My attention span is shrinking but my heart is growing, haha: An interview with Stephen Tully Dierks


Stephen Tully Dierks reads “What the Fuck Does ‘In Real Life’ Mean if You Live In Front of Your Computer?” for the Quickies reading series in Chicago.

This is part one of an interview series focusing on how the Internet is changing/affecting the “indie lit” world. Interviews will feature writers, editors, designers and other artists with a web presence. I recently spoke with Stephen Tully Dierks over gmail chat. Some spelling has been corrected and time stamps have been removed but abbreviations, punctuation and line breaks have been preserved to give an ~accurate account of what conducting an interview online looks like.

Stephen Tully Dierks is the editor of the print magazine Pop Serial, he also manages the magazine’s tumblr page, which promotes other work by Pop Serial contributors. Stephen lives in Chicago and has been published in New Wave Vomit, Thought Catalog and Metazen among other publications.

Frances E. Dinger: okay, i am ready when you are

Stephen Tully Dierks: oh hi

Frances: haha, hi

Stephen: i am in a group chat with ana michael and poncho haha

Frances: nice. what is the group chatting about?

Stephen: a spanish music video currently
i could pull double duty probably
we’re just being dumb
i am ready
born…ready

Frances: word
so, first, i guess when did you begin to try to enter the online lit ‘scene’? it seems your internet presence ~exploded in 2010.

Stephen: yes, i would agree
i didnt have one before then
it started sometime in early 2010, spring 2010? something like that
when i read a post about joyce on htmlgiant by blake butler
i discovered everyone through htmlgiant
and subsidiarily (is that a word) through [tao lin]
htmlgiant to tao, tao to others
i defended brandon scott gorrell on htmlgiant
and somewhat as a result of that, i got in touch with him and tao
invited them to be in a magazine i guess was the next step
then started a tumblr
http://popserial.tumblr.com
and have been promoting people and putting out magazines
and then writing my own stuff

Frances: there are a lot of young writers becoming editors of really solid online journals. why did you choose print as pop serial’s primary medium?

Stephen: i like nice art objects and don’t get as much pleasure out of reading from a website
that being said, in my humble opinion, the design has been subpar for the first two issues
i’d like that to improve
although, the community is what matters most to me
above everything else
unlike other magazines, i solicit most of the contributors
and have kept many from issue 1 to issue 2
and will do that again with issue 3
creating a collective of sorts
posse
friends

Frances: sorry if this is a broad/overly vague question but what sort of community do you hope to create through popserial?

Stephen: hopefully it is a community of likeminded artists who like each others’ work to a large degree
and can support and inspire each other
and i feel like there’s a lot of camaraderie
and also that the community keeps growing
new people keep joining
in a fairly organic way
and i think that is possible because
most everyone involved seems to be nice and/or interested in similar things and/or has some similarities in personality
or some what i call
some kind of nice rare idk
they’re nice people
#articulate
hehe

Frances: haha
the writers represented in pop serial are pretty diverse geographically and stylistically. do you think a community like that would have been possible pre-internet age?

Stephen: not in the same way, no

Frances: how do you think the internet has changed the lit scene? is the internet being utilized as a unique medium, in your opinion?

Stephen: i think tao has led the way in terms of using the internet to its natural potential, imo
and that is possible because of his attitude and sense of humor, personality maybe
and others who already used the internet
have seen how it can be used
and have followed suit
that’s one way of interpreting it
but maybe some ppl dont care about tao and just are doing the same thing
it seems like a natural progression given the technology available
many ppl in other fields use it
kanye west is on twitter, ustream, etc
for example
but there is a lack of concern for being a Serious Writer amongst this community, from what i can tell, despite ppl caring about what they write
and that makes it possible to do what seems natural
and not worry as much about other peoples’ ideas re dignity, restraint, narcissism, etc.
re using it as a unique medium
tweets have become an artform, in a sense of the word
tao has published selected tweets
steve roggenbuck and poncho peligroso seem to run rampant on facebook
with long strings of comments
or steve will tag many people in a photo
that is ‘art’ in a conceptual sense
or whatever
haha
in general, the internet has caused art to be more obviously connected to and proceeding from human beings
am i safe saying that?
haha

Frances: hahahaha, sure. why not.

Stephen: despite the distance
the social networking aspects
idk i guess that happened before too
but people are ‘opening up’
revealing more about themselves

Frances: do you trust people to be genuine online?

Stephen: it seems to bring out nakedness
i think i trust people somewhat the same as in real life
maybe a little less
but in a comparable way
idk
i don’t think about that too much

Frances: w/r/t the online lit scene, do you see it as a counterculture movement of sorts or as the potential beginning of a new lit wave? “experts” say our attention spans are shrinking, so how do we keep people interested in the written word?

Stephen: i don’t know how to judge it as being countercultural or a new wave
i feel that is for others to think about later maybe
or for people to think about now if they want
i do feel my attention span is shrinking
but my heart is growing
if you’ll forgive me
haha
so that’s all that matters to me

Frances: do you do more reading online or offline?

Stephen: probably more offline
but it might be becoming more equal
over time
not sure
i am interested in the people and the gestures
moreso than the medium

Frances: earlier you mentioned the layout of pop serial being disappointing, what do you want to do with it in the future? (alternately: what are you future goals for pop serial?)

Stephen: i want to have someone with graphic design skills do the layout
instead of me
like for the upcoming online version of Pop Serial 2, mike kitchell is creating the website
without me
and he has skillz
unlike me
so i want to defer to people who are better at that
i want to do a third issue
not sure how or when
and i don’t want to raise money on kickstarter again
but maybe i can save enough from my job, my new job, to pay for the third one myself
although that seems hard
i want to do a third one
i would like it to have many of the same people
plus some new people
timothy willis sanders
poncho peligroso
zachary whalen
et al.
cover by tao lin

Frances: what is your ~relationship with the tao lin?

