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The New Middle Review Submissions

    We are soliciting original contributions for short fiction, essays and poetry.

    Word limit:

    3,000 words, firm-ish.


    Submissions will be accepted by group consensus. The only criteria I can think of for rejection would be 1. if you submit something obviously half-finished, and 2. if you are Hitler. Being Hitler is grounds for a polite-but-firm rejection.


    • A proposed title and 1-2 paragraph synopsis is due October 7th by midnight, this will serve as your intent to submit. We’ll start a thread for each synopsis for discussion, critique and encouragement.
    • An optional first draft / partial draft submission is due October 14th by midnight for review and critique on this here board. We’ll add the draft to the extant threads. Criticism will be frank but not unduly harsh, and will serve to help each of us better our work, as well as helping to shape the final result.
    • Final works are due October 28th by midnight. For those whose infernal powers peak during the Samhainn, extensions will be allowed until October 31st by midnight, subject to proof of an auspicious augury.

    —by authority of The Directorate

  • It’s time to submit our nonsense, people.

  • One Piece at a Time

    I’m writing a piece that talks about the changing character and perceptions of work, and the course of technological development in manufacturing leading to two trends:

    1. capital’s ceaseless process of offshoring and substitution of capital for labor leading to a large surplus of very cheap and perfectly serviceable old machine tools in many parts of the US
    2. the relentless pace of the development of computer technology to the point that DIY CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines and low-cost 3D printers have become a reality, and available to the masses.

    These two things together mean that the ability to produce, and increasingly mass produce is available to actual people. I’m making a semi-serious argument that the hobbyist has replaced the industrial proletarian as the chief revolutionary agent.

    It’s sickening to watch the workers bent over their machines, intent on giving them all possible pleasure, calibrating bolts and more bolts, instead of putting an end once and for all to this stench of oil, this vapor that burns your throat and attacks your eardrums from inside. It’s not shame that makes them bow their heads. You give in to noise as you give in to war. At the machines you let yourself go with the two three ideas that are wobbling about at the top of your head. And that’s the end. From then on everything you look at, everything you touch, is hard. —Celine, Journey to the End of the Night

    Edit: this can go somewhere else.

  • This synopsis isn’t going to be a paragraph but:


    9 poems based on/related to/using as foundation the 9 songs on Aerosmith’s album Rocks. May not finish all 9 for the purpose of The New Middle Review, but I figure it could get me started on this project—I’ve had this idea for ages.

  • I like the sound of these. Hey you know what though? I’m really crap at making time to read stuff on the internet - walking to work is my ideal time for music listening, and I’ve tried expanding that to podcasts, but ehhh more things to consume ehhh, so I don’t know if anyone else would want this, but I was thinking how neat it would be to have a downloadable audio version of things on this blog. I also miss reading out loud, because I used to do it a lot, and now that my reader/writer job for a blind lady has finished, I’m not reading aloud. Could this be solved in a twofold way? I don’t have a lot to contribute to this blog at the moment, but reading people’s things in a husky but hopefully not unintelligible NZ accent is something I can. Or if people want to do it themselves too that’s always neat: the radios talk and the envirant were fun LPTJ things. It’d be good to have those more long form and serious.

  • Yeah, you’re a good read-alouder. That’d be neat.

  • Hey I know I blew the deadline on this last night; I will get something up today.

  • Good idea Hoshi! I would love audio, and personally be much more interested.inclined to listen than read long(ish) things. I would also be prepared to offer my fey English enunciation, should the right project come along.

  • The deadline was just an arbitrary one to keep us on track. Please do submit within the next couple days if you want a piece of this sweet sweet collaborative action though!

  • The ‘TNM Reads Itself’ idea is so stupendously great I’m jealous I didn’t think of it myself.

  • yeah I like that too, I’ll totally mumble one

  • I like reading aloud a lot so I think that’s a really cool idea

  • The Pilgrim’s Empty Tower/Collapsed

    Short story because the idea I had for an essay isn’t ready, not sure on the title yet. One man walks across a collapsed nation in search of his lost partner, while another struggles to prepare for a coming war having been granted a premonition that nobody else will believe. In the end, they meet. It’s partly about thinking you have control over what happens to you, partly about putting off caring about what’s important. It might turn out to be not very good and if I’m not sure about it I reserve the right to turn in another one I just finished instead!

