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Interview with August Highland

Mircea Pricăjan

Publicat Duminică, 27 August 2006, ora 10:35

      1. How do you produce your work?


      I use a combination of methods in the production of my literary work. There is a 50/50 balance between traditional word-by-word writing and programming tools that assist me in achieving the final written work. I do not produce computer-generated works or works of artificial intelligence, two valid genres with which I am not associated and from which I distance myself. I distance myself from these software-produced forms of writing because I have a classical background which has instilled in me values that are antithetical to artificially or automatically or non-human produced art. What I have aspired to achieve in my literary work is fiction that is both rooted in the canon of the western literary tradition and at the same time reflective of the contemporary ethos in which I am writing. That contemporary ethos is a digital-age or a hyper-age or a techno-age or a computer-age. I am not proporting that this ethos is the universal official ethos for every contemporary writer. That would be a very presumptuous and self-serving statement and a ridiculous idea. This is the ethos that I have chosen for myself because it is the one that corresponds the most organically with my personality, life-experiences and aesthetic predispostion. As a professional writer I am obligated to produce work that is genuinely based on my life-experience and personality. For me this entails incorporating the new software tools and technical resources afforded by the age in which we are living today.


      Even though it appears to some as though I am executing a radical change or creating literary material that is in opposition to traditional literature, this is actually not the case and nothing could be further from the truth. For me individually it is essential to incorporate the new tools and resources that are available to us. I am not on a mission to supplant tradition with these new tools. I am on a mission to hopefully extend or evolve tradition by pursuing new directions that were pioneered by our predecessors. I am an aggressive proponent of logically extending the historical literary continuum. But the lineage must be a consistent logical evolution. If a writer produces work that is a radical departure from everything that preceded his or her work then the writer is no longer producing literature but a new art form. There are instances in my work I admit in which I am developing new art forms too but they are exceptions. In essence I am a traditionalist who is simply writing in the early years of the third millenium and this is what my work reflects.


      2. Why do you write under 80 personas?


      When I first created "Hyper-Literary Fiction" I wrote under my own name and had no aspirations to develop personas. Then as my work progressed I discovered new branches of hyper-literary fiction that were viable directions to pursue. That is when I began assigning the new forms of hyper-literary fiction to personas. This was a way for me organize my work and to categorize my opus. I had a psychological need to compartmentalize the new subgenres and to assign personas to them. Every subgenre has a distinct characterisitic and it felt very natural to attribute the subgenres to a persona who also had distinctly different characteristics than myself. It also made sense to create an organization to which the personas belonged. So I founded a simulated literary movement called the "Worldwide Literati Mobilization Network." I like to draw the comparison between my work and the way in which a cooperative or a company is operated and managed. I wrote traditional literary fiction for over 20 years before forging the new genre of hyper-literary fiction. Traditional literary fiction is composed by one author who to a large extent has autocratic control over the writing process. Because I implement human-programmed digital tools in the production of my work I have relinquished this autocractic position. Now I am a participant in the production of my literary work. I am still presiding over but not in a fashion in which I am able to exercise absolute control. The simulated literary movement that i founded is like an organization which is comprised of members whose collective contribution makes the organization function. When I developed subgenres of hyper-literary fiction I relegated these new "tasks" to other "people" and as the tasks mulitiplied so did the people who performed them until the "group" had formed. At this time there are over 80 personas under which I write. Recently I have felt it necessary to create two new organization too which are called the "International Belles Lettres Federation" and the "Superheroes of Humanities." I have created these two new organizations because the new work I am producing now is very different from the work by the worldwide literati mobilization network and it seemed very appropriate to create new organizations to reflect the fundamentally different nature of my newest work. In fact I have orginated a new genre called "Microlinear Storytelling" which is the genre that will be produced by the international belles lettres federation. The superheroes of humanities will represent writing that is an even more emphatic departure from hyper-literary fiction.


