’m having some difficulty getting away from this book I’m reading, I really should be working, but it’s just so… it’s thick and fun and effortless and… nevermind what it is, spare me the embarrassment… but I do keep stopping and turning it over in my hands, looking at it as a whole, and marveling that it, or any book for that matter, could have ever made it onto the shelves. It’s not a quality thing I’m talking about, the book’s really freaking great, everyone thinks so (and not that I’m saying that consensus means anything, rather that this book is really good and everyone recognizes it, which is different than the usual brand of mucked-up consensus[3]), I’m thinking more evolutionarily, biologically about it. See, I have two young daughters, Zoë and Trillian, and the difficulties with Zoë’s development in utero—placenta previa making all movement on her mother’s part for the last two months of her pregnancy dangerous to them both, and ultimately necessitating a caesarian after six immobile weeks in the hospital; and then Trillian decided to face her head the wrong way and complicate everything, forcing most of the staff on hand at the Women’s Center to be either in our room or waiting in surgery if we hadn’t delivered in another 30 seconds, one kind doctor sweating away with the vacuum on top of Trillian’s head, his back arched dangerously and one foot on the table, pushing… then one hand with some really neat looking scissors, a quick question to my wife Andrea: Can you feel this? and then snip! and suddenly Trillian was out and everyone was breathing more easily and I wanted to vomit and Andrea fell asleep. Everything was so dangerous and so close, but still there they are, and Trillian is now at eleven months standing unsupported and hewing to the Old Testament bit about not one stone resting upon another[4], our floors littered and relittered daily with the contents of every shelf and other surface. And again about consensus: everyone says they rock, my daughters. And again, not the mucked-up kind, but the objective reality kind owing to the fact that they do, in fact, objectively and otherwise, rock. They were difficult, miraculous things, like books, but… not books. But they’re growing and becoming, and one day they will be released, hopefully to an appreciative audience—no one really likes posthumous anything—and go on their little signing tours or whatever it is they’re going to do. And they’ll get older and older, need new covers now and then, possibly a page or two tipped back in from time to time… every day a continuing miracle, suffused and infusing…
      But now I’ve come to the existential bit, my father informed me recently that he has cancer, more serious than the melanomae on his arms and face that I will no doubt be having removed from my own in not too many years (“Nothing to it, son, just a little liquid nitrogen, that’s the stuff… ‘course we’ll want to biopsy the surrounding tissues…”). He’s on his way to some clinic in Flagstaff to get high-tech seeds of radium implanted in various embarrassing bits of his anatomy, the dual end results of which will be that he cannot hold his grandchildren, since he’ll be glowing strangely for a while, and that the cancer will go quietly away. He’ll be able to hold them once the glow’s off him. But it makes me want to go on that tired old rag about whatsthepointanyway, boosted and strengthened by the fact that every cell of our body carries a proto-oncogene, a simple, seemingly innocuous little bit of code that will sit silently for most of our lives, until one day it gets this fool idea into its fool head that Today Is A Good Day To Die, or at least, to get cracking at it, and turns its home cell into cancer, encouraging his compatriots nearby to do the same. That’s the internal route. Then there’s the hypertrophic keratomae, the sclerotic carcinomae, the garden-variety cutaneous horn, which isn’t really cancer, but it’s damned nasty anyway, and gets grouped into that lovely class of precancerous crap that’s sort of like external oncogenes (these cells are disrupted already, so we can assume that their oncogenes aren’t going to function any better than the rest of the code in the nucleus), and when you add sun—specifically ultraviolet radiation—to these things, the messed-up code gets even more messed up, and though nothing usually happens, you’ve got millions of these monkeys and sooner or later you get melanomae of Shakesperian proportions.
