Invitation from Spinifex Press

Detail from cover artwork by Christina Mowle ©

Extract from Introduction 2

III Collage

Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence.

(Yeats, Sailing to Byzantium)

All writing is made of other writing. Words are common currency. They are taken out of the common hoard. Now on the Internet it's easy to make a beautiful page by stealing fine feathers from other pages. Download a copy of a painting by Kandinsky, a tune from somewhere, and jot down a set of favourite links. Put them all together. Maybe it works, maybe not.

The original offer from the Writer: "Out of the shards of my poem, write your own poem", is made very easy to do.

Then says Reader, "Okay, but you've published your poem. You're shoving it under my nose. I want the power to broadcast."

Again, on the Internet, this is easy. Reader can set up his or her own Home Page, and anyone in the world who wants to look at this Home Page, can access it for the price of a phone call, or, if they're working in a university, not even that. Then Reader can say, "I am broadcasting to the world. Not just my vote, but my voice, my voice is being heard."

IV Broadcasting

There's a bit of delusion and a bit of truth here, just as in the matter of being commanded to give a command. "I am broadcasting." Yes, that's true. "But is anyone tuning in?" That's a problem.

There are differences between the old broadcasting technologies often called media and the new one.

  1. Downloading someone else's work is much cheaper and easier than xeroxing, or recording a radio program, or making a copy of a TV program.
  2. Everyone on the Net, is not just a receiver, but quite easily a broadcaster as well. The average radio listener doesn't have a transmitter. (Anyone with something as simple as email has just that, and with any luck an email message can cost less than a postage stamp.)

The problem "Is anyone listening to my broadcast?" has to do with the interaction between global capitalism and the new technology. Cyberspace is rapidly turning into something very like the real world. Questions of private property arise.

  1. Some sites are more worthwhile than other sites. A shop on the high street is better than a shop in the wilderness. Known sites with lots of links or roads to them are more likely to be visited than obscure, isolated ones.
  2. Then there's the question of payment: "Should you be paying me for tasting my wares? Or should I be paying you for swallowing my information?" There's the same muddle here as in the real world about the distinctions between advertising, information and entertainment. This is related to publicity. The Reader says, "I'll read a book I've heard about." This has to do with publicity. Or: "I'll visit a site I know about." Publicity again.
  3. And what about copyright? Saying, "All Writers steal" is all very well. Writer says, "There are limits. Besides, I, the Writer, want to be paid for my work."

So, "I can make my voice heard and be the Writer" is true only to a limited extent. At this point in the power struggle the Reader becomes the Writer and realises that the Writer herself/himself is relatively powerless. I/You/We can shout. Whether we'll be heard is a different matter.

It is at this point then that the Writer/Reader engages with the Publisher, who, of course, has problems of her own. It is at this point also that I discard masks; and, as myself, as Suniti, I say to Susan and Renate of Spinifex, "Please, please I want the last chapter of Building Babel put on the World Wide Web, with an invitation to the Reader to contribute to it. Please. It's the logical conclusion to my book, which is about the process of building culture in the teeth of Crone Kronos. It's aesthetically right, and what's more it's cost effective!"

Susan smiles. Renate keeps faith that I haven't gone mad. "And who decides what is accepted?" Susan asks.

"You do," I reply promptly, "once the book is published. And before that, I do. I've already got some things just as an encouragement to other Readers."

"Not every Reader's contribution can be accepted," Renate points out gently.

I nod. I agree. "There's an imbalance of power. We decide. But dammit all, Renate," I say earnestly, "we're mortal. We're going to die. Whether we want to or not we'll have to relinquish power. Just like Cinders. Just like Rap Rap. We cannot forever control Babel." I take a deep breath. I'm going to make a speech. They're patient. "We're in our fifties well, most of us are. The feminism that we fought for has mutated into strange shapes. Some we don't like. Some we don't recognise. But that's how it is. That's how it must be. Memes mutate. Can we not, may we not, leave a legacy to which others may contribute? True, it will be broken, altered, changed. It will be the broken jewellery in Mad Med's head. But we operate under the aegis of Crone Kronos, and we are all complicit!"

Susan has decided that someone has got to be sensible. She asks, "In practical terms, how will this work?"

I'm ready for that one. I've thought it through. Well, I've thought some of it through. "Like this," I say. "The book is published. Then the last chapter, "The Reader's Text", goes on your Home Page on the World Wide Web with an invitation to Reader to contribute to the memes of Babel. Such contributions as you accept can go on the Home Page. If there are enough, they can constitute an anthology, Building Babel '97, Building Babel '98. The invitation can also go on the printed page. Eventually, the original text might be forgotten. Don't you see, all poems, all works of art, all patterned thoughts, are really a snare for Crone Kronos!"

Renate smiles, "And so Babel is ...?"

"The Great Barrier Reef!" I tell her recklessly.

"But won't the reef get built anyway? Built and dissolved, and perhaps built over again?" "Yes," I reply, "but consciousness is everything. Consciousness matters. Let's do it for the hell of it. Let's do it because Crone Kronos has let us have our day!"

And they say, "Yes".

Invitation from Spinifex Press

So Suniti, so dear Reader, here's your chance, a chance to contribute to the Building of Babel. The achitectural plans are in your head, perhaps you want to collaborate with a friend, draw up a collective design, or put the idiosyncrasies of your head on the Net.

Whichever way you choose to do it, we'd like to hear from you. As Suniti has pointed out it won't be possible to show everything. And your plans will have to come in a format we can handle and will have to conform to our usual rules for manuscript assessment.

Visit The Reader's Text to send contributions.

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Publisher tilts back in her chair, expressing power momentarily through her body language. "I don't know about Building Babel '97, Building Babel '98 pausing. "We don't know until we see what comes. I can't give guarantees. What I can say is that we will apply the same selection criteria to these contributions as we would to any unsolicited material."

She continues, "We also won't be offering payment for work included on the Home Page. Although, as a writer myself, I'm in favour of it in principle, it isn't practical if we want to continue existing as a small independent publisher. The Reader/Writer will need to decide whether payment is more important than visibility. Of course, anyone can make their own Home Page and self publish. Virginia Woolf did it. Lots of writers do."

So Suniti, so dear Reader ... send your contributions to us.

Text documents can also be sent as email:

Send graphics by email, preferably in jpeg or gif.

You can also send material to Spinifex by snail mail:
PO Box 212 North Melbourne, Victoria 3051, Australia

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