Writer In Residence, May 2011
When Al Gore invented the internet and went online for the very first time, I’m pretty sure there was a post already waiting from Kevin Fanning, and I’m pretty sure it was hilarious and honest and cut right to the heart of the new medium before it had really begun. Kfan has just always been there, making the web a little more human, and we’re thrilled to announce that he’ll be our Writer In Residence for May 2011.
Kevin has said he likes “to write about celebrities and internet culture and technology and relationships,” but that’s a bit of an understatement. What he writes about is how our mythology and technology and communications and, yes, relationships define us and how we frame the world through those things. His stories could not exist outside his own moment, this moment, and without the web, as he said in an interview with Word Riot. Because of that symbiotic relationship between content and delivery, he has embraced the web like few other writers, and was among the earliest to regularly share fiction both at his own website Whygodwhy.com and elsewhere, and to make the most of social media’s DIY possibilities — releasing his chapbooks either on his own or through web-minded presses like (full disclosure) Necessary Fiction’s parent So New. He’s redefining “success” in the process, exploring the rich middle ground between professional and amateur, and as Kati Nolfi put it at Bookslut,
Kevin Fanning’s fans are really enthusiastic. He has a cult following something like Tao Lin’s, with a highly active online presence and a feeling that the author’s writing is life changing for a niche readership.
“Life changing” not in the self-help sense, but because Kevin’s stories make you see the world differently — usually for the better. If you’d told me a collection of tiny stories about Jennifer Love Hewitt could move me — really move me — before I’d read his book Jennifer Love Hewitt Times Infinity, I would have laughed. But it works when he does it, because JLH shares something crucial to all of Kevin’s writing: she occupies a liminal space, neither famous enough to be “a lightning rod for controversy,“as he told Flavorwire, or anonymous enough to be overlooked — which is true of most of us to some degree in the internet age. She’s in between, always in flux, the way mythology falls between truth and fiction and the way Kevin’s stories so often fall between one state and another, putting characters into moments of disruption, suspension, and possibility — like the wandering protagonist of The Location Scout, or the the ghosts of Fever Dream Ghost Book. As he said in that _Word Riot_interview,
Being lost, either physically or emotionally, has been a theme in my writing for as long as I can remember. Where does that come from exactly, I don’t know. I have some guesses, but I’m not sure it’s something I even want to explore. It goes back to not being concerned with plot, I guess. It’s just what I’m interested in, and that’s all I need to know.
There’s a more practical way in which his work is “life changing,” too, because he has also written about his day job as an HR recruiter, in the short book Let’s All Find Awesome Jobs. That may seem a long way from his fiction, at first, but it’s not: searching for a job, being “between jobs” as we optimistically euphemize it, is also a liminal space, a suspension, as much as being a ghost or a relatively minor celebrity is, and whether it’s as a writer shaping his stories or as a recruiter shaping careers — or as a human being shaping the web — Kevin Fanning is an excellent guide to these in-between times. So I can’t wait to see where he leads us this month.