    I’ll happily read it aloud when it’s done, too. Depending on how it goes I might beg assistance from a second voice.

  • I totally do not have time to write anything of substance other than homework stuff right now, but am 100% behind the idea of recording this stuff orally because I want to hear all of your voices.

  • I like having people read to me! excellent idea!

  • What’s maximum length on these things?

  • 3,000 words, though I am susceptible to bribes and arguments for maintaining the integrity of a piece of art.

    I’m ridiculously excited about all of the proposals so far.

    Keep them coming!

  • ME! I suppose I could write a short essay (or a couple) about the dplan, and music-related adventures.

    dplan essay would most likely consist of a description of their “last” show in 2004 at the Graceland, and the reunion shows in 2007 in DC. Flipping off government buildings, dancing alongside Ben Gibbard during “Ice of Boston” - stuff like that.

  • I have a piece just over 4000 that I was considering submitting. I guess I’ll put in a proposal.

    Memory (working title, too on-the-nose, highly susceptible to other ideas)

    Short story in the magical realism genre about a man and a woman who underwent some unknown (never fully explained) trauma together, resulting in them being splintered apart. The man is left with no memory at all, not of the event, not of the woman, living only in the present moment, though the suggestion of memory haunts him like a phantom limb. The woman remembers everything, she remembers too much, too strongly, every small detail, and grapples with the weight of it all. The narrative switches back and forth between their perspectives (third-person limited) and culminates in a magical, dreamlike climax.

    Would really like notes on it. I have some notes from when I workshopped it a while ago, but haven’t picked it back up. I would likely incorporate both sets of notes on my next draft.

    What say you, Shadowy Directorate?

  • that, um, sounds amazing.

  • i don’t really have anything going except the work-in-progress i posted in another thread. happy to submit that to this thing - and reading it aloud sounds fun!

  • Who am I kidding? I will totally procrastinate and not finish anything. Count me out. However, I will read and record any of the stories for the audio version


    So, I blew my deadline too. Think I’ll give myself till Oct 14 to submit a draft of the Lil B piece.

    Here’s the four corners of my argument.

    BasedWorld UP

    1. No poet in the American lyrical tradition has so successfully followed Walt Whitman’s model of making a god of himself, and then declaring that if you be as he is, you will discover your immortal self.

    2. Lil B has built a borderless fanbase largely by finding words for emotions stirred up in us when we listen to music. “We all sing the same tune,” he says, “but I chose to wake up.”

    3. Lil B’s “based freestyle” is what Whitman’s “barbaric yawp” was to metrical verse – a radical, torrential break in form which bursts levees and reshapes the landscape.

    4. BasedWorld is a transcendent community resembling both Christ’s Kingdom and Whitman’s speculations of “a new-founded literature” in his essay “Democratic Vistas” (1871) – a literature which preaches the divine pride of individuals as “the radical foundation of the new religion”.

  • I’m going on vacation so I’m going to close this thread Thursday night and then peace out to the Chisos Mountains for a week. If yr gonna submit, submit soon. A tentative title and a brief description will suffice!

    Everything sounds really, really great so far, and an appealing mix of stuff.

    Still on the lookout for a submission by the Ghost of Murk Plectrum, though.

  • Tentative title: “Loving males, hating Men: Gender as a class”. About how gender roles have become increasingly complicated due to the work of feminist/queer movement, but now members of these groups are increasingly being accepted into power positions formerly only allowed to males—becoming Female Chauvinist Pigs, if you will. So it’s increasingly hard to know where the battle lines are drawn, since many males are more feministy than some females. And power dynamics as a whole haven’t changed. Etc. Er.

  • Totes still down for this. Err… no formal submission at the moment, though. Will do soon!