      So, transpose the above onto spork. Everything went wrong, but we made it, barely, and yes there was blood and so much discarded tissue and more tension and less sleep than I think I’ve had in a long time—and that horrifying moment at the counter when Sabrina opened the book and showed me that poor little spork was a little, um, developmentally disabled in the page numbering department—but it still came out okay, and no I’m not still breast-feeding, thank you. Anyway, I felt great, and spork went on its way. I turned briefly to the task of finishing my book I’ve been writing for far too long.
      Every word in every sentence in a book or story or poem, whatever, carries within itself its own sort of proto-oncogene. It’s just waiting for one semicolon too many; though some would argue that even one is too many, to set the tone and direction off, pulling it down, yellowing and necrotizing what was once so perfect[5]… internally this comes from doubt and dishonesty, from trying too hard to please, any of an infinite number of pratfalls lying within us as we work our way from word to word to page to trash can to page to library to bar to bookstore to smoking cigarettes on the porch and reading someone else’s expertly executed tome which I still will not name. This is the in utero area we’re talking about, and it’s amazing that we do not drive or walk or bike to work (for those of us that do) on roads paved with abortions and miscarriages and orphans, amazing that some of them actually do make it. Make it to The End or Finis or whatever pretentious stamp we choose to seal and stop things before they go too far and kill their parents.
      And then it’s done, the thing is out, our book or poem or essay or letter… into a hellish ultraviolet glare of friends and enemies, agents, editors, reviewers, all of whom seem to think the cover’s wrong, the title’s horrendous and unpronounceable, that maybe you should have adopted, that perhaps you dabbled in cloning and the last they heard wasn’t that still illegal?—everyone proffering little gauze-wrapped bits of themselves, amputated unasked-for fingers and ears, tongues and sometimes, yes, hearts. One by one, these good-natured, well-intentioned souls mouthing this and that, press into your palm some organ or other, all certain that their addition—just a suggestion you know, and perhaps you want to lighten up your stance on similes, maybe use a simpler, more direct metaphor here and there, and oh, really, must you always be so damned complicated and what’s this obsession with bringing science into everything, so heavy-handed… think of your audience… is just the thing to get it where it needs to go. Sure, it’s a good first go, but with this, and maybe this, and that, we can get it turned around into an important, valid piece of literary art. Sometimes they’re right, and some bit or avalanche of advice will be just the thing, there’s no denying that. But other times, the addition of these organs, these supposed organs of validity[6], regardless of where they came from, they attach to some small abrasion or cut, infecting with their innocuous code and then quietly spreading undetected—the reason the body is so poor at fighting cancer is that the body doesn’t recognize the cells as foreign, since they are of the same body—until it’s too late and the advice has metastasized and you’re hard pressed to find any evidence of your talent in the offal on the pages before you. And then what if that gets published—since some of the greatest and most dangerous carcinogens are within and are the publishing industry itself—what then? Your… thing… sitting before you, horrible, Frankensteined together from too many bodies, staring you down, implacable DeNiro with thousands of sutures across the covers and pages, the endpapers from four dead convicts… “You made me what I am,” go his lines, and he delivers them, DeNiro, flawlessly. “My blight and abomination of an existence are your doing, I am your fault.” Your book continues, DeNiro’s in your face, his breath under the decay scented strangely of vanilla, “I do not wish to be alone. You will create for me a bride. You will write me a sequel.”
      I took everyone’s advice once, applied everything to a rather long passage in a thing I was really very pleased with. I wondered what would happen. What happened is this:
And so she sat idly, her fixedly cobalt-blue eyes yearning apart for epiphany, eating poo from the smallest jar. Her heart a yawning chasm of the utterest despair. Her hands two filmy players, neither of which were called back after auditions for her life, covered completely in the poo she was eating.

