Sunday, April 19, 2015

Let this be a notice to all concerned: the hypertext found poetry project Hi Ma’am Sir, published in PDF as It will be the same/but not quite the same., is no more. It has been deleted from its blog and Mediafire folder as an effort to comply with a cease & desist letter sent by the lawyers of Anvil Publishing and Noelle Q. de Jesus & Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta, the editors of the anthology Fast Food Fiction Delivery, who have accused me of copyright infringement and threatened me with up to PhP600,000 in fines and imprisonment of up to twelve years.

Hi Ma’am Sir is a work of literary criticism. It is a part of what aims to be a multimedia critical response to the short story anthology Fast Food Fiction Delivery. The first part of the critical response is the essay “Nutrition Facts: Always Look at the Label,” a microreview focussing on what I perceive to be the anthology’s lack of an acute curatorial framework. HMS was the second part of this critical response. It was meant to demonstrate what I think is a flattening of aesthetics, politics, language, and form in contemporary English-language short story writing in the Philippines.

Here is how HMS worked: I went through the anthology and copied four sentences per story – specifically the first and last sentences, and two random sentences somewhere in between. Sometimes a sentence would have five words, sometimes ten. Some sentences were around fifty words long, and a few were made up of a single word. I typed them all out in four rows and encoded a hypertext machine in Javascript to generate random combinations of what amounted to roughly two hundred and seventy two sentences, which I predicted would come up with new stories expressing coherence despite their disparate origins.

HMS was also intended to be a continuation of my critical and creative practice: one of my main branches of critical and creative exploration of the last ten years is what I call drawing the infinite from the finite, a development of my interest in Constrained Writing. For every project that I do, I give myself strict, pseudo-mathematical rules to guide their creation. For HMS, the rules were to gather roughly two hundred and seventy two sentences from sixty eight stories, have them randomly assemble in groups of four sentences each, potentially resulting in upwards of twenty million new stories.

I maintain that HMS is well within the territory of Fair Use. I maintain that the process from Fast Food Fiction Delivery to Hi Ma’am Sir was thoroughly transformative, resulting in absolute, doubtless, and significant difference between the two, to the point that one will never be confused for the other. I maintain that the spirit of the project has been and always will be literary criticism, as exercised creatively. I maintain that I have never earned a centavo from HMS, and I never will. The decision to delete HMS is strictly motivated by nothing more than personal economic realities.