5th November, 2012
It’s that time of year: the time when we open the gates and invite in passing writers, artists, poets, thinkers, creators, stragglers on the dusty road. The time when we raise a flag and see who responds to it. It’s time to start putting together the fourth Dark Mountain book.
Every summer, we publish an anthology of ‘uncivilised’ writing and art: work that responds to the challenge laid down in our original manifesto, to write, discover or begin to formulate new stories for a world in which old assumptions, like the systems that created them, are collapsing. The Dark Mountain books are at the heart of our work, and we hope they will be our lasting legacy. If you don’t know the story of the previous three, you can read it here, along with extracts from each of them.
What this means in practice is best understood by taking a look at one of our past issues. We produce eclectic books: beautifully-designed hardbacks (we believe a book should look and feel like a thing of beauty) scattered with essays, long and short form poems, flash fiction, photographs, paintings, short stories and – always my favourite – work that is not easy to categorise at all. Being uncategorisable is something that Dark Mountain seems to have achieved more widely, and we like to encourage contributors to the book to try the same trick.
So, what are we looking for? Broadly, we are seeking challenging writing and art, of the kind which would not be published anywhere else. We are not aiming for an overall ‘theme’, this time, beyond the broader concerns of Dark Mountain. But there is one angle which I think is worth bearing in mind as we move beyond the beginnings of this project and begin to practice our craft with more confidence.
Back in the summer, Akshay Ahuja wrote a post on this site in which he reviewed several novels and short stories under the heading ‘The Literature of Catastrophe.’ I recommend reading this post again, and dwelling on its conclusion, because it is an apt description of the kind of work that I, for one, would like to see more of. Akshay wrote of his excitement at discovering what had been missing in so much ‘collapse’ or ‘post-apoalcyptic’ writing, and what might be the alternative: post-cautionary tales.
A post-cautionary tale. What a beautiful term! … A post-cautionary world is one in which you’re no longer scaring people or trying to assuage your own guilt—you’re just trying to live in the world that’s coming and letting your imagination expand into it. Maybe the world will be enchanted or terrifying—fluttering flags at a jousting tournament or roaming death squads, whatever your spirit and sense of reality demand—but when you give up on warnings (which will go unheeded) and predictions (which will probably be wrong, and will accomplish very little if correct), you can … start making art again.
Post-cautionary tales, then: stories from the dark mountain that looms over the lights of the city; lights that suddenly seem less eternal than they did even a few years back. Bring us your stories from the slopes, and we may be able to help you spread them out into the world.
The deadline for submissions for book four is 31st January 2013. The submissions guidelines can be found here. Please read them carefully before sending any work to us. We look forward to what may come our way.
Posted by Paul Kingsnorth on 5 November, 12
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