Which, I’m ashamed to say, I kinda like. I got the idea from Hofstadter’s Le Ton Beau de Marot, which dealt largely with translation, and which is how I approached it. I thought about inserting the original text, but then I’d have to follow Hofstadter’s example and show you the steps. I’ve got limited space, and though it might not be apparent, I’m trying to be brief. There’s close to fifty pages of notes just on how I got from Point A to the crap above, and the original passage was twelve pages in itself. I look at it as an example of a horribly proliferative multilevel full-scale simultaneous assault on absolutely every system of the body of the work. It killed it, superdead. And when something is killed that completely, there’s no resurrection, even if the author was Mr. J. Christ himself with Daddy for an agent and all the multitudes of heaven and all the king’s horses there in the marketing department. Which is to say, indirectly, that those twelve pages are now, irrevocably[7], dead.
      Anyway, what I’m saying is we’re undergoing all kinds of chemo here at spork, getting high-tech radioactive seeds implanted in various embarrassing parts of our anatomy, as a precautionary measure. It’s hard, especially for me, when I like so much to sit alone and stare at the things I make, without thought to anything beyond these few walls separating me and everything else, hard for me to nod and smile and let all the kind and unkind suggestions and criticisms reside passively within me where they can be mined at leisure, biopsied perhaps, seeing what can or can not be made of them, hard for me to not want to incorporate too many things, since I really do want this to be of and for, you know, that tired old rag. I keep that above passage fixed to my computer, just out of sight, but there so I will see it when my eyes stray and I go shooting about the walls and floor for something to catch my eye, and it catches and I remember what happens when the net is cast too wide and you mix your metaphors improperly and you maybe don’t bother wearing clean socks since you don’t want to do laundry just yet, I remember to trust myself and not get caught up in the sort of risky behaviors that lead to the death of some very wonderful things.
      So, now to issue 1.2. We have gotten many of the methods streamlined, equipment is being fabricated for us as I write this, a specialized working press-box-thing is being built that will enable us to rough up and cord and glue the spines of up to 20 text blocks at once[8], rather than the me and my hacksaw and one book at a time approach of issue 1.1. The cutting is the most tedious and time consuming step of the process, not simple enough to enable one to enter the trance state folding or printing incurs (I mentioned blood earlier, and that’s because my inefficient method for cutting the spines mixed on a few occasions with a drudge-induced trance and I forgot to look and hacksawed my fingers. So, don’t take the books apart to check, but there are quite a few of both the first and second runs with a bit more of me in them than might be hygienic. I’ve got too much iron in my blood—a strange condition that would also map marvelously onto the idea of good writing gone bad, but hemachromatosis doesn’t really have the same visceral kick as cancer, and it’s also got too many syllables, so[9]… so if your spork shows rust after a while, then you know you got a special book), and so better methods are being explored. My fear is that this idea, involving the help and advice of quite a few people, will end up being only a very quick step toward a much better idea. My hope is that I will exhaust all possibilities and not be very bright about innovations with respect to this step for at least another issue, that is, of course, assuming it works at all. We’re happy with the covers and how they’ve worked out, though there has been some argument over how much canvas should show (I like the look and feel of the raw canvas, but I’m in the minority), and the changes forced upon us by necessity in the middle of 1.1’s production run have made it a much better product. I think so anyway. I think in the future I might figure out how to follow up on the offers of assistance I receive regarding construction; at present, I can’t seem to figure out how to make the phone calls and say, Sure you offered to come over and make spork with me, so how’s about you pick up a 6-pack of something nice and drop by? While I’m doing it, while I’m making them it makes sense that everyone would want to be doing it too, and so I feel bad that I’m keeping it all to myself—and then as I’m dialing the phone, I realize that these people would be doing me a favor and not the other way around, and I don’t know how to ask for things, so I hang up. So I’ll say it here, and we’ll let it be between you and the page, if you’re interested in learning how to bind books—the method for spork being the one you’d probably learn first, e-mail me: dburk@sporkmag.com and give me **binding** as your subject. If we can keep it all theoretical, keep people out of it, just keeping it in messages until arrangements are made, then I think we might be able to get it together. I want everyone to make books, want everyone to write them and publish them, and I’ll teach everyone how to do it, as long as I can figure out some way of communicating directly with people.
      So, then. This makes two issues. Soon it will be one Volume. Thank you for indulging my petty use of adverbs; I promise to control myself in the future.


