The e-Sleeper of the Year
This Wednesday morning, the site's latest feature talked about time machines. Appropriate, I thought, since McSweeneys.net is one of the most effective cross-publishing ventures today—a kind of homage to futurism in a world where print publishing happily coincides with its little sister, e-publishing. As I started reading Philip Ryan's acutely tongue-in-cheek analysis of the past as it relates to "the unknowable future," this week's thesis on publishing became even clearer: History outdoes itself.
Ryan writes: "The Contrivances of our Descendants will certainly be very fast-moving and, being harried by their faster pace of life, the Drivers of Tomorrow may not be on the look-out for us, Secret Visitors from the Past."
He also writes: "Follow the crowds and attempt to blend in until you are properly oriented."
Oh. Right. Of course.
And while it is fairly clear that neither Ryan nor McSweeneys is making any shrouded point about burgeoning success as a kind of non-giant media giant (or at least self-effacing one), both Wednesday's latest feature, appropriately titled "Helpful Advice," and the onslaught of visitors the site reportedly reels in daily, is a testament to the power of pluralistic publishing. In other words, it pays to keep up with the future's enthusiastic inventions (as in, "harried by their faster pace of life"). Ironically, however, McSweeneys, the publishing conglomerate, has never followed the crowd—well, not exactly.
It all depends on how you define "the crowd."
Surely McSweeneys content and publishing methods are anything but mainstream. Where else can you read a short story about mail-order Russian brides in the very same place you can read about one man's investigations of Iraqi extremism—both online and off? Not in Rolling Stone. And certainly not in Newsweek. Contrary, McSweeneys is a purposeful hodge podge. But the real ruckus it's making has as much to do with production as it does pontification.