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Christopher Higgs, Lily Hoang, Matt Bell, Roxane Gay

These four people are contributors at both HTMLGIANT and Big Other, and I’m wondering what we think about that, if anything. Being a Big Other contributor, I’m certainly pleased that these four interesting thinker/artist people are posting “along side of me”–whatever that means.

But you know, I can also read their thoughts on HTMLGIANT. Which makes me wonder whether they’re planning to contribute different types of posts to the different places, whether they’ll think of something, and think, “This seems like a good post for Big Other.” Perhaps each person’s reason is different.

This is interesting, because, according to John Madera, he did not have a specific goal in mind when creating Big Other, other than providing another forum for the discussion of art and culture. Of course, whether he likes it or not, Big Other will gain an identity, if only through accretion. What will that identity be?

It seems reasonable to assume that the audiences are similar. That is, GIANT has been around longer, and has a much larger readership, but there probably aren’t any Big Other readers who have foresworn HTMLGIANT. Or are there?

In an online world of duplicate and repeating information–like Joyelle McSweeney’s “present tense” that favors multiplication to subtraction and temporality–it’s interesting to see how it spreads, is adopted by various communities, and effects the nature of those communities. This post seems almost sickeningly meta, but that seems appropriate.

74 thoughts on “Christopher Higgs, Lily Hoang, Matt Bell, Roxane Gay

      1. to be honest i’m not sure. i’m kind of in “wait and see” mode. i think if people can generate enough content to spread themselves out like that more power to them. for myself i know that between my day job, my writing, and my duties regarding having a fledgling press/journal, not to mention being a father and a husband that i can’t imagine taking on contributing to multiple sites.

        i am thankful to my role here, even if i don’t post as regularly as i’d sometimes like, because it gives me a chance to post about things that i wasn’t always sure about posting on my personal blog, however my roll here has relegated my personal blog to mostly news check-ins and such. everything is about finding a balance, and i think that’s what will be interesting to see, where the balance lies.

        given your question regarding what content to post where, it reminds me of when i was still in the midst of my punk band days. when i started writing more “folky” songs i was quick to learn that my bandmates had no interest in such songs and my songwriting became divided. i wonder what kind of content is Big Other-ish or Giant-ish?

        1. That last question is of particular interest, I think. There needn’t be any paradigmatic division for both sites to survive and flourish. But it seems to me that sharing contributors might naturally lend itself to some kind of identity divide. Which could be interesting.

          1. I’ve been interested in this concept of online persona/identity divide the past few months, especially since starting my Cut & Paste interview series where all of the answers to my interview questions are excerpted from the person’s online presence on different blogs. I tackled Lovelace first, and did an admittedly shoddy job (sorry, Sean) as I tried to parse out how to do it/approach crafting the interviews. Tyree’s turned out much better, and I’m looking forward to having the time to do a 3rd soon (hopefully over my holiday vacation).

            I’ve actually been really excited about these 4 “double-agent” contributors and in a wait-and-see mode myself, seeing how they treat each site in their contributions to them. If they do end up with something of a split persona, I plan on playing with that in the future.

            I think this interests me most because in my own life, I feel I’ve plenty of compartmentalized identities. For instance, when I’m out drinking with my hooligan cycling buddies, I don’t sit around waxing intellectual about Post-PoMo blah blah blahs, nor do I even try to approach the subject. I get much louder, and replace nerdy puns with dick and fart jokes. The idea of extending this into the binary world is kind of fascinating to me, and I feel this whole situation could provide an interesting ground for observation.

  1. What impresses me about those four people that Shya listed above (and I think the same can easily be said about each of Big Other’s contributors) is not only their incredible versatility and range of expression, and the vastness of their interests, but also of their generosity. Frankly, I find it both humbling and ennobling that they are juggling–among their other responsibilities and commitments–blogging at several sites, including this forum. Each of them have, besides Html Giant and Big Other, their own blogs to update and contribute content to.

    I’m happy with overlap, with multiplicity, with replication.