  i I want to talk about one more thing here. I chose Duncan Linthicum for the artist in issue 1.2 and threw lots of fits and even cried a few times to get my way when holding my breath only resulted in my passing out and looking really stupid. I argued that we should not present art that we comfortably and easily recognize as such, not every time anyway. It is precisely because Duncan’s austere and guileless work (which I admire greatly, by the way, I’m almost too enamored of words to be able to use them effectively for communication) makes people ask just what the hell is that supposed to be, makes them scoff at what they suppose is naïveté in his overall vision—I’ve heard unkind things about everything, can’t trust much of anything so I’m just trusting myself here—it is precisely that people want to disregard it that I feel I should press it on them. Duncan is not making art for us, he is making it for our children. I respect and admire that, in that part of my reason for my involvement with spork is that I hope spork will do much the same, though indirectly, creating an environment for my daughters in which the products of their parents are familiar and comfortable, a place where we have set a precedent for people like us, and have not only left them the history and literature of ourselves, but taught them how to read it.
      Functional notes on Duncan’s work: I have originals, and no matter how faithfully we attempt to reproduce them, they do not seem to convey the sense of layering Duncan has accomplished with his pieces. I have chosen to go an almost absurdly obvious route in conveying the sense of layers by splitting the pieces into actual layers. I want the original intent to stand apart from the art of it, while still being able to present itself whole if the reader wishes to see it such. I told him what I wanted to do, and he said it was ok (And just so credit is given where credit is due, Richard did all the grunt work in the prepress department for the art pieces, both inside and out. I wish to publicly convey my deepest thanks. And Johnny Bavender has come through for us again, opening up his shop to us for printing of the covers, and not forcing us to burn our own screens. Let Johnny know he rocks. Tell him so).
      But—and this is a big but—what we’ve presented here doesn’t do justice to Duncan’s work, and I cannot in good conscience present our version without giving you the opportunity to see the original intent. I wanted to be all punk rock about it, and Duncan was excited by the idea, since he’s a good sport and he doesn’t need us anyway, he does just fine on his own without worrying what impact his friend’s little zine is going to have on him, thank you, and furthermore he understands transition and impermanence, and so what we do doesn’t even apply, since essentially it does not exist… a thing that doesn’t exist based upon another thing that does not exist. The original versions were at .3729 and we’re at .3802 and forward is the only direction possible… so to even bother considering it at all is at best a stupidly futile gesture. Anyway… point notwithstanding nonexistence: I have chosen to include, separately, copies of the originals from which we created our oversimplifications. They’re going to kill me for it, but I like the idea and if I grease enough palms then everyone else will like it too.
  [1] So again I’m adding to the final text. I was finished, I was, but then suddenly I needed to say more. It’s that I have some trouble writing about something I haven’t started to do yet, hard to write the notes on construction when I’ve not even begun constructing. I didn’t tell them this time.  With issue 1.1 I let them know that some subtle differences would exist between the final proof and the actual printed version – but it’s late and I don’t want to wake anyone up. They’re going to be mad at me, but I am the last person to touch this before it goes to press, so what are they gonna do, you know?

