"Writers and Creative People are Multi-Faceted." Janice Lee on Community-Building Through Her New Online Journal
Entropy was launched March 2014 by Janice Lee and Peter Tieryas, and since then content has been going up daily. Areas covered include: literature, films, sci-fi, gaming, and pretty much everything else, thanks to the Entrofeed and “more” sections. The site includes essays, conversations and reviews as well as cultural commentary. Response time is three weeks or less, one week for queries.
Below, executive editor Janice Lee fields questions regarding Entropy’s origins and plans for the journal’s future.
Interview by Linda Michel-Cassidy
Can you give us a brief backstory about how Entropy came to be? Was it borne of a sense that this site could fill a need that was not otherwise met (at least not all in one place)?
Part of the inception was seeing that this thing didn’t yet exist in the indie lit community. We were both inspired by models like HTMLGIANT (especially the openness and the trust placed in the contributors to freely post with minimal editorial oversight) and io9 (in terms of the diverse and exciting content). I really wanted to create a space for writers (and also non-writers) to talk about literary things, like book reviews and other critical essays, but also open the space for topics like video games, film, music, current events, science fiction.
Writers are multi-faceted and have multiple interests, and we wanted to reflect that diversity of thought and personality and aesthetic in one place. We also wanted to create something more than just a magazine or journal, but a supportive community where writers and readers from different groups, geographic regions, aesthetics, communities, backgrounds, etc. could come together and share ideas. Part of this is our way of creating a sort of online settlement where anyone can come and participate in a warm and engaged community, our way of combatting the negativity and segregation sometimes existent in the literary community.
I see the site not so much as “literary things to read,” but something further in scope, perhaps “things that people with current literary and artistic tastes might not yet know they would like to read.” Talk, if you will, about your readership.
We’re still really surprised by how the readership has grown. We started off imagining that our readers would mostly be our friends, people we knew on Facebook and maybe slowly grow outward from there. But it’s grown rapidly in scope, and I think it’s because of the diversity and quality of content. So our readers include writers in the small press and indie lit community, but we’ve also got readers from different corners of the world and internet that come to read certain movie reviews or video game criticism or recommendations on comics & graphic novels.
I could (and have) frittered away hours meandering through the site, looking up works mentioned, following links, and, ordering a couple of the books reviewed. I did not for an instant feel that this wandering was mindless as it can be with some multi-interest sites. Where on the education/enrichment—entertainment continuum do you place Entropy?
I go back to the idea that writers and creative people are multi-faceted. We like to read smart things and share thoughts on books, but we also like to have fun and laugh and play games. So the site reflects that. I don’t deny that not all of our articles are for everyone, but I do think there is something for everyone there. We want all our content to make people think, feel something new, or learn something, but it’s also okay for articles to be fun and entertaining at the same time. Some of the essays are poetic or emotionally heavy and reveal deeply personal stories. We think this is important and are so thankful for our contributors who share this writing with our readers. Some of our other posts aim to illuminate or educate in more light-hearted ways, or entertain on a Friday afternoon. All of this can happen in the same space and that’s the great thing about Entropy.
Please give the Review Review audience an idea of the type of books that you prefer for reviews? Should they be new releases only, within a certain time-frame?
As far as books to be reviewed, we ask that presses or authors send us just the basic info for the book to see if we’re interested. For these, we’re usually just looking for recent releases. We’re most interested in small press or independent press titles, but also graphic novels, science fiction, fantasy, and anthologies. Most of our reviews though are submitted to us. And we’ll consider reviews of books that are recent, but also older titles that maybe deserve another look or have been forgotten about.
We like to read smart things and share thoughts on books, but we also like to have fun and laugh and play games.
I see from your submission notes that you are not at the moment publishing fiction or poetry, leaving plenty, as Entropy is quite expansive. Give us some examples of the types of material you have or will publish.
Entropy is growing and changing all the time, so the best thing is to check our Submission Guidelines to see what we’re publishing.
Some of what we publish, but this isn’t a definitive list and are very open to seeing new things:
book reviews, travel essays, interviews, conversations, literary musings, hauntings, lists, essays, creative nonfiction pieces, thoughts on current events, dream logs, maps, food thoughts, concert or art exhibition writeups, cosmic portraits, theoretical ponderings, and any writings/articles related to literature, experimental writing, small presses, translation, science fiction, graphic novels, games, digital & interactive literature, the paranormal, film, music, art. As stated our Submission Guidelines page, we generally we love thoughtful, productive, analytical, engaging, smart writing and we love conversation, discussion, critical thinking, genuine opinions, and emotional engagements.
And just recently, we have started taking short story submissions for a new weekly fiction feature. Saehee Cho is our new Fiction Editor and she’ll be curating that weekly feature.
Conversely, what are you not interesting in publishing?
We’re not interested in publishing anything mean, nasty, snarky for snark’s sake. We’re also not interested in publishing anything that’s promotional or self-promotional. Like any publication though, we publish what we like, and I think the website itself reflects our aesthetic and tastes.
Not really a question, but I appreciate your "Where to submit your writing this fall" section. Are there particular sites or journals with which you feel a particular allegiance? Is "where to submit" a regular feature?
As mentioned previously, Entropy owes a lot to HTMLGIANT. We’re also inspired by sites like Kotaku, io9, BoingBoing, Berfrois, The Rumpus, Gawker, Electric Literature, and Verge. In the end though, we really feel like we’re doing an entire new thing.
About the “Where to Submit” feature. Yes this has become a regular feature, and actually we hope to make this even more regular and often.
I’m curious about how you strike that balance between being smart and humorous, as opposed to (excessive) snark and goofiness, something that a number of cross-media sites haven’t quite perfected.
Writers are smart people, but sometimes we too easily fall into the stereotype of the brooding intellectual who takes him/herself too seriously. In reality, a lot of writers are really funny and witty. And that balance is important to maintain in daily life to remain sane. It’s a coping mechanism.
What changes have you seen since Entropy’s inception? Any surprises?
Mostly I’m surprised by how quickly it’s grown. We just had our six-month anniversary and both Peter and I are surprised and excited by how enthusiastic and supportive everyone has been. I still remember when Entropy was just an idea and we were frantically waving out arms about trying to explain it to people we knew at AWP last year, and now it’s this huge thing that’s bigger than both of us. We get thousands of readers visiting our site and have over 100 contributors that make up the Entropy community. And the community: this has been the most heartening thing for me. To see writers from so many different places and backgrounds come together and support each other in a way I haven’t seen before. I used to feel like the literary community was very segregated, but now I see writers coming together that wouldn’t have come together before, having profound conversations about all sorts of topics and supporting each other in so many different ways.
Linda Michel-Cassidy lives Arroyo Seco, a rural village in northern New Mexico. Her writing has appeared in Eleven Eleven, Black Heart, Writing Tomorrow, Provo Canyon Review, The Notebook, and the anthologies New Mexico Voices and Seeking Its Own Level. She is a dual MFA candidate in fiction and nonfiction at the Bennington Writing Seminars and was the Taos Summer Writing Conference’s Resident Writer in 2011. Linda also holds an MFA in Visual Arts from the California College of the Arts, is a metalsmith and installation artist, and for four years was a Resident Artist for the Taos School District. In her spare time she skis, although sad to say, not enough to be called a bum.