Thirteen years ago today, I launched Big Other, introducing it as “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.” It would be a place where great minds with big hearts could “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.”
It has far exceeded my hopes and expectations, to say the least.
I am delighted to have published writing by Pulitzer Prize winners Rae Armantrout and Forrest Gander, National Book Award winners Daniel Borzutzky and Arthur Sze, Grand Master of Science Fiction and Fantasy Samuel R. Delany, and a host of other stellar writers, including Harold Abramowitz, Julie Agoos, Micheline Aharonian Marcom, Roberta Allen, Will Alexander, Osama Alomar, Rosaire Appel, Louis Armand, Carmen Bardeguez-Brown, Margo Berdeshevsky, Charles Bernstein, Sarah Blackman, Gabriel Blackwell, Erika Bojnowski, Jorge Neri Bonilla, Jaswinder Bolina, Laynie Browne, Jeff Bursey, Grace Campbell, Michele Carlo, Tobias Carroll, Olivia Kate Cerrone, Jimmy Chen, Kim Chinquee, Ewa Chrusciel, Jane Ciabattari, Robert Coover, Lynn Crawford, Laura Cronk, Gillian Cummings, Renée D’Aoust, Shome Dasgupta, Tom DeBeauchamp, Raymond de Borja, Nik De Dominic, Joey De Jesus, Caridad De La Luz, Shira Dentz, J. S. DeYoung, Debra Di Blasi, Lyn Di Iorio, John Domini, Rikki Ducornet, Elaine Equi, Norman Fischer, Joan Frank, Brian Evenson, Jared Daniel Fagen, James W. Fuerst, Kenning JP García, Rigoberto González, Daniel Green, Ted Greenwald, Lisa Gulesserian, Tina May Hall, Jefferson Hansen, Alissa Hattman, Karen Heuler, JC Holburn, Tim Horvath, Jessie Janeshek, Andrew Joron, Michael Joyce, Belle (Bom) Kim, Brian Kiteley, Tom La Farge, Babak Lakghomi, Karen An-hwei Lee, Michael Leong, William Lessard, Hilda Lloréns, Norman Lock, Robert Lopez, Brendan Lorber, Sean Lovelace, Ángel Lozada, Kimberly Lyons, Dan Magers, Peter Markus, Michael Martone, Cris Mazza, Jennifer Maritza McCauley, Miranda Mellis, Joe Milazzo, Albert Mobilio, Aaron M. Moe, Juan J. Morales, Rosalie Morales Kearns, Ted Morrissey, Pedram Navab, Urayoán Noel, Lance Olsen, Danielle Pafunda, Joe Pan, Aimee Parkison, Willie Perdomo, Meg Pokrass, Nick Francis Potter, D. A. Powell, Ernesto Quiñonez, Dawn Raffel, Kathryn Rantala, Victoria Redel, John Reed, Jeffery Renard Allen, Dimitri Reyes, David Leo Rice, Doug Rice, Charles Rice-Gonzalez, Elizabeth Robinson, Peggy Robles-Alvarado, Martha Ronk, Luis Othoniel Rosa, Lisa Russ Spaar, Pamela Ryder, Jerome Sala, Roberto F. Santiago, John Schertzer, Davis Schneiderman, Peter Selgin, Rone Shavers, Deema K. Shehabi, Gary Sloboda, Ken Sparling, Laurie Stone, Stephanie Strickland, Terese Svoboda, Cole Swensen, Arthur Sze, Kailey Tedesco, Edwin Torres, Rodrigo Toscano, Tony Trigilio, J. A. Tyler, Joanna C. Valente, G. C. Waldrep, William Walsh, watibirí, Kelly Weber, Marjorie Welish, Curtis White, Joshua Wilkinson, Tyrone Williams, D. Harlan Wilson, John Yau, and Micah Zevin.
Some of the writing I’ve published in Big Other has been subsequently anthologized in The Best Small Fictions 2020 and 2021, Best Microfiction 2021, and Wigleaf‘s “Top Fifty 2020”; and has been subsequently published by Bellevue Literary Press, Black Square Editions, BlazeVOX, BOA Editions, C&R Press, Coffee House Press, Copper Canyon Press, Driftwood Press, Dzanc Books, Four Way Books, Marsh Hawk Press, New Directions, Omnidawn, Pelekinesis, Persea Books, Ravenna Press, Rescue Press, Roof Books, Sagging Meniscus Press, Sonder Press, Unbound Edition Press, the University of Arizona Press, Vegetarian Alcoholic, and Wesleyan University Press.
In 2019, I launched the annual Big Other Book Awards, which recognizes excellence in literature and supports the vital work of innovative writers and adventurous presses. In addition to awards for fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and translation, we present a Readers’ Choice Award and awards for lifetime achievement and outstanding service to the literary community.
