New Magazine Explores Intersection of Art, Literature and Technology

Review of Carbon Culture, Fall 2014 by Rachael Inciarte


Carbon Culture, a new magazine of technology, literature, and art says of itself, “Our collection of voices and artistic work explore who we are as human beings in a technological world.” It’s a bold idea, and certainly a relevant one, as even the most technophobic literature lovers among us are being dragged through twitter trenches and iPhone tutorials. The Fall 2014 Issue is the inaugural issue. Additionally, every month CC also posts issues online.

The magazine publishes prose, poetry, essays, and art both from upcoming and established authors. According to the bios, it seems that many are MA’s or MFA’s, professors, and have been published in a variety of other venues.

For me, the magazine’s strongest pieces are the four essays, written by the assistant editor and two associate editors of Carbon Culture. Molly Bradley writes thoughtfully about English to English code switching, specifically in terms of text-speak. Her use of visual screen images are well-employed. And, the information in her second essay on clean water technology gives great text on recent innovations in water purification and accessibility. Marie Becker’s piece is an cool introduction to the practice of historical tweet-re-enactment, citing the example of NPR’s @todayin1963.

My favorite, “The Cyborg and the Soul” is a sort of case study looking at two different cyborg stories, "Ghost in the Shell" and "No Woman Born." Alyssa Watson discusses the implications of bodily technology affecting the soul in both pieces, then goes further, making comparisons to Buddhist philosophy. She also illustrates how cyborgs “in science fiction as in popular culture, are a means by which our society attempts to work out what defines ‘being human.’” I believe this sentiment is especially compelling, given CC’s mission.

The essays are only a component Carbon Culture, however. The magazine is dominated by poetry, which like any collection of poems from different authors will be hit and miss depending on the reader. Three poems by A.M. Feathers stood out to me as striking the exact right balance of technology influenced art. In "Pirated Love Poem," he writes:

you’re my illegal download.

that bite by bite bar

filling up with each decimal

percentage point of you

that i sneak listens to...

The prose is generally shorter than fiction you might find in other magazines, represented both by stories of only a few pages and flash. The most unique and interesting to me is the self-explanatorily titled “A Glossary of Lost Cults” by M.V. Montgomery.

The art element of the magazine includes the front and back cover and ten pages spread throughout the issue divided among three artists. In my opinion Zephren Turner’s two beautiful charcoal drawings “Genetic Adam” and “Genetic Eve” seem a better match for CC’s desired intersection of art and technology than the eight images by Patricia Piccinini, but of course this comes down to a matter of personal preference.

While the magazine has the basic content of many literary magazines--essays, prose, poetry, art--the layout is a bit unusual. The front and back cover are well designed, but the contents inside are slightly cramped. Many pieces share the page with others, which can make the text overwhelming without white space to give it breath. And, author bios in the hard copy are missing, an interesting choice that I find it hard to get behind. The inside pages will direct a reader to the website for more information, and I wonder if that is an intentional in order to keep the magazine in dialogue with the website, as well as direct traffic.

Reading Carbon Culture's first issue was an enjoyable and informative experience. It is a magazine outside of my usual comfort zone, and while there are kinks that can be ironed out, I think CC is a good addition to the literary community. I believe its best asset will be the continued selection of authors and artists whose work compliments and embodies their vision.