This is part three of an interview series focusing on how the Internet is changing/improving/destroying the “indie lit” world. Interviews will feature writers, editors, designers and other artists with a web presence. I recently spoke with DJ Berndt 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.
DJ Berndt is the founder and editor of Pangur Ban Party, a site that publishes quirky and often weird e-books. He has published Frank Hinton, Ana Carette, Sam Pink, xTx, Jordan Castro, Richard Chiem and others. DJ has been published in decomP, For Every Year, New Wave Vomit and my Name is Mud among other publications.
DJ Berndt: hey, I’m down to do that interview if you want
Frances Dinger: cool. can you give me ~10 minutes?
have to call my mother real quick. haven’t talked to her all week and she is probably wondering if i am alive
DJ: totally, that’s cool
Frances: okay. ready?
sorry about that
DJ: sure, I’m ready
Frances: do you want to start just talking about the origin of Pangur Ban Party?
DJ: Yeah, that sounds great. I started Pangur Ban Party after I discovered what I guess is referred to as the “online indie lit scene”. I really liked Bear Parade and bearcreekfeed. I kno enough HTML and some people seemed interested, so I just started it.
I guess it started with me and Adam Coates.
Frances: does Pangur Ban party have any particular mission or discernable aesthetic?
DJ: no, and that is probably a huge flaw of it. I just sort of publish what I like.
Frances: in the near future of the site, do you think you’ll develop an aesthetic or do you want to preserve the randomness/chaos?
DJ: I think it would probably be better for Pangur Ban Party if I developed some sort of consistent style, but I prefer it to be random. It’s just sort of an approach that is fun for me, and I have found that it works much better this way. Less forced.
Frances: what do you mean by less forced?
DJ: I mean that if I adapted a style for Pangur Ban Party to use (sappy dramatic stories about dying of cancer versus whimsical poetry about flowers), then I would read submission under the guise of Pangur Ban Party, and I don’t want to do that.
like, reading submissions based on how they jive with what I have published in the past versus what I enjoy
Frances: without a ~mission statement or aesthetic of sorts, how do you aim to create an identity for the site?
DJ: I don’t know if I want to do that. Do you think of writers or magazines and associate them with certain magazines? Like writer cliques based on magazines. I sometimes do that. I think of PANK and I think of xTx and Mel Boswroth and Eric Beeny. I think of Muumuu House and I think of Tao Lin, Brandon Scott Gorrell, Jordan Castro, David Fishkind, Megan Boyle. I don’t think anyone associates anyone or anything with Pangur Ban Party, except perhaps me.
Frances: i think i definitely think of ‘clicks’ [internet pun or typo, you decide] or specific writers when i think of publications, but at the same time that tells you something about that publication’s aesthetic, which can be valuable/crucial to making a publication successful. like, it helps to identify an audience.
and those ‘cliques’ can tell you something about the publication’s audience or what the publication perceives its audience to be
who is Pangur Ban Party’s audience?
DJ: I’m not sure it has one. I know that people read it. After something is published, it’s always different people that tell me they like it or link it on a blog or retweet it or something. I don’t think I’ve ever expected a certain person (besides the writer) to take interest in it after it’s published. That’s not to say that people aren’t interested. I consistently get a nice quantity of feedback, and I think that’s really cool. I guess to answer the question though, no, I’ve never thought that a certain person or group people will definitely read and enjoy this particular piece.
Frances: cats seem to be a recurring motif on Pangur Ban Party. True or false?
DJ: True, I guess. I mean it is named after a cat. I chose the logo because I thought it looked like a cat hallucinating.
Frances: hahaha, awesome
can you describe the personality of the cat the site is named after?
DJ: I wonder how many people realize that it’s named after the cat poem?
the cat on the site is a super party boy cat. he loves weekends full of clubs and drugs. coke and mdma. lives for it.
do you do all the graphic design for the site?
DJ: yeah. I ask the author if he or she has any preferences on color scheme, fonts, or pictures.
then I go from there
Frances: why did you choose blogspot as the hosting platform?
DJ: I don’t remember. I’m going to move it to a real domain soon. hopefully sometime before summer. I don’t really like that it’s on blogspot anymore.
Frances: do you see e-books as a wholly different medium from printed books? should they be different?/how can they be utilized?
DJ: I don’t see as big a difference between ebooks and printed books than most people seem to. I think ebooks are fun and dynamic, but I also have a large collection of printed books, and I read printed books just as much as I read online. I realize that the medium is important, but as long as the words are getting out there, it’s cool.
Frances: ~how much time do you spend online daily?
DJ: 5 or 6 hours.
Frances: how much of that is productive vs. surfing?
DJ: how do you define “productive?”
Frances: haha, good point. umm… e-mailing, reading news and lit sites, working on PGB stuff maybe?
DJ: it’s probably 80% productive time then.
Frances: what are your internet vices that occupy that additional 20%?
DJ: umm, random things on wikipedia, imdb, youtube, or like a stupid internet meme or something.
cracked is a funny and interesting website
Frances: hahaha, that should be the title of the interview
“cracked is an interesting website: an interview with dj berndt”
DJ: I’m down
but who knows? I’m getting higher and may something sillier
Frances: how do you think the internet has changed the lit scene?
DJ: it’s made it more crowded. which is good, because more people are discovered and you get to read more writing from people you ordinarily would never have heard of. People say that this is also bad because it drowns out the actual talent, but I disagree. The talent that is drowned out by the internet is more than made for up for by the talent that is given exposure.
Frances: i agree. um, do you have any final remarks? Sorry, I have to get out of here and meet with a venue owner about booking some bands.
DJ: It’s all good. Thanks for the interview, Frances. Take it easy.
Frances: have a good weekend!
DJ: you too