  • Tentative title: “Draft Rick: Mitt Romney and the Conservative Blogosphere”

    I’d like to pick 2 or 3 conservative bloggers (possibly even just 1 if I can find isolate an interesting enough case) and track their relationships with Mitt Romney throughout the ‘12 campaign. I don’t want to make a simple catalog of hypocrisy; my hope is that by focusing on the subtle shifts, rationalizations, and compromises, I can show how malleable even an identity as self-consciously impervious to outside influence and novelty as “Internet conservative” can be, given the right kind of pressure.

  • I think that’s brilliant

  • It’s a good idea, but it’s worth pointing out that that same process will happen for Obama supporters, or anybody who becomes committed to any cause they are not in total control of.

  • It’s a bit different though, given Obama was always going to be the Democrat candidate. I look forward to reading that Blucas!

  • Yeah, Obama’s relationship with the progressive blogosphere is a little different, since he never presented as anything other than a progressive-Democrat until after the election. The perceived authenticity of his progressive views was part of why he beat Clinton in the primary. Josh Marshall never had to scrub old hit pieces from his site the way Erik Erickson did. You could definitely make something of who kept shilling for Obama and who started criticizing him down the stretch; that’s just not the thing I want to write.

  • Okay, I am hereby submitting my idea for a submission: the story will be horror/sci-fi, and will be called “IN OUR HUBRIS, WE MADE BAD CHOICES”. It will be about scientists who go TOO FAR

  • Yesssss. We’ve got momentum. Can’t wait to see what we come up with.

    If anyone’s looking for essay ideas, one of my favorite features of the 80s zine Processed World were first-person narratives called Tales of Toil, which started off as stories of temp work but came to include any first-person tell-all of a miserable job by a current or past employee, using an alias.

    What’s great about the format is that there’s intrinsic drama in having an insider spills secrets about a job they resent. It’s also cathartic for the storyteller, because the format and anonymity (the mask) gives them latitude to say & propose things that they’d never share with a co-worker. It lets the bad attitude off its leash.

    I just know we’ve got some bad attitudes on board. I can feel it.

  • How is everyone doing?

    I finished my first draft on the bus today - granted, for me a first draft is usually a pretty dreadful piece of writing (history has shown that I usually end up doing three before I’m ready to share, then get feedback before a final fourth draft and calling it a day), so it’s going to need a lot of work. I’ve got just over 4000 words which should slice down nicely to the proposed 3000 word limit. It’s already changed quite a lot from my original description and it’s going to change more - there just isn’t space to talk about what I had in mind without it becoming a novella rather than a short story (I feel like short stories should be pretty focused around one or two key ideas/feelings/moments) - but that’s okay.

    I’m not going to post my first draft - it’s not at a point yet where I’d get any useful feedback. So I wondered how others felt about maybe changing the deadlines a bit - I feel like it would be cool to post up kind-of-finished pieces on October 28th but then allow time for critique/suggestions before a final submission date.

    If, however, everyone else is ahead of me and ready to go (or just doesn’t want anyone else’s suggestions before submitting their final piece) then I can fold to the mob’s will.

  • I’m ready to go, but am fine with your suggestions. And I would definitely like suggestions before submitting a final piece.

  • If you’re ready to go then you should post your thing! Let’s do this!

  • alistarr, you and i seem to write similarly. the older i get, the quicker i write poems, but my prose just takes longer & longer. i overshot my 1500 word limit by about 1500 words, and i’m probably 1500 words from the end. eventually i’ll get it down to 3000 max i think, but it’ll take a few more drafts before i’ll benefit from comments here. my prose nearly always improves with feedback, though - so yeah, i’m looking forward to sharing my draft, but i could use an extension too!

    What say the Directorate?

  • I count at least eight pitches and that means at least five more people who need to get us up to date on how they’re doing.

    I also think more people should join in. I have had a highly productive fortnight practising my redrafting, procrastinating, umming and indeed ahhing skills while working on this.

  • I feel weird about sharing my piece on the forum. Going to share a google doc when I get home.

  • who is not writing? this guy

  • You know, I’ve been thinking. I should probably write something about sandwiches. But I don’t know what form it’d take. This’d be for a future round of submissions, obviously.

    I bought a Chicago magazine last week that had the 50 best sandwiches in the city listed in it, and I had only eaten 4. I’ve eaten 6 now, so I could do, like, a Brian V. Chicago Sandwiches thing. I dunno. Feedback and ideas appreciated.