    While I’m interested in seeing Chris, Lily, Matt, and Roxane weigh in, I’d also love to hear, as Ryan has done briefly above, from every Big Other contributor (if they choose) to talk about what they talk about and why they want to talk about it. Or what they’d like others to talk about. For instance, I’d love for Michael to write more posts about the intersection of cartoons and poetic methodologies, and also to talk about image-text making. I’d love to see more posts from Ryan about music and children’s literature, as well as music in general, not to mention his thoughts about putting a press together. As for the last bit (re: publishing), it’d be great to hear more about that from J.A. Tyler. I’d like to see more posts about films from A D and Greg. Shya: do you plan to “fire” some more people? I’d like to see more of the “Queer critic” (as he refers to here: http://bigother.com/2009/12/21/joyelle-mcsweeneys-vision-of-poetrys-future/#comment-1820) in Tim to surface. More about comics from John would be great. Thoughts about lyrical poetry and fiction from Molly would be cool. More thoughts about teaching and the academy from everybody would be great, too. And that’s just for starters.

    Also, it’s important to hear from the people who are checking in and commenting, to hear what they think about the voices here, what the overlap with Html Giant means to them (if anything).

    Another thing, I wonder about is why, to my knowledge, we haven’t hit Html Giant’s radar yet (though I think there was a mention of it in an interview with Greg Gerke there). Has their been some kind of post about Big Other at Html Giant? Perhaps the possible effects of the overlap expressed by Shya are overstated.

    1. I thought my Dennis Cooper, soap opera & Toulouse-Lautrec posts were pretty friggin’ Queer… but, you know, always happy to be Queerer. :-)

      …In addition to lyrical poetry & fiction, would also like to hear more from Molly abt ecocriticism & the politics of transnational/transracial adoption (in an arts & culture-related context, I suppose). And also some of the interesting matrilineal/matriarchal societies and/or traditions she explores in her writing.

        1. Oh boy, yes, I will take up these threads. And here I thought I had nothing of use to contribute! Thanks, Tim, for reminding me of my theoretical interests! You rock.

  2. First impressions: this site definately feels like “The Other HTMLGIANT”, which, I guess it is. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. The whole idea behind GIANT is rad so why not have more of it? More’s always better, right? Right?

    Also, while it’s way too early to tell this, who’s to say Big Other couldn’t become the next logical step in art/lit/blog/forums? Who’s to say that GIANT won’t become radically out of touch by next month and Big Other is right there to pick up the pieces?

    I mean I guess both sites COULD thrive alongside one antoher. But that’s boring.

    1. You know, I don’t think any place can ever be a singularity, a go-to source for anything or everything. There’s just no way any single place can cover all the possible things to explore, even within the narrow (but still so vast) parameters of art, music, film, literature, etc. And even when there’s overlap, the perspectives and tonality will be different.

      I would love to see more sites with the motivation and energy to promote dialogue and community. Territorializing seems to me the boring thing.

      1. I think you should just get all the HTMLGIANT contributors to be Big Other contributors, and let go those of us who don’t contribute to HTMLGIANT, and it would be a kind of shadowy, mirror blog with a hidden agenda.

        1. Ha! But first I’d have to think I have some kind of hold on any of the contributors.

          It is too early to think that Big Other has any kind of definitive identity. Things are in flux. And I hope there is always a kind of fluidity to it, that it remains something that moves, something that can’t quite be pigeon-holed.

      2. Incidentally, I do look forward to firing another author, and I will certainly post when I find one who deserves it. But I won’t go around looking for authors to fire for your amusement! That’s sick, John. Sick.

  3. I was really into HTMLgiant at first, and I’m still really glad it exists, but it quickly had so many participants updating so many times per day that I couldn’t keep up and got overwhelmed and had to delete it from my feed reader. I feel like it’s OK for websites to not update 12 times a day, you know? So I’m agnostic on the issue of people blogging for both sites, I just hope that quality stays up and post/day numbers stay reasonable here.

    1. You know, that’s an interesting concern you bring up Kevin. At what point does dialogue become oversaturation? And when and how does absorption of content become challenging? There’s such a wide variety of ways of processing information.

