The Absurdist is a small monthly periodical of absurdist flash fiction and illustrations, printed and distributed in Portland, Oregon and shared digitally around the world.
Connor Lucey is publisher and editor-in-chief of The Absurdist. He published the literary and arts anthology Doc Patrick’s Journal: (Volume 1) in Oakland in 2014.
Why did you start The Absurdist?
The Absurdist came from a desire to share more strange and senseless art. On our site, we call what we’re looking for “cohesively and creatively nonsensical”, as in, it doesn’t have to make sense as long as there’s some effort and continuity. If that makes sense.
I’ve been harboring the growing conviction for some time now that anything created with the intention of enlightening or connecting dots ends up as incomplete as the person who created it. I don’t mean to say that kind of work can’t still be amazing, or that the artists who make it aren’t incredibly talented. But life is chaotic and impossible to understand, so to me, art that tries to replicate that disorientation, tries to make peace with it instead of make order out of it, can be comforting and fun. That kind of art deserves a louder microphone than it has right now. So I started The Absurdist.
What is the most gratifying element of publishing the written word?
The thrill of curating anything is intoxicating. Getting to say, “I think this is cool,” and having the ability to then share it with people who might agree is intensely gratifying. It’s why I think Twitter and blogging and everything like that is so universally addicting. In terms of publishing The Absurdist, I love having the opportunity to feature the kind of work that makes life interesting to me. I love validating writers and artists with an acceptance letter, and I love knowing that by publishing The Absurdist, I can give those writers and artists one more opportunity to share their work with others. And of course, when we get a random message from a reader saying how they enjoy the publication, that’s also great.
How do you handle success and failure?
Publishing anything is really challenging. The amount of time, money, energy, and emotional investment it takes to make a project like The Absurdist succeed is, well, absurd. And I don’t think I’ve set the bar all that high in terms of what I consider a “success” either. To me, if we can offer compelling stories and illustrations to readers, and do right by the talented writers and artists that submit to us and trust us with their work, then The Absurdist is a success. I like to think that if those two things remain constant, and our world doesn’t fall apart in the meantime, The Absurdist will continue to grow and be successful. I guess we’ll find out.
As to how I handle failure, I’d say I handle it well. Maybe because I just refuse to see anything as, strictly speaking, a failure. Some of my publishing projects in the past didn’t sell as well as I’d hoped, or weren’t greeted with the overwhelming critical acclaim I thought they’d deserved. It was disappointing for sure. But they weren’t failures. They were just chances to learn more about the business of publishing, and what I wanted to get out of it. If something didn’t work out, it gave me an opportunity to figure out why not, and think how to avoid those mistakes the next time. The Absurdist is what it is because of all the less successful publications that came before it.
What is your advice to young and new writers and artists?
It’s said often, but it bears repeating in any case: Don’t be discouraged by rejection. As someone who regularly has to decide what goes in a magazine and what doesn’t, I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve read or viewed a submission and thought, “Damn, I wish this piece fit The Absurdist,” or, “If only this were a little different.” Which is to say, a piece may be rejected, but it might have been awesome and just didn’t work with the other pieces. As a writer, don’t assume that a rejection means your work is garbage. It just might not have been the right publication, or the right time. Of course, if the piece reads like a first draft or if the illustration image you submitted is of terrible quality, then that’s a different story. But if you take the time to really edit your work, and you respect a publication’s specified submission guidelines, then you have a real shot at being accepted eventually. Just keep at it, and try not to get discouraged.
Print or electronic?
Print, all the way. Publishing The Absurdist online has been great, and allows us the chance to put the work in front of so many more readers, which is fantastic, but there’s just something special about paper and ink. It’s why, for each new issue, we make hard copies of The Absurdist available to the public a day earlier than the online release. And it’s why we mail hard copies to readers anywhere in the world for free. The heritage and character of print is really important to me, so we’ll continue to publish The Absurdist with paper and ink for as long as it’s possible.
The Absurdist is always looking to feature more great work. If you’ve read some of our previous issues and think your short story or illustration might fit well in the next one, I encourage you to submit. You can read our submission guidelines here. And share our magazine with others! The more people that know of The Absurdist, the more we can celebrate how peculiar all this really is.