Alternative Literature (often stylized as Alt Lit or Alt-Lit) is the term used to describe a particular literature community which publishes and/or draws its motifs from the internet, internet culture, and "a population of people that are connected with one another through their interest in the online publishing world." It includes various forms of prose, poetry, and new media.
The term was first used to refer to this community of writers in Summer of 2011, when Tumblr and Twitter accounts named "Alt Lit Gossip" emerged, created by Cory Stephens (@outmouth). The accounts covered writers from presses and publications such as Muumuu House, Pop Serial, and HTMLgiant in a style akin to celebrity gossip sources like TMZ. After a few months the original accounts were deleted, and then they were revived by Frank Hinton in fall of 2011, at which point they began to pick up popularity.
Certain traits have characterized the distribution and promotion of Alt Lit writing: self-publication and self-promotion (primarily on social media), homegrown publishing houses, and the maintenance of an internet presence spanning several social networks. In its use of the Internet, Alt Lit has been marked by widespread participation in online poetry readings and other video broadcasts (primarily on Spreecast), as well as the sharing of Gmail chat logs, image macros, screenshots, and tweets.
Alt Lit authors have generated controversy among traditional writers and readers. Writing for the New Yorker, Kenneth Goldsmith characterized Alt Lit writing as "marked by direct speech, expressions of aching desire, and wide-eyed sincerity." He also noted that Alt Lit is "usually written in the Internet vernacular of lowercase letters, inverted punctuation, abundant typos, and bad grammar." Elsewhere it has been noted that Buddhist and Taoist themes are prevalent in much Alt Lit.
Authors and Works
Literary Magazines and Blogs
Some central online and print Alt Lit magazines have been Illuminati Girl Gang, New Wave Vomit, Pop Serial, Shabby Doll House, Have U Seen My Whale, The Mall, Keep This Bag Away From Children, Everyday Genius, Metazen, Housefire, UP Literature, Parlor, Sadcore Dadwave, Be About It Zine, Red Lightbulbs, and Unsure if i will allow my beard to grow for much longer.
Some blogs central to delivering Alt Lit news and creative works have been Alt Lit Gossip, I Am Alt Lit, Internet Poetry, HTMLGiant, Beach Sloth, Allthemacchs, Heartcloud, FRXTL, Cutty Spot, and Alt Lit Press.
Presses and Books
Some presses known for publishing Alt Lit writing in print are Muumuu House, Civil Coping Mechanisms, Sorry House, Habitat, Boost House, Lazy Fascist, Nap, Scrambler Books, Publishing Genius, and Plain Wrap Press.
Two anthologies have been published that claim to cover Alt Lit writing: The Yolo Pages (2014, Boost House) and 40 Likely To Die Before 40: An Introduction to Alt Lit (2014, Civil Coping Mechanisms).
More than 150 books, e-books, and zines of Alt Lit writing, mostly self-published, have been catalogued on the Tumblr blog Alt Lit Library. Located in Bushwick, Brooklyn, Mellow Pages Library offers a wide selection of Alt Lit titles and hosts numerous Alt Lit readings and book releases.
Some central Alt Lit authors have been Sarah Jean Alexander, Gabby Bess, Megan Boyle, Melissa Broder, Ben Brooks, Marie Calloway, Ana Carrete, Jordan Castro, Richard Chiem, Noah Cicero, Elizabeth Ellen, Mira Gonzalez, Heiko Julien, Sophia Katz, Tao Lin, Chelsea Martin, Scott McClanahan, Stephen Michael McDowell, Spencer Madsen, Luna Miguel, Guillaume Morissette, Ashley Opheim, Sam Pink, Steve Roggenbuck, Carabella Sands, Timothy Willis Sanders, and LK Shaw.
Related Concepts and Movements
Many writers and critics in and around the Alt Lit community have proposed different labels to be used in conjunction with, or in place of "Alt Lit."
Some critics have linked Alt Lit writers with the concept of the New Sincerity, to the point of using the terms interchangeably. Notable Alt Lit writers such as Steve Roggenbuck, Spencer Madsen and Tao Lin have also been grouped under the label "New Sincerity", but many alt lit writers reject the influence of David Foster Wallace and prominent mainstream exponents of a "New Sincerity" such as Jonathan Franzen.
The New Sincerity connection entails the use of an array of literary techniques intended to create the impression of "sincere" communication, ranging from autobiography, self-revision and conversational tone to minimal punctuation and sans-serif fonts.
- In the New Modernism I propose, artists echo the plight and themes of the Modern and Post-Modern traditions but, through innovative lyrical styles derivative of mass media around them, they devise stark representations of the ephemeral world. These artists push the boundaries of the English language into a micro-world of sorts. A denouncement of what many call “txt-speak” and micro-media updates of the Twitter Generation renders one out-of-touch with changing times. Our generation is at the cusp of a reformation in stenography that, instead of solely trimming the English language for concision to a 140-character limit, can be the cornerstone of the written art for future generations. The social media and telecom world in which we currently live is branding a new breed of writers and artists that internalize these forms of mass production of creativity. It not only brings a new literary form to light, but it arguably changes the very substance of the art as well as its distribution.