  4. I’m going to set down these thoughts before reading all the comments… apologies if there is any repetition.

    Here are some of the ways I’ve been thinking abt the two sites differently:

    ~htmlgiant is largely lit-specific… seems like John’s vision for Big Other is a broader focus on arts & culture

    ~perhaps because of john’s interest in criticism and ethics of criticism, I’ve been thinking, whether appropriately or innapropriately, abt Big Other as a bit more focused on criticism (defined broadly)… (which of course is also one of the many things htmlgiant does).

    ~htmlgiant’s comment threads are willfully anarchic… I think this often makes the space they create there totally fascinating and also quite riveting as human drama, but it also sometimes feels a bit threatening. Here, I would personally like to see us more deliberately manage the ?tone? … is that the right word? of the space to encourage respectful, self-reflexive conversation with input form a diversity of folks.

        1. Well, that last bit gets to the heart of the matter. At least, one of them. I feel like there may be a sense in which Big Other was–whether consciously or not–created in a kind of backlash from some of the more juvenile moments at the giant (moments which are in many cases encouraged).

          So, Big Other = the more serious HTMLGIANT

            1. Yeah, I know. I’m giving voice, however, to what is doubtless a perception common among our readers. The two sites will be compared, especially in the presence of common contributors. And so it’s important to vocalize these things, in order that we can look at them honestly and point to where such comparisons fall short, if they do.

              Identity will form regardless, of course, but I’m fascinated by that process, especially as we’re in such a nascent stage.

              1. I’m not sure how common a perception that is. How can we know what the majority of the readers here are thinking? I would guess that there’s as much overlap with audience as there is divergence. But, this is only a feeling.

                Like you I have no conclusive evidence. I just think that things proliferate and shift in so many ways.

                But I’m always open to speculation about it.

                I forgot to mention that Adam Rodinson (from Html Giant) has checked in a few times here. And Mike Young and Catherine Lacey both contributed their best of 2009 lists. This is all done in the spirit of community without a care for territory.

                1. Honestly, I think we have our own identity now, we don’t have to piggyback on anyone. And it seems ‘Big Other’ itself is as much a tagline as we need. The Orwell shines through.

                  1. I would agree as well, and would chime in as a commenter/lurker that Big Other does seem a bit more low-key, more open to discussion on a formal level, without the chicanery or horseplay. Maybe it’s something to do with the layout and such, too.

                    But, overall, I don’t feel Big Other is piggybacking, so much as another forum for thought and discussion. Despite the common contributors, I think Big Other is, in fact, something other, without being territorial. I don’t see competition really between the Giant and BO; I see more of a complimentary relationship between the two in my daily reading.

  5. And yes to managing (and I would say enlarging) a space that “encourage[s] respectful, self-reflexive conversation with input from a diversity of folks.”

  6. i was going to delve into some of the distinctions y’all were making because they’re interesting, but as a reader and occasional commenter, i decided i just wanted to say i like what you’re doing here and, even if i don’t feel like putting it into words, i think you’re starting to develop your own identity as a site, so i’d like to see you keep doing what you’re doing and i hope you don’t overthink it.

  7. I’ve thought long and hard about how to respond to this post and I’m only speaking for myself and I hope I don’t come off too weirdly but this whole thing makes me uncomfortable and a little… annoyed maybe. In reading the comments here, I must say that I think it’s odd to couch the Big Other in relation to HTML Giant. To me that feels like that TV commercial about Pork, the Other White Meat. What does it say about this site’s identity if it is the -HTML Giant? That’s kind of Oedipal or angry son rebels against the father-ish. HTML Giant is a very unique site. The Big Other is a new, but very unique site. Comparisons could be made, yes, but if crossover is a concern, defining yourself in terms of the entity with which you share contributors seems… to feed into that very thing you’re speculating about. There are so many literary sites like The Elegant Variation, The Millions etc etc and they don’t define themselves in terms of one another. That’s a useful precedent.

    The independent publishing community is small and quite intertwined. Writers and editors work together on multiple projects all the time. I see most of the contributors here commenting on HTML Giant all the time. Some of y’all might as well be contributors over there. I mean really. Nothing in a small community exists in a vacuum and if one of the goals of this site, as was expressed to me by John, is to promote community, part of that community building is going to include sharing contributors with other sites.