      3. Why have you produced 100,000 volumes of fiction?


      The reason for this is a philosophical and philanthropic one. I am displeased with the common publishing paradigm that is practiced by american publishing houses. The objective of a typical american publishing house is to publish a limited number of different titles every year in the hope that one or more of those titles will become a bestseller with millions of copies of the novel sold to readers. Every reader then owns the same book which has no intrinsic or lasting value. After the book is read it is disposable and can be recycled like any other used paper product. All the value of the book primarily funnels back to the publishing house and secondarily to the individual author. Rather than reproducing tens of thousands of copies of the same book, I decided it was more philosphically sound and philanthropically assertive to produce tens of thousands of one-of-a-kind books. This publishing paradigm furnishes every individual reader with a literary work that is original and owned by no other individual and therefore has has an intrinsic and enduring value like an original painting. After the book is read it is retained by the owner indefinitely or sold for profit at a certain point in the future. This publishing paradigm not only instills the literary work with inherent and lasting worth but it also funnels the value of the book to the reader who now owns the only existing copy of that work of literature. I don't propose that my publishing methodology is a suitable blueprint for writers who live outside of the states to emulate. My print-publishing paradigm is the brainchild of a writer who has lived in the united states all his life and it is in relationship to my own cultural environment out of which my new publishing views have arisen. Maybe this is a uniquely american phenomenon that is not applicable to any other nation.




      4. You are also the editor of the Muse Apprentice Guild, an international literary quarterly. How do you find time to produce your literary work and to manage the Muse Apprentice Guild?


      This is a question I am often asked. The simple answer is that the work I devote to the Muse Apprentice Guild is a great source of inspiration for me. I love to support other writers. I love to support their careers and to help them cultivate their craft and to encourage them in their work. Helping other writers is a gift. It's a gift for me as much as for them. I know that the writing profession is a solitary and competitive one. I myself stay clear of politics and stay clear of affiliating myself with any particular school or literary circle. Literary politics and literary circles perpetuate divisiveness and there is already enough divisiveness between the world powers and between the political parties of our governments. As a man of letters I feel I am responsible to play a diplomatic role or the role of a cultural ambassador. This is why I support other writers with the same ardor with with I pursue my own professional career. I would feel empty and deprived inside if I only promoted myself or fraternized with a closed circle of writers with whose aesthetics I had an affinity. There are only two kinds of writing: good writing and poor writing. The genre or the school or the style is inconsequential.


      I also want to educate readers. This is why the Muse Apprentice Guild is an international quarterly which presents the literary work of writers from around the world. This work I publish in the original language with english translation. Often I publish the work in the original language only if there is no english translation. My purpose is two-fold: to introduce writers to a world audience and to introduce readers to world literature. I take the meaning of the phrase "World of Letters" very seriously. The world of letters is not confined to one literary group or to one metropolitan literary center or to one country. The world of letters spans the globe.


      My editorial role in the Muse Apprentice Guild is the mechanism that balances my own creative process. Without the Muse Apprentice Guild I would never stop producing my own literary work because my nature is to be contantly productive. The Muse Apprentice Guild forces me to stop four times a year and to switch tasks. Every writer wants to make a contribution to literature. I also want to make a contribution to my fellow writers who are just like me: hard-working men and women with high ambitions and artistic ideals.


      5. Do you make a living from your editing and writing?


      This is another question I am often asked. No I am not making a living from writing and editing yet. My family has always been very supportive of the arts and of the careers of their children. I have two sisters both of whom have professional careers in the arts and who have attained financial success from their work. I am lucky to be able to devote all my time to that work for which I have a passion. I am confident that I will begin to profit from my work in the not-too-distant future. This summer my work is being print-published for the first time and the books are already in the initial production stage. When my work does begin to sell, I am committed to donating 10% of all my royalties for charitable and educational purposes.