In 2020, I published a folio on Micheline Aharonian Marcom’s writing. This was followed by a folio on Robert Coover’s writing in 2021. And in 2022, I published Puerto Rican Writers Folio: A Hauntology., which collects vital new writing by New York State Poet Laureate, Willie Perdomo, Nuyorican Poets Café’s Executive Director, Caridad De La Luz; literary giants Giannina Braschi and American Book Award winner Edwin Torres, and many other exemplary writers. Introducing the folio, I wrote:
Big Other’s Puerto Rican Writers Folio is a kind of phantasmagoria, a haunting of various embodiednesses and dismemberments. […] It’s an active remembering, re-membering, a knowing, conscientious foregrounding of the past and present, and imagined futures that conjures ghosts that disturbs the peace of the contemporary. And isn’t that why we, that is, artists are here, here to disturb the peace, as James Baldwin defines the role of the artist?
Late September 2022 found me emceeing an evening of readings from Puerto Rican Writers Folio: A Hauntology at the People’s Forum.
And if that weren’t enough, our podcast, Jamming Their Transmision, has featured Rikki Ducornet, Samuel R. Delany, Debra Di Blasi, Norman Lock, Dawn Raffel, Eugene Lim, William Lessard, and many others.
Here’s some praise from stellar writers for Big Other and my work helming it:
“Big Other [is] one of the very best online innovative arts & culture magazines out there.”
—Lance Olsen, author of Skin Elegies, My Red Heaven, Dreamlives of Debris, Theories of Forgetting, and others
“John Madera is passionate about good writing and the ideas that good writing spawns. Moreover, he is a great friend to the writers of literary fiction who are lucky to have merited his attention.”
—Norman Lock, author of Feast Day of the Cannibals, The Wreckage of Eden, Love Among the Particles, and others
“John Madera and Big Other are my go-to places to go for when I want to know what is most true and pure in the ways of the literary world. I can’t say I know of anyone else in the world quite like John, or quite like Big Other, and it’s this kind of singularity that I am always on the hunt for, and am pleased always by what I find in John and the things he has curated at Big Other. Where else in the world can a single sentence be praised. Where else to go to do such crucial listening.”
—Peter Markus, author Bob, or Man on Boat, as well as five other books of fiction
“John Madera is one of the greatest champions out there of under-recognized writing.”
—David Hollander, author of L.I.E. and Anthropica
“John Madera is a tireless champion of literary writers and their books.”
—Dawn Raffel, author of The Strange Case of Dr. Couney, Carrying the Body, Further Adventures in the Restless Universe, and In the Year of Long Division
“On social media and off it, John Madera’s among the most tireless literary advocates we have.”
—Joe Milazzo, author of Crepuscule w/ Nellie, The Habiliments, and Of All Places in This Place of All Places
“John Madera is a true literary citizen and an amazing advocate for small press literature. He […] is a personable and generous human being, is an insightful reader, and is committed to the continued importance of innovative writing, in all its forms.”
—Janice Lee, author of Imagine a Death
“John Madera, for me, is that most valuable member of any literary community: a conversation starter—a gifted reader who loves literature, and for whom reading is an art, a practice.”
—Harold Abramowitz, author of Blind Spot
“Following Big Other means food for thought every day!”
—Jane Ciabattari, author of Stealing the Fire
“John Madera is a ray of light. His heartfelt passion for, and deep knowledge of, literature and all its vast potential is extraordinary. Thoughtful, analytic and practical, he keeps great company. His vast network of writers and publishers reconnects me with favorite books/writers and introduces me to new ones. What a Good Man He Is.”
—Lynn Crawford, author of Shankus & Kitto: A Saga, Fortification Resort, and Simply Separate People, Two
“When my cowardly first publisher dumped me, and I was down on my luck, two men picked me up and dusted me off. The first was Ryan W. Bradley, who published two of my books at Artistically Declined. The second was the founder of Big Other and its eternally renewable source of energy, John Madera, who actually found reviewers for those books, which meant that they were read. That’s all any writer really wants. But I don’t want to imply that Big Other is good only because it was good for me. Novels and stories and essays don’t have to be social melodramas with characters you are encouraged to love because you can relate to them and characters you are encouraged to hate because they’re cartoon people—but they are incontrovertibly social. e are who we are and write what we write because of the people around us; that we are independent geniuses succeeding on our own terms is pop-culture bullshit. Big Other is an emphatically social endeavor. It’s a community not of yards and cars and apartment doors and media platforms and dogma, but of minds and and ideas and work. And where else can you celebrate Wallace Stevens these days? The man was a Taft Republican for Christ’s sake!”
—Gary Amdahl, author of The Daredevils, Across My Big Brass Bed, I Am Death, and more
Thanks to all of the abovementioned writers, for writing the best words in the best order, for creatively and intelligently contributing to the critical dialogue about art, literary and otherwise. Thanks, too, for your many acts of literary citizenship, the many ways you help build and sustain community.
Finally, thanks to all the readers and supporters of Big Other and its writers.
Here’s to another thirteen years and beyond!
(Image: Eva Hesse’s Expanded Expansion (1969), an “accordion-like sculptural scrim compris[ing] thirteen rubberized panels made by brushing liquid latex onto pieces of cheesecloth […] suspended between upright poles handcrafted from reinforced fiberglass.”)