Spam and its Discontents

by Christian Crumlish
featuring a dialogue between Tom Taylor and Christian

Publishing means to make public. Publicizing ideas and names and e-mail addresses invites responses of various kinds. We've gotten mail from long-lost never-met friends. We get sincere and promising submissions from budding talents around the world. More and more we get press releases, sales pitches, public relations, and SPAM. My own e-mail addresses are overexposed on the Net, through this 'zine, from my work as a computer so-called expert, and from my participation in Usenet.

spam: When the e-mail is addressed to no one in particular, and there are hundreds of strange <>s in a monstrous queue of a To: line that takes three clicks of that infernal, carpal-tunnel inflaming pointing device the mouse to get through, and you don't know the sender, it's probably spam.

Now, "art spam" is still a notch preferable to commercial spam. I get more and more of that $$$$$!!!!! mail all the time. It's naked and crude as pornography and much less rewarding. The latest scam seems to be requiring you the recipient to REMOVE yourself from the list, instead of inviting you to join of your own free will, a long-standing Internet tradition. But that's a topic for another day.

What follows is an e-mail exchange that started when taylort sent xian 2 large files containing an e-publication. I hope it proves as instructive as the Palmer method and as inspiring as the pious moral pronouncements of a politician.

The Road to Spam is Paved with Good Intentions

A Collective Underzone

OK, to be fair, that 3rd part of DICTION had been sent the night before (when they all had). I didn't realize this at first. The above messages are shown in the order I sent or received them. When part 3 came, I felt like I had been chatting with a wall. It was not till I saved all these messages for this article and sorted them by date that I realized that tomt had not just blindly continued sending me spam.

On further reflection, it occurred to me that we often sit around here lamenting the fact that more readers are not fired up enough to dash off long Harpers-letter-page-esque letters that provoke and prolong a debate in our pages. We aspire to be a symposium and a salon, but we can't make anyone write to us.

On furthur reflection, it occurred to me that we often piss and moan about the weird unsolicited tomes squeezed in(box) through transoms. We sometimes act as though we are being shown smudged and dirtied, soft-edged manuscripts, carried in an inside pocket of an unkempt overcoat for years by a true believer willing to flash a manifesto at anyone who doesn't instantly break eyecontact.

The Chase: I've inaugurated a new zone at the ezone space, called the Underzone. I will freely publish works of writing sent to me in that space. Think of Brautigan's library of unpublished manuscripts. I don't promise to edit them, to judge them, to filter them, to correct them, to design them, to update or expire them. I don't promise to index them or to make them searchable. If you want air-conditioned comfort and big-picture oversight, stick in Enterzone. If you like to go dumpster-diving intellectually, poke through the Underzone and see what you find.

Copyright © 1996
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