    On a personal note, I feel that how I choose to spend my time is my business and I approach every site to which I contribute uniquely so it’s not like I’m going to be copy/pasting content from one site to the other. I have lots of thoughts, so yes you can read them at HTML Giant but that doesn’t mean I don’t have enough thoughts to go around. Believe me, I do.

    I also kind of felt like this post was a little passive aggressive–a grievance couched as discussion about Big Other’s identity. That kind of discussion (about identity) is very useful and interesting for a new site. I’m uncomfortable with the calling out of the names of the four individuals who happen to contribute at both HTML Giant and Big Other but maybe I’m reading too much into that. That said, I’m all for reframing the discussion as a broader one about Big Other’s identity.

    1. Yes, casting Big Other solely in opposition or in relation to Html Giant is not only self-defeating, but largely uninteresting. As you’ve expressed here, the communities of writers and artists, or whatever out there are so numerous, so diverse, that there’s absolutely no need to set a forum like this against another.

      And I’m glad that you’ve expressed your views about how and what and when you post so forthrightly. I’m certain that every contributor here is here to participate and is participating meaningfully, and probably agonizes (okay, maybe I exaggerate, but only a little) over every word they write. When I think of each of the people here I think that there isn’t one place that could really contain what he or she have to offer. I’m all for supporting those multiple spinning plates.

      And I agree that singling out the four people who also contribute to Html Giant is hardly useful (it’s important to note here that Shya is a trickster/provocateur) which is why in my initial comment I sought to broaden the discussion to talk about Big Other as a whole and also invited readers to comment.

      I think it’s always important to have some kind of vehicle for self-evaluation. What form(s) (both public and private) that will eventually take at Big Other will be interesting to see.

    2. I think this makes sense. I especially agree that to to define ourselves “in terms of the entity with which [we] share contributors seems… to feed into that very thing [we]’re speculating about. Although I think I may understand Shya’s impulse to surface what he and perhaps others (and maybe including myself, to a certain extent, though I’m not sure in the same way) felt was a subtext, I would not want to see us situate ourselves as a derivation of something, or become reactive rather than proactive.

      I totally understand your discomfort with being called out individually and your wanting to keep your business your business re: blogging. And while I don’t want to compare the sites in an oppositional way… toward reframing the discussion as one abt Big Other’s identity, I am curious whether you think there’s particular kinds of posts you think will be better-suited to one place or the other… like how do you think you will decide what should go where? Or maybe it’s better to take the giant out of the conversation altogether and just say… do you have thoughts abt what kinds of content will be particularly well-suited to Big Other, or do you feel like it is too situational to anticipate?

    3. Roxane, I certainly didn’t mean for you to feel uncomfortable. Because you contribute publicly to both sites, however, I certainly think it’s okay for your actions to be discussed. Think of it as an episode of blog-style “On The Media.”

      My comments about Big Other’s tagline were in response to Chris’ comment above that the site feels like “the other HTMLGIANT,” and I think that not only does the growing number of shared contributors invite comparisons between the two sites, I think it’s totally appropriate, not to mention interesting, to ask how they (you) will, by your decisions about what to post where, help form the sites’ identities. Yes, there are many other literary blogs, but none, to my knowledge, which share a quarter of their contributors).

      I feel my post has resulted in a little backlash of its own, and as my intention was not to stir up trouble but to inquire into the nature of online community making, I’ll back off. But I just want to note that you and others have said things like “Big Other is a unique site”, but so far only Tim has tried to isolate the properties that make it unique, and he himself didn’t really get very far.

      Anyway, I admit to not having handled the issue as delicately as I could have. Had I known it would be so sensitive, I would have refrained from the jokes. Again, I’m happy you’re here, and I think the Big Other is great, and I’m not passively aggressively… whatever you think my goal would be for passive aggression. I’m just looking around and saying what’s on my mind.

  8. As a reader of both and a writer for neither I find the angst over identity and the musical chairs of contributors coming and going, or straddling to be mildly entertaining but not particularly relevant.

    In business if one starts out with the notion that they are #2 then it is a suicidal place to be. One can actually be #2, but just don’t let yourself think that way.