Stephen: i have emailed with him sporadically since last spring i guess
we have emailed about the two issues, and about other random things
news, occasionally personal things
gchatted a tiny bit
and when he toured for richard yates
we met and hung out, me and him and steve roggenbuck, brett gallagher, cassandra troyan
and he slept at my apartment
he is my friend
he is also the contemporary literary artist i find most inspiring

Frances: what do you think of the state of mainstream american literature right now? is there anyone in the mainstream scene you admire/are we stuck in postmodernism/blah blah blah?
do you have any “emotional connection” to the idea of being an american writer?
(sorry that’s a lot)

Stephen: hmm…
i like the online literary scene
i haven’t read a ton of mainstream american literature, or idk how to judge it from what little i’ve read
i admire aspects of what david foster wallace was trying to do, but he is not contemporary anymore

Frances: that breaks my heart

Stephen: finally a response from you!
haha
he moves me
i like him
just
i want him to ‘do even more’*
which may sound crazy
to a dfw fan

Frances: every boy i ever date has to compete with my love for wallace

Stephen: haha
well i think richard likes him right

Frances: it does sound a little crazy
yeah, richard says i most def love wallace more (than he does)

Stephen: no, i do like david foster wallace
just hmm…
i think he ‘got in his own way’ to some degree
but that is highly subjective/meaningless

Frances: what do you mean, got in his own way?

Stephen: like i said, subjective/meaningless
so idk how to continue or to have started
so to speak
but
yea ik complicated
but uh
idk he’s dfw
im nothing
but yeah uh
idk, just i read IJ and i didnt feel much

Frances: ugh
i will refrain from comment

Stephen: ok haha
i was impressed
and i laughed
but hmm idk…
brief interviews the one
where the girl is kidnapped is that what it is?
or the girl kidnaps a guy
it was ‘harrowing’
is this ringing any bells

Frances: the serial killer one with the hippy chick?

Stephen: yes
i liked that one
although the ending confused me
idk
i can’t tell if he and i think or feel alike or not
sometimes i think we do
i love “good people”
that’s probably my favorite thing by him
i love “this is water”
i guess maybe i’m just a romantic
and he’s a gen x-er
or something
that’s reductive
but yea
idk, on paper i ‘should’ love him
i loved his kafka essay
dfw detour
i don’t mean to hate
what i’m expressing is a desire for writing and humans and myself and stuff
it’s not about dfw

i probably was moved in IJ
i mean its long as hell
odds are good
jk

Frances: is being a writer part of your identity (or: is that even relevant?) or something you do?

Stephen: i think of writing as an extension of trying to feel and express emotions and to grow in mindfulness
but i guess i could also say in the last year or so
it has become one of my primary concerns
and that wasn’t always the case

Frances: did you major in english/writing in college?

Stephen: yes

i wouldn’t have liked another major more i don’t think
i don’t think of my life as a movie really

Frances: what does that last statement mean?

Stephen: haha
sometimes i hear people fretting about the future or the past
and i think it’s based on a sense of narrative and should have and should be and i want and this and that
i try not to do that

Frances: that’s cool/healthy

Stephen: i mean workshops were disappointing to me
i preferred my lit seminars
took a class on just joyce
class on woolf
class on ibsen

class on modernist poets
i don’t believe in the creative writing workshop

Frances: oooh, why not?
(i love statements that start with ‘i don’t believe in _.’ i like to imagine them being said in an incredulous tone.)

Stephen: i don’t believe in god
i don’t believe in elvis presley
jk
um
no i was just saying a thing

Frances: i don’t believe in stephen tully dierks

Stephen: good
well im clearly a fuckin moron
dont appreciate dfw properly
actually tho, would like to relive that part of the interview

david seems like the one to ‘save’ from the 90s
to me
might be the only one :/
that kind of talk is dumb tho
which is why i am unhappy with my interview performance
i would like to avoid judgmental talk
and shit-talking

Frances: your interview performance is above average

Stephen: i interviewed tao about richard yates
britt daniel of spoon in college
um

Frances: i think i read part one of the tao interview

Stephen: o ok yea

Frances: on html giant?

Stephen: yea
didnt get much love
unfortunately
or hate
actually i was hoping for hate

Frances: how does your gmail chat vernacular compare to your vernacular irl?

Stephen: hmm
well, i try to adapt my speech to the situation to some extent
tailor it
but idk, i am a polyglot speaker sometimes
am i using polyglot properly

Frances: umm, what do you mean by it? isn’t polyglot multilingual?

Stepehen: oh yea fuck it
i use a little bit of this and a little bit of that
i have written essays and said many things that would be judged “competent and fluid in the english language”
but increasingly i like to use an internet-influenced vernacular in emails
and in other arenas
but irl yea i mean idk
i talk one way and then i get on gchat talk another way
and so on

Frances:, i guess obligatory author interview question: what are you working on right now?

Stephen: i am almost done with some love poems for new wave vomit [Note: Those poems have since been posted here.]
besides that
trying to write a review of “person” by sam pink
would like to write a novel
but can’t say im working on it
currently

Frances: is there anything thematically you are interested in exploring in your writing?

Stephen: very vaguely, love and spirituality

Return to text.*Stephen would like to clarify he has very complicated feelings about DFW. “It’s just i really do appreciate him and acknowledge that there are many ways to be moved, etc. etc. And I just thought my initial remarks seem kind of dumb and not representative of how I feel. I don’t know. …I just don’t want to be known as a DFW hater. That would be a shitty fate.” His feelings on the subject are as yet unresolved but he acknowledges feelings of love and appreciation.

The next interview in the series will feature Frank Hinton of Metazen.

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