Alt lit is caving in on itself. After a week of multiple rape and abuse allegations against prominent authors and editors, the earnest, internet-obsessed literary scene is in full crisis: Today, the alt lit criticism site and scene blog of record Htmlgiant announced that it's shutting down. Meanwhile, in a private Facebook group associated with the blog Alt Lit Gossip, women writers have suggested forming an entirely new scene, "no boys allowed."
Alt Lit is Dead. thank god. let the girls in.
— rrw (@rabbitwhite) October 3, 2014
"Alt-lit"—used to refer to a close-knit community of young, self-promoting writers and editors who publish literature and poetry deeply informed by (and often about) the internet—is no longer a descriptor anyone wants. Htmlgiant, which the scene's writers saw as the premier alt lit review blog, now claims it was never alt lit:
Lol at people calling Htmlgiant Alt Lit.
— HTMLGIANT (@htmlgiant) October 3, 2014
October 24th, 2014 will be the last day of operation for Htmlgiant. I'm going to step aside as managing editor effective immediately, and in the next few days I'll open posting up for nearly everyone that has ever been a part of this site. On October 24th I will disable posting privileges for everyone and leave the site up for as long as we can afford it.
In the comments, however, posters referred to the "misogyny" of some of the writers Htmlgiant published. One commenter wrote:
HTMLGIANT hitched itself to the alt lit wagon. Commenters as far back as 2010 warned that alt lit was a juvenile fad that wouldn't last, but they were called get off my lawn types. ... Lin's last book wasn't as successful as expected. Now dude's facing rape charges. STD, Trull, Smith, were all exposed as sexual abusers too.
I'm not shocked that this nihilistic scene is dealing with numerous rape charges. I was never fooled by the lovey-dovey, effeminate, boyish masculinity of its male members that attempted to mask predatory behavior.
The comment refers to two rape allegations against prominent alt-lit editor Stephen Tully Dierks, who founded the alt lit mag Pop Serial, and allegations of rape and abuse against alt lit's figurehead, author Tao Lin. Alt lit writer Stephen Trull—pen name Janey Smith—has also been accused of sexual abuse. On top of that, alt lit writer and artist Stephen Michael McDowell confessed on Tumblr yesterday that he's a "rapist, a sex offender, and a predator."
The scene, it seems, isn't interested in rebuilding after its "golden boys" turned out to be massive creeps. Which makes alt lit review blogs obsolete.
On the alt lit Facebook group, multiple women writers suggested starting a new scene. One wrote,
dear women/womyn/femme/nb ppl of alt lit:
how would u all feel about creating a space for just us? as much as i think we all need to work together ("all" —-> men & women & everything in between) to make the world a better place, i cant help but think after this week's revelations it might be nice to like... shut the door on dudes for a second
what is the female* alt lit voice? how can we heal? im rly into building an alt lit sisterhood idk
no boys allowed
Another male writer added:
As per usual, something beautiful was destroyed by the actions of disgusting and manipulative men. Saying 'alt lit' out loud makes me feel uneasy. The level of defensiveness I've seen from the men is insane. These are grown men. Adults.
Writer and organizer Dianna Dragonetti, who wrote yesterday for Tusk that "The Alt Lit Boys' Club Mentality Is Exactly the Problem," announced he's starting a new tumblr with fellow writer Alexandra Naughton called empathlit, "by and for people who have been victimized, abused, silenced."
Kia Alice Groom published "Alt Lit is Dead–Burn the Corpses, Salt the Bodies" on Quaint this morning, which delves into the allegations against various men in the scene. She reasons that this is how they got famous:
Boy writers are terrified of their own irrelevance. They cushion this dread with a fan base, a string of people (usually women) willing to beg for a pdf of their new book, a personal email, five minutes on g chat and a mutual follow on twitter. And we do it, because we buy into the myth. We believe they are sensitive, troubled, brilliant. We believe we are in the presence of greatness, when really we are simply in the presence of fear.
If they weren't afraid before, Dierks and Lin are now. Dierks messaged his ex-girlfriend on Facebook—she posted the screenshots online—to say he'd kill himself if he has to go to jail. Lin threatened to sue his accuser, his ex-partner who says he was 16 when Lin raped him, for defamation.
As Naughton put it on Facebook, "I survived alt lit and I didn't even get a crappy t-shirt."
[Photo via Tumblr]