (and let it be said there seems to be less room, market-wise, for experimental stuff in children’s literature, though this is changing, I think). It’s so very difficult to tell a compelling story that makes your reader *feel* something– to be able to do that and *also* change the medium? Forget about it.

But amazing, totally new, experimental and innovative stuff *is* out there, recognized or not, and for our medium to thrive and grow, we need it. When I first read Dolan Morgan‘s short piece Infestation (A/S No.1), I was turned off by its odd structure– but the fault was mine for being a poor reader. Morgan truly was innovating. Upon rereading, and deeper reading, I saw he’d found a new way to talk about loss, and the result was strange and beautiful.

So whaddya think, gang? How important is it to innovate, as an artist? Do you try to innovate with your own work, push the boundaries of the medium, or no? Must all artists be innovators, or at least try to be? And what is our responsibility as readers? How far do we allow an author to draw us into uncharted waters?

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Armchair/Shotgun’s Live Radio Drama; 61 Local, MAY 19TH!

flash gordon

This Saturday, May 19th, in conjunction with Lit Crawl NYC,  Armchair/Shotgun (including yours truly), along with authors Dolan Morgan, Zachary White, and Alanna Bailey, will perform a radio drama… Live! On Stage! With Sound Effects and Everything! at 7PM sharp at 61 Local. (Or whenever you have acquired your beer…) And we’ve chosen the ever iconic… drum roll please…Flash Gordon! There will be EVIL scientists! And TERRIBLE monkey-men! And, of course, BEAUTIFUL maidens! (You’ll have to forgive the excessive use of exclamation points. But, we think you’ll agree, Flash Gordon deserves a lot of exclamation points.)

DETAILS:

61 Local
61 Bergen St.
Brooklyn, NY 11201
7PM for 45 minutes
Free!
Map

CAST AND CREW:

Zachary White‘s ‘The Story About My Coat’ appeared in Issue 2 of Armchair/Shotgun. He lives in Brooklyn.

Dolan Morgan‘s work appears in Armchair/ShotgunContraryFieldThe BelieverThe Lifted Brow and others. In exchange for his book, Google Place Reviews, he throws people’s money away in the street.  For more information visit him at www.dolanmorgan.com.

Alanna Bailey is a Native Los Angelino transplanted in New York City where she is a Marketing Consultant by day, and a WordSmith by …well, most the rest of the time… She graduated from Eugene Lang in 2008 with a Bachelors in Cultural Studies & Media and Creative Writing. She firmly believes that every single person’s individual story is their strength; and is worth being told–and heard.

John M. Cusick is a co-founder and managing editor of Armchair/Shotgun. He is the author of Girl Parts (Candlewick Press, 2010), and the forthcoming Cherry Money Baby. He is also a literary agent with Scott Treimel NY. He is currently writing a musical about the MTA.

Vicki Lame is Armchair/Shotgun’s resident publicist. She is also an editor for St. Martin’s Press in New York’s historic Flatiron building and has previously been published on Thought Catalog. She lives in Brooklyn.

Laura McMillan is a managing editor of Armchair/Shotgun. Her most prominent stage role was as Hamlet in her high school’s production of Tom Stoppard’s ’15-Minute Hamlet’. The actual production lasted approximately 20 minutes due to excessive giggling and an extended swordfight. She resides in New Haven.

BONUS:

The after party will also take place at 61 Local.