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Happy Birthday, Big Other!

With sites (especially blogs, I’d imagine) coming and going, resembling fairweathered friends with their weighty promises and concomitant lack of follow-through, and with evanescence and disposability, perhaps, being two of the internet’s primary characteristics, an internet year must be to an in-real-life year as what a dog year is to a human year. But it’s not for these reasons I’m happy to say that Big Other is celebrating its first year today.

A year ago, thinking about how frustrating it was to find a place that invited dialogue (and by “dialogue” I mean the concept formalized best, for me, by Paulo Friere, that is, a nexus that allows, encourages, fosters communication characterized by respect and equality, where diversity of thought is encouraged, where understanding and learning are privileged over mere judgment, although conclusions and sound and informed discernment, that is, sound judgment, and maybe even wisdom, may, in fact, result); thinking about how many blogs encourage stereotypes, discord, stupidity, inanity, macho posturing, and self-reflexiveness, blogs that are havens of groupthink, blogs that are really just another kind of mirror, mirror, on the wall, blogs that are really just digitized lint in an electronic navel; thinking about how I wanted something different from all that noise, I launched Big Other with the idea of it being what I, in some kind act of faith, called “an online forum of iconoclasts and upstarts focusing its lens on books, music, comics, film, video and animation, paintings, sculpture, performance art, and miscellaneous nodes and sonic booms,” a place to “explore how we are made and unmade by images, language, and sound; examine computer-mediated worlds; and dance along with various tumults, genre- and other border-crossings, trespassings, transgressions, and whatever, nevermind.” And I have to say that I haven’t been disappointed. Big Other has become all those things for me, and so much more, and by “so much more,” I mean, it has truly become a conduit for meeting many incredible people in person, and so, I really can’t wait to see what comes next for us.

I want to thank all of the incredible writers who have been a part of Big Other as contributors. First, thanks to our current roster.

Thank you, Mel Bosworth! Looking forward to the return of your video readings!

Thank you, Ryan W. Bradley! I’ve really enjoyed your posts, especially the ones comparing rock bands, the ones comparing songs covered by different bands; and also your posts about writers and books.

Thank you, Molly Gaudry! I always look forward to your insightful posts about books and writers. And thanks for your efforts to expand dialogue, for pointing to the good stuff, and for spreading the word about contests, calls for submissions, and other opportunities.

Thank you, Greg Gerke! I’m always impressed when a writer can write about other things besides writing and writers—though that’s hard enough to keep the best of writers occupied forever—so it’s also great to see all your posts about film and filmmakers. Your close attention to art and craft are exemplary.

Thank you, A D Jameson! Some might think of you as our resident crank, although some would argue that that title should be reserved for me, but when I read your posts, I think of you as our resident celebrator, not, of course, to be confused with one who waves pom poms, but as a critic who points to things of beauty whatever the medium.

Thank you, Jac Jemc! Your posts are characterized by their honesty and their vulnerability, asking difficult questions, inviting people to open up. I envy that.

Thank you, Aya Karpinska! You always find such cool stuff. I especially remember your pointing to Guy Ben Ner’s video Stealing Beauty. Truly a mind-bending experience!

Thank you, Paul Kincaid! Having been a fan of your science fiction criticism, I’ve really enjoyed seeing other dimensions of you as a critic. Your interests are as varied as they are vast, giving lie to the idea that a critic has to specialize in a single genre.

Thank you, Michael Leong! You’ve introduced me to a lot of great contemporary poets. And I always look forward to your skewy view of things. Oh, and I miss those posts on poetry in cartoons. Hey, remember how much you upset Jerry Saltz, and that he checked in here? Ha!

Thank you, Edward Mullany! You’ve got a great eye, and your well-considered perspectives on painting, sculpture, drawing, and the other visual arts are always eye-opening.

Thank you, Stacy Muszynski! I’ve enjoyed the “On Ritual” series you brought to Big Other. It’s cool to read about what other writers do before and while they’re writing.

Thank you, Shya Scanlon! Your posts always shake things up here, especially the one about ambition, the one about the “anxiety of influence,” and the one about rejections—and there are many others. Hey, remember how we rattled Tom Bissell’s cage?

Thank you, Davis Schneiderman! Your interviews are so great, and I loved your series of posts “The Post-Post-Modern Things: Björk, Kathy Acker, and the Astral-Disappearing Act”. Heady stuff!

Thank you, Rachel Swirsky! You’ve brought a more overt political dimension to Big Other, while also bringing unique perspectives to writing and literature, and I’ve enjoyed that very much.

Thank you, J.A. Tyler! Considering all the things you’re juggling, it’s amazing how much you’re able to contribute here, like book reviews, asking questions relevant to the independent press world, critiques of hackneyed writing, and the like.

Thank you, John Dermot Woods! From commanding criticism of comics to posts about copyright and its discontents, you raise awareness about the great things being done out there and about the things we might reconsider.

Thank you, Tim Jones-Yelvington! I really look forward to your critiques, rants, and gossip, the way you stir the still waters up, which ends up rocking the boat.

I’d also like to thank our former contributors, all of whom are making things happen all over the place. Thank you, Danielle Adair, Kim Chinquee, Luca Dipierro, Roxane Gay, Christopher Higgs, Lily Hoang, Kristen Iskandrian, Sean Lovelace, and Leni Zumas! Thanks so much for your criticism, insights, questions, and comments. Your voices are missed here.

Finally, I want to thank everyone who reads Big Other, and those of you who join in on the various conversations that have happened and are happening here. I really hope to see more of such happenings happening here.

John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

13 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Big Other!

  1. Well, happy birthday. Thank you to all of the contributors for enlightening me on a regular basis. You rock. Or, maybe I should say, knock my socks off.

  2. Thank you, John, for everything. Big Other has been a big part of my life over the past year, and it’s brought me a great deal of pleasure to be part of it. It’s funny, but when you originally asked me to join in, I really had no idea what I was going to write about. So you and the site and everyone else have brought out a side of me I didn’t really know I had (a big other side, so to speak). Thank you for that!

    I hereby resolve to be less cranky in the coming year. I’m actually not all that cranky in real life (though I am fairly critical). Something in the 1s and 0s must bring it out…

    Much love to everyone,
    A D

    P.S. A special shout-out to my brother and sometime fiancé, Greg Gerke.

    1. Yeah, like you I had no idea what I was going to write about. I still don’t. I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about what I’m going to do next.

      But that’s a great challenge, and I’ve got to write things I’d never have done anywhere else.

      So thanks to John for setting this all up, and thanks to a truly impressive set of contributors who have been a great and unfailing inspiration.

  3. need we say anymore great things about John? Of course, may more. Happy birthday Big Other. We wipe the dribble from your chin.

  4. Thank you John and everyone. It’s a pleasure to be with you. Before this I BBO and now I am AD, and happy to know Mr. Chicago, destroyer of Wood, defender of Gass.

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