    FedEx can’t allow itself to think of itself as the other UPS. There is a reason that they did not paint their trucks a slightly different shade of brown. If one were to look at their respective mission statements then I am sure there is a difference, though both are involved in the logistic of moving people’s shit around.

    As to promotion of community (as Roxanne mentions above) for me the difference between the two blogs is that here John Madera told me not to be a stranger. I don’t know why he did that. I don’t know him. I do know Tim, and Tim engages in discussion w/ me, though I have never met him. At HTMLgiant nobody says bookus back to me. If I want to feel like a useless wart I don’t need to go online to do it.

    Community is something that is cultivated and as much as it can be inclusive, that people feel an identity of relationships, unless there is a conscious effort of community members to reach out to strangers, to embrace ‘otherness’, to welcome stragglers, or at least to smile and say hello when someone walks into the room then any group will become insular and closed.

    1. I think the musical chairs is amusing, too. It’s all very playful to me. Unsettling things may open up new possibilities.

      I don’t see Big Other in opposition to Html Giant, or to anything at all. If there are some oppositional elements, I hope that it is toward dehumanization, racism, sexism, ageism, and any other destructive ism.

      And I’m happy to hear that we’ve made you feel in some small way welcome here. That to me is perhaps the greatest compliment.

      And I love this paragraph:
      Community is something that is cultivated and as much as it can be inclusive, that people feel an identity of relationships, unless there is a conscious effort of community members to reach out to strangers, to embrace ‘otherness’, to welcome stragglers, or at least to smile and say hello when someone walks into the room then any group will become insular and closed.

      So how do you condense that (while also addressing our focus) into a tagline?

  9. Wouldn’t a more (or equally) fascinating conversation be this: Are Big Other and HTML becoming what blogs are going to be: group efforts.

    So the divide is single blogger versus a collective, not so much “this collective” or “this one.”

    I think I see a shift in the actually essence of a blog.

      1. I don’t think group blogs are that recent a phenomenon though, are they? Maybe they are in the lit scene? …Most of the progressive/leftist/feminist/antiracist, etc. group blogs I read have been going for several years.

        There is a glut of information on the web, more than many have time to sift through. It needs curators.

        1. Yeah, maybe just in the lit scene. I mean, sites like the Millions and Morning News seem to have adopted a more magazine format, so I don’t usually compare them with the Giant, for instance. Though the lines blur. Another site that seems comparable is 3guys1book.

          What are the literary community blogs?

          Big Other

    1. Definitely worth speculating about. I’m not so sure whether collective blogs are a trend but something that has always flourished alongside individual ones. There’s certainly a lot of poetry, fiction, film, comics, and other arts collectives online. And there’s a huge historical precedence for the impulse to start an arts collective. I’m thinking here of things like Fluxus and CoBrA as well as the Guerilla Girls and The Royal Chicano Air Force.

  10. this post is a public recognition of private conversations that are happening all over the place about hgiant vs big other. and some of these conversations really are ‘versus’ oriented, as in, which site is better. that part of the conversation, the versus part, is pretty tiring and silly and it’d be great if this exchange of people would quell it, that is, that there is no insiders’ ‘club’ at one site or another, it’s just people wanting to contribute their ideas to the wiriting community. the other parts of the convo though, how the sites are different or similar aesthetically, are interesting, at least to me. i like sean’s post just above, for example.

    1. That was my sense, too, Joseph. And it was my intention to “air” some things that people might be thinking, and provide a forum for commenting openly on them in the name of both self-obsession and critical inquiry.

      Anyway, onwards and upwards!

    2. Thanks Joseph. There’s no insider club here. Just artists and writers who want to talk about art and writing. And I would love it if more people reading what we’re writing about join in on the conversation. I would also love to see more overlap, cross-pollination. Who needs the territorial pissings? This world is thankfully much bigger than Html Giant and Big Other.

  11. I think Big Other will really come into its own when it has a snazzy unique design. Web identity is still tied to appearance, and I’m looking forward to seeing what BO looks like when it sheds the template.

    I am shallow.

    1. That’s definitely being pursued, Ben. And you’re right: how we decide what to look like will be a projection of our values and reflect the tone of our content.

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