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According to its proponents, among which there are literary critic Larry McCaffery and writer Mark Amerika, Avantpop is characterized by the use of materials coming from the mass media (cinema, pop music, television, comics, internet, videogames), that are mostly assembled in literary texts where avantgarde techniques and devices are also applied. The Avant-Pop Manifesto, which propounded this literary trend, was written by Mark Amerika, and can be read on the web. According to June 2, 2012, tweet from @markamerika, "Avant-Pop was the first aesthetic tendency to understand that it exists in the age of electronic distribution."
The name of the movement has been taken by Larry McCaffery from the homonymous 1986 album by American jazz musician Lester Bowie (Avant Pop - Brass Fantasy), where pop tunes are scored for a brass ensemble.
Among the most important representatives of the movement there are Kathy Acker, Mark Amerika, Jonathan Lethem, Steve Erickson, Matt Ruff, Patricia Anthony, Lewis Shiner, Joe R. Lansdale, Lance Olsen, William T. Vollmann, Mark Leyner, Douglas Anthony Cooper, and David Foster Wallace.
There are also some forerunners of Avantpop literature, and they are genre writers like Harlan Ellison, William Gibson and Philip K. Dick (above all his VALIS Trilogy), or postmodernist authors like Kurt Vonnegut.
Some film directors are also considered part of the Avantpop movement or attuned to Avantpop sensibility: Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Joel and Ethan Coen, and Serbian director Emir Kusturica.
An important book for the definition of the Avantpop canon is the anthology After Yesterday's Crash: The Avant-Pop Anthology (1996) edited by Larry McCaffery.
- McCaffery, Larry, Avant-pop: Fiction for a Daydream Nation, Fiction Collective Two / FC2, 1994, ISBN 978-0-932511-72-0
- McCaffery, Larry, After Yesterday's Crash: The Avant-Pop Anthology, Penguin, 1995, ISBN 978-0-14-024085-6
- Mark Amerika maintains that Avantpop has replaced postmodernism: "Now that Postmodernism is dead and we're in the process of finally burying it, something else is starting to take hold in the cultural imagination and I propose that we call this new phenomenon Avant-Pop"
- McCaffery said that he "picked up the album and the first song was "Blueberry Hill" by Fats Domino, and Bowie did a weird twisted version of it. [He] realized that [Bowie] was playing with this popular tune, improvising and opening it up to what was already there but just needed to be let out. [He] thought it was similar to what Kathy Acker was doing by re-writing Great Expectations and stuff."