Announcing Mischief + Mayhem Books

September 21st, 2010 § 0 comments

Some close friends of mine are among the founding members behind a nifty new indie publishing venture: a print-on-demand collective whose goals are “to nurture and promote distinctive authorial voices, especially those that fall outside of commercially acceptable notions of literature, and to do everything we can to bring those writers to the largest possible audience.”

The collective came together in response to the increasingly homogenized books that corporate publishers and chain retailers have determined will sell the most copies. “We recognize that there are readers who want to be challenged instead of placated.” Founded by Lisa Dierbeck, Joshua Furst, DW Gibson, Dale Peck and Choire Sicha, Mischief + Mayhem intends to “promulgate writing unconcerned with having to please conservative editorial boards or corporate bookstore executives. It will also help writers earn a living wage without compromising their radical aesthetics.”

I’m genuinely sorry to have missed the launch party, which reputedly featured a burlesque dancer with a dress made from the pages of a book and a raffle whose prizes included a graffiti kit (stencils, spraypaint, and a wild rag to conceal your identity). Wild Rag being the name of their blog and webzine whose regular contributors include “such well-respected writers as New Yorker editor Ben Greenman, journalist and editor Zia Jaffrey, and New York Times art critic Martha Schwendener, each of whom will offer a challenging, rambunctious perspective on things literary, cultural, and political. Additionally, the company plans to host readings, performances and other social gatherings in order to build a literary community in the real world as well as online.”

And yeah, I’ll be blogging for them too! On translation, fabulism, genre, forgotten authors, the occasional “Letter from Brussels”… So go like M+M on Facebook!

From their press release:

Mischief + Mayhem’s titles will be produced only in electronic or print-on-demand editions, and will be available, initially at least, exclusively for purchase online from the publisher. This arrangement avoids the enormous waste of the current publishing system, which ships books to stores, fails to promote them, and then sees many of them returned, unsold, to the publisher.

“No book printed until it’s sold” is the unofficial motto of OR Books, which will publish the Mischief + Mayhem list. A genuinely new type of publishing company, OR sells direct to the customer in print-on-demand formats and e-books. There is no warehouse, no returns and no waste. The savings this makes possible enables unprecedented levels of marketing, both online and through regular channels. Once momentum has been created behind a title OR looks for rights deals with conventional publishing partners to make the book available in bookstores.

“Mainstream publishers are more risk-averse than ever,” said Peck. “Instead of courting a mass audience with formulaic, commercial books, Mischief + Mayhem will look for weird, wild voices and writers of idiosyncratic, even skewed, vision. We don’t just want the new, we want the strange, the unsettling, the scary.”

The imprint’s lead title, Dierbeck’s The Autobiography of Jenny X, forthcoming in November 2010, has already been hailed as “Fast, funny, and twisted,” by Netherland author Joseph O’Neill, while Pagan Kennedy, author of The First Man-Made Man, dubbed it “Baader Meinhof meets Marvel comics.” Dierbeck’s novel will be followed by DW Gibson’s debut, An All-American Field Guide to the Outside World. Other writers on the M+M docket include Calvin Baker (Once Two Heroes, Dominion), Helen DeWitt (The Last Samurai), and Mike Heppner (The Egg Code, Pike’s Folly).

And last but not least, their manifesto:

Mischief and Mayhem is a collective, not a company.

We have come together in response to the increasingly homogenized books that corporate publishers and chain retailers have determined will sell the most copies. We recognize that there are readers who want to be challenged instead of placated, and, in the spirit of Melville and Woolf, Tom Paine and Abbie Hoffman, we will publish for those readers.

Some of us are old enough to remember the 80s, and they nearly killed our souls, and some of us start with the 90s, when our friends grew complacent. And some of us have only the new millennium, and this totalitarianism of mediocrity that has left the cultural conversation bereft of aesthetic, political and moral conviction.

We believe literature is neither panacea nor palliative, but, rather, an assertion of individuality that is the first step towards dissent.

And so we say no:

No to memoirs with redemptive endings.

No to the tame, the timid, and the mild.

No to appropriate behavior and politically correct opinions, to formulaic plotlines, “universality,” uplifting messages, and saccharine content.

We say yes to sluts and scoundrels, degenerates and delinquents, to late-night conversations about everything and nothing. Yes to the entire deranged spectrum of art, literature, and the human comedy. Yes to the fundamental truth that one reader is worth as much as all the others.

Mischief and Mayhem.

Because we beg to differ, but refuse to beg.

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