      6. How did the Muse Apprentice Guild grow so rapidly in one year. You started out with 60 writers in the first issue that was published in August of 2002. The current issue has 600 writers and 4,000 literary works and the Muse Apprentice Guild receives over one million visitors each year. What marketing and advertising tools did you use?


      I didn't market or adverstise at all. The M.A.G. grew rapidly by word-of-mouth. I also care about the writers who contribute their work. I am invested in them as writers and as people. This is probably another reason for the M.A.G.'s success. I treat writers with respect.


      7. Please say a little about yourself. Who is August Highland the person?


      I am 45 years old and have been married for eight years and have a 5-year-old daughter. My wife, Mary, is a psychotherapist and publishes a psychotherapy directory for the community to use as a resource for finding the right therapist. We live in San Diego, California and our houses is about 10 minutes away from the Pacific Ocean which we can see from our window because our house is situated on a hill. San Diego is a very beautiful city. I am a native of Los Angeles and have lived in San Francisco too. San Diego is my favorite city in California. Our house is very small with only two bedrooms one of which I use for my study. Our house is actually a separate living space that is part of Mary's parents's home. They converted part of their home into a separate living space where my family lives. We like this living arrangement because it enables our daughter to have daily interaction with her grandparents which is of tremendous importance. I grew up in a similar way. When I was a little boy my parents lived in a condominium which they shared with my mother's parents. My wife Mary grew up like this too. When she was a little girl she lived across the street from her grandparents. Mary and I have many similar life-experiences and this is what drew us together.


      My priorities are my family and my work and there is no time for anything else. I don't watch television or go to the movie theatre or go to parties or social gatherings. I do regularly meet one-on-one with my three friends who are professors at the universities here. I don't take any days off from work but like to work seven days a week. I am a night person and usually work until four or five in the morning and wake up before noon.


      8. Don't you miss social interaction?


      Yes and no. I sometimes fantasize that I would enjoy it but then when when I go to an actual party or social gathering I don't enjoy the experience. The whole time I am at a social function I am always thinking about my literary work. I am not manic or obsessisive in the clinical sense. I just have a very single-minded purpose which I think is common to all creative people. I am really a failure at small talk and I am also very introverted and serious. This does make for a very interesting party-goer. Also I really dislike talking about my work or hearing others talk about their work. I just like to work. It's only in the context of an interview like this that I really open up and go into depth about my occupation. Also I am a one-on-one kind of person. I still haven't learned the skill of interacting in a group setting. Whenever I am in a group setting, my thoughts and feelings become too dispersed and I am unable to focus. Then I become anxious and even more introverted and serious. This is when I am sober though. It's different if I have a few drinks. Then I become gregarious and impulsive and humorous like to make people laugh. But then the next day I regret half the things I did and said. I just don't have a good socializing personality and I never did. I perfectly OK with this.


      9. What are you working on now?


      I am involved in several new projects. I recently created two new genres called "Next-Gen Nanopoetics" which you can see at "COW Gallery" (www.cowgallery.com) and soon at the "Document Reassembly Plant (www.document-reassembly-plant.com). The other new genre is called "Genre-Splicing" which involves the inter-layering of audio, graphics and text. The project in which I am presenting this work is called "Alphanumeric Labs" (www.alphanumericlabs.com). Because of the growth of the Muse Apprentice Guild, I am creating an editorial staff to manage the daily operation of the quarterly, so that I can devote time to the other new projects that are in the conception stage. Also my literary works are being manufactured right now and I need to oversee that operation. And also in November there is going to be a Muse Apprentice Guild Literary Festival, sponsored by the University of San Diego, which will be a live and online event. Writers can attend the festival and read their work to the live audience or they can read their work from their computers to the live audience. To accomodate all this growth I am building a new office space that will be large enough for an editorial staff. I expect that my life will be normal again by January, 2004. That's my biggest goal right now.



© Copyright Mircea Pricăjan
Sursa :   Imagikon
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