Tag Archives: million writers

Do online lit journals go to heaven when they die?

oublietteFor the 10th anniversary of the Million Writers Award, Jason Sanford has put out a list of dead online literary journals. I note with not a little chagrin that my own publication history lines up pretty well with this list, and I’ve suggested a couple of additions to the list that appear to have died under Jason’s otherwise very sensitive radar.

Online literary journals are a great place for new writers to test their chops, and for adventurous readers to discover the future, or at least the present. They can take more risks than their print cousins, but are a little more casual, too: the great lit mag site of today is the dead URL (or, worse, domain-parking spam site) of tomorrow. There’s always the “wayback machine” at the Internet Archive (which captured this gem of a story from my past), but the Internet Archive has some pretty big gaps that a lit magazine can very easily slip through.

As places I’ve published disappear, I’ve been bringing stories over to Fictionaut, just to keep my various links alive. But there’s something about the ephemeral nature of online journals that is intriguing: while things can appear very quickly in the digital world, they can disappear just as quickly, maybe even more quickly, and leave absolutely no trace. The Internet’s oubliette can be darker and more final than any medieval tyrant could have dreamed, leaving not even a scratch on the wall and a handful of bones to mark its inmates’ passing.

Sunshine Over Helsinki

No one in Helsinki saw his weather reports. They didn’t need his two-minute segment, twice a day, nestled between the football scores and children’s cartoon based on the Finnish epic “Kalvala”; they could just look out their windows, stand on their stoops, and know to wear a coat today. The reports were for Finnish expatriates, nostalgic for Baltic winds and icy sidewalks, or for a handful of students learning the words “lumi” for “snow” and “pilvi” for “clouds.”

Sunshine Over Helsinki, published in Failbetter in 2004, is a more substantial story than After Ice Cream. It doesn’t have much for plot; it’s focused instead on character, primarily that of Tomas, a Finnish meteorologist who works for a college television station in Southern California.

Looking back on it, I’m still happy with the story; I don’t think that its lack of an overarching plot–there’s a simple story, a quiet little love story, that runs through it, but that’s mostly there to hang Tomas’ character on–is a problem. And since it made it into the storySouth Million Writers Notable Stories list of 2004, I suppose others felt the same.

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