[2](Note from Timothy) Drew, before you take this tone, you should remember that you’re one of the people working on this, not the one. Go ahead, be personal, say your piece. But do not presume to speak for Richard or Aaron or the authors spork has chosen. Speak for yourself and make it clear that the opinions are yours, that the reader is by no means to infer that the views expressed herein… etc. And do not use my correspondence in your text. (Note to Timothy: Ha ha!).

[3] I’m never going to get anywhere with this if I start digressing this badly this early.

[4] Which is strange, since the books I read to her in utero were about Picasso and the Bauhaus, with special focus on Itten’s color theory, hoping she might get a handle on it where I have not.

[5] Implicit assumption: this thing we are discussing possesses skill, style, craft, care, originality, love, joy, honesty…

[6] And where does validity come from anyway? Who are the keepers? Society and culture have simultaneously homogenized and fragmented, we're presented with and awash in ubiquities that form the backdrop of our world to such a degree that they go unnoticed, unheeded, and really have no directly tangible impact upon our lives any more (take the Backstreet Boys away and who's going to notice? They're not like oxygen you know); while the concept of individuality has become meaningless in that more and more people are simply unthinkingly individual, acting instinctually—and to my way of thinking, to actively be an individual, one must be conscious that they are setting themselves apart from something (implicit understanding: I think the idea of individuality is silly and flawed, truly a thing that does not exist without observance, but a thing also negated through observation; individuals made common through categorization, identified and lumped together into an—admittedly amorphous—group [individuals]), which then throws it all out the window, and so these people are something else, to whom validity, conferred by whatever authorities deem themselves fit and proper, is a nonsense word so absurd it doesn't even make an auricular presentation of anything more than random phonemes. I do not imagine that this does not apply to anyone reading this, can't imagine that someone comprised of the ubiquities and actively identifying themselves as whatever they use to set themselves apart is going to have a copy of spork or look at a copy and think the ubiquities would confer validity upon it and thus pick it up, so I feel o.k. about making my sweeping generalizations (generalizations that are not meant to identify anything or categorize. Let's just have that said, shall we?). 

And so, I still wonder why I have so many reservations and so much trouble trusting myself in these decisions I make with spork. I don't believe in validity coming from anything other than intent and honesty in execution, yet I'm hyperconscious of the factors that may come into play once these books are out of my hands into the world, uncharacteristically concerned about the words people might use—kindly or no—when they refer to this. Let me put this into perspective, say it another way: I sit here reading comic books and watching Star Trek, worried about what will be thought by the literary crowd, a crowd I cannot be counted among, people to whom I have nothing to say, people who have nothing to say to me (paths that do not cross, is what I'm saying, I am not a likeable sort and really do relish my delusions). The majority of my friends don’t even read—I mean they can, they just don’t. Fewer of them write, and when they do, they’re so enamored of whatever it is they put on paper that there’s no point of trying to elucidate to them the difference between writing and putting letters and words on paper (I’m equally hopeless when it comes to visual arts, but when I paint, I have the sense to call it by its correct name: Putting Paint on a Surface), so it’s odd that I would be involved in producing a quarterly, literary or otherwise. I write letters to authors I like and ask them please can I republish their work, binding it properly this time, and despite the fact that I understand copyright and ownership, I am always just as confused and angry when I am told by some faceless prick to whom I did not write that no, I may not republish their artist's work.  See, I'm some kind of -phobic, but I'm not sure what. In my house with the wife and kid I know how things are and I like it, love the books and know I've done a good job, but everything's different outside. I fear, even on my own porch, that I'm the only one who understands that validity really is nothing more than the meaningless series of phonemes, and that the thing these phonemes want to represent is a thing that dies every second and must be remade, regiven, reconfirmed. It has everything to do with the person at whatever moment. The songs that make no sense anymore, even though you loved them so; that's what I don't want to make. (Clarification: I just realized the tone, how this might be coming across—I tend to get overly objective with myself and fail to understand that my objectivity does not come across and audiences subjectify their incorrect perception of a piece as subjective rather than objective extrapolaiton, thus subjecting my wide-eyed spew of random phonemes to many layers of unnecesary confusion and damaging indentification—so just in case . . .).
        This is part of construction.
        And maybe what I'm saying here is not that I'm asking you to attach any meaningless phonemes to my efforts, but rather that you should recognize the idiocy of the above and drop your own concerns about the same with regard to your own efforts. Rejoice in the doing—but please, and I say this without contradiction, do it well.

[7] One bit of advice I’m consciously disregarding—out of spite, being a brat and telling people who will never read it that they’re not the boss of me—is the ban on adverbs. I don’t like them all that much, and they make me cringe (though not as much as some other atrocities I find far too often in most things) whenever I come across them more than a few times per page. But I don’t like being told what to do, and so I’m trying to use them too much, forcing myself to go f2f with it just because people are telling me not to. Cause, you know, sometimes…

[8] And I just found a small-diameter circular saw, the type which I had been told repeatedly did not exist, but which I knew had to be somewhere, as there is such an immense need for such a thing in this world. Lightweight, easily maneuverable… oh thank you, thank you, thou blessed gods of power tools.

[9] I like the word Hematapoesis.