  • You should eat a sandwich, then try to determine what might make it even better, then try to replicate it at home!

  • There are some serious omissions in the Chicago mag sandwich list. I’d probably ride shotgun with you on a sandwich thing, if you were interested in that kind of collab.

  • Jim could do the “What they didn’t tell you about sandwiches” portion
    “10 sandwiches Chicago doesn’t want you to know”

  • That sounds awesome. A sandwich ride-along! Biggins, you be good cop. BeerGuy, wear your highway patrol shades.

  • “Biggins & BeerGuy Buy Sandwiches And Eat Them Out Loud”

  • Jim, I am interested in that collab like whoa. That is on.

  • I have eaten 5 on that list. And lemme tell you how much bullshit it is that Chickpea is up ins. That place is fine, but literally every sandwich at Sultan’s Market is better than that thing. Shit, that ain’t even the best sandwich on that stretch of Chicago Ave.


    I just heard this dude talking about some secret underground sandwich shop in Manhattan last night. Apparently, it’s only open for lunch, Monday through Friday, and has no signage or distinguishing features. But dude said it was probably the best sandwich he’s ever had.

    I will eat one soon and report back!

  • I am interested in secret underground sandwich shop

    Biggins let me know if you have ideas, I have one about the food trucks of Humboldt Park but I’m not sure how many sandwiches there are. However, you can get fried chicken and plantains on a stick for cheap as fuck and that’s not bad. Basically there are like 3 food trucks along the north end of the park and one is more Mexican, one is more Puerto Rican, and one is more Cuban, and the Cuban one is the best bet for sandwiches but we should have a FOOD ORGY anyway.

  • I approve of the sandwich turn this thread has taken.

    On topic however: I have 600 words written, 400 of them in sort of complete form. I think this thing will be about 1500, keeping this short I think will help keeping it from uh…being too long.

    Anyway, here’s what I’ve got. the first three paragraphs, in a fairly finished state:

    Our cultural memory of factory work is specific, drawn from the period of capitalism between the electrification and the computerization of the production process. Think of those factory tours on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Long shots of machines extruding, drawing, forming, broaching, stamping, swaging and punching to the tune of some airy flute-and-piano muzak. Of course, Mr. Rogers’ heavily-sedated vision of mid-century factory work is not the one most of us call up when we try to imagine the sort of work our grandfathers did. We imagine a worker in a vast windowless cavern of a factory. This worker mans a work station at an assembly line that undulates through the entire building, ingesting materials and disgorging commodities. The worker pulls a lever, or sorts parts, or applies labels for 8 hours. He finds himself unable to think above the hellish din. The work is not sufficient to hold the worker’s attention. So the worker steps outside himself, allows his body to become just another part of the vast machine, a component to be monitored for occasional scheduled maintenance.

    This type of work and the way it corrodes the human spirit was at the center of 20th century anxieties about capitalism. Though now old-fashioned, it still shapes the way we think about work. Leftist intellectuals largely abandoned the project of understanding the productive and reproductive processes of capitalism decades ago, abandoning the shop floor to Capital. Marxists who thought seriously about the process of work and its relationship to politics, like Harry Braverman and Paul Mattick, have mostly been forgotten—it is not unrelated that Braverman and Mattick were factory workers themselves, while most prominent leftist thinkers are career academics.

    This shift in thinking was accompanied by, depending on whom you ask: late capitalism, or the class war of position, or the disintegration of the proletariat as revolutionary subject, or identity politics, or some combination of any or all of these. However one characterizes the shift, it meant ultimately that the mass automation of the production process was viewed mostly positively, as a means of liberating workers from drudgery. Never mind that the waving banner of this liberation was the pink slip. The promise of the future of manufacturing is ‘dark factories’, in which the owners turn the lights on the factory floor off to save money. Robots do not require adequate lighting to perform their tasks.

    I plan to devote about 500 words to a paean to the Monarch 10ee toolroom lathe:
    monarch 10ee

    As you can see, one of the most breathtaking works of art in the last 200 years.

    I’ll finish, with some sort of point about something, or something.