- Spilker, Josh. "Lexicon Devils: What Exactly is Alt Lit? A Conversation With Frank Hinton, Noah Cicero and Stephen Tully Dierks". Vol. I BROOKLYN. 20 June 2012. Web. http://www.vol1brooklyn.com/2012/06/20/lexicon-devils-what-exactly-is-alt-lit-a-conversation-with-frank-hinton-noah-cicero-and-stephen-tully-dierks/
- Roggenbuck, Steve, E.E. Scott, and Rachel Younghans, eds. "Introduction." The Yolo Pages. Boost House, 2014. Print.
- Sharman, Eleanor. "Contemporary Literature’s Nouvelle Vague: Interview with Frank Hinton". The Oxford Student. 26 December 2012. Web. http://oxfordstudent.com/2012/12/26/contemporary-literatures-nouvelle-vague-interview-with-frank-hinton/
- Goldsmith, Kenneth. "If Walt Whitman Vlogged." New Yorker. Web. http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/if-walt-whitman-vlogged
- Baines, J. "ALT-LIT IS FOR BORING, INFANTILE NARCISSISTS". VICE. 16 January 2013. Web. http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/alt-lit-is-the-worst-thing-to-happen-to-literature/
- Moe. "How Tao Lin Made A Quick Twelve Grand Selling A Novel He Hasn’t Written!". Gawker. 22 August 2008. Web. http://gawker.com/5040697/how--tao-lin-made-a-quick-twelve-grand-selling-a-novel-he-hasnt-written
- D'Addario, Daniel. "Author, Publish Thyself! New Directions Online for Big Publishing's Rejects and Refugees". New York Observer. 15 March 2011. Web. http://observer.com/2011/03/author-publish-thyself-new-directions-online-for-big-publishings-rejects-and-refugees/
- Stoeffel, Kat. "Meet Marie Calloway: The New Model for Literary Seductress is Part Feminist, Part ‘Famewhore’ and All Pseudonymous". New York Observer. 20 December 2011. Web. http://observer.com/2011/12/meet-marie-calloway/
- Hamilton, Nolan. "Girl, Microfamed". Gawker. 21 December 2011. Web. http://gawker.com/5870033/girl-microfamed
- Vilensky, Mike. "The Bullpen Is Mightier: An Author Tries to Build a Star Factory". The Wall Street Journal. 28 June 2012. Web. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303649504577494803887867014.html
- Brown, Jacob. "The Prophet". NY Times TMagazine. 4 September 2012. Web. http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/04/timely-the-prophet/
- Crispin Best. "The dA-Zed guide to Alt Lit." Dazed Digital. Web. http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/17603/1/the-da-zed-guide-to-alt-lit
- Bridle, James. "Meet the 'alt lit' writers giving literature a boost." The Guardian. 28 June 2014. Web. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jun/29/meet-alt-lit-writers-giving-literature-boost
- Alt Lit Library. Web. http://altlitlibrary.tumblr.com
- Holloway, Dan. "Looking for a great self-published book? Here's where to find it." The Guardian. 19 November 2012. Web. http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2012/nov/19/self-published-books-where-to-find
- Crispin Best. "Read the best Alt Lit on the net." Dazed Digital. Web. http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/16317/1/read-the-best-alt-lit-on-the-net
- Pierce, Cameron, and Michael Seidlinger, eds. 40 Likely to Die Before 40. Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2014. Print.
- Allie Jones, Hip Alt-Lit Editor Quits Public Writing Career After Rape Accusations, Gawker, 30 Sept 2014
- Call, Ryan. "Daniel Bailey on 'The New Sincerity'/Alt Lit". HTMLGiant. 29 June 2012. Web. http://htmlgiant.com/random/daniel-bailey-on-the-new-sincerityalt-lit/
- Jameson, A. D. "What we talk about when we talk about the New Sincerity, Part 1". HTMLGiant. 4 June 2012. Web. http://htmlgiant.com/haut-or-not/what-we-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-the-new-sincerity/
- Jameson, A. D. "Theory of Prose & better writing (ctd): The New Sincerity, Tao Lin & "differential perceptions"". HTMLGiant. 28 May 2012. Web. http://htmlgiant.com/craft-notes/theory-of-prose-better-writing-ctd-the-new-sincerity-differential-perceptions/#more-89605
- Chatelain, Phillipe. "New Modernist Manifesto." Editorial. In Parentheses Blog. In Parentheses Literary Magazine, 12 July 2012. Web. http://inparenthesesmag.com/2012/07/12/new-modernist-manifesto-a-theory-by-phillipe-chatelain/