• Jordan Bolay

On Sim-Subs: Why The Anti-Languorous Project Accepts Them and Why You’re Getting Them

Can’t wait to sink your teeth into some pithy politics? In anticipation of our next themed issue—set to launch next month!—here’s a reprint of a creative non-fiction piece Jordan wrote last year. The text first appeared in filling Station issue 71. Enjoy, and check out our friends at this experimental mag based out of Calgary!

“We do not accept simultaneous submissions.” A common phrase on publishers’ websites and within literary magazines’ submission guidelines. Meaning: we don’t want you sending this to other publishers while we consider it. Meaning: if it’s good enough for us you can afford to wait on a serious answer. Meaning: we’re ‘serious’ and should have exclusive rights to reject your work (after making you wait 6-12 months, of course). Let me put this into perspective another way: imagine hearing, as you drop off your CV, “if you’re applying for a job here, at Starbucks, you’d better not also be applying for one at Tim Horton’s; we’re above that rabble and won’t consider you unless—prior to considering you—we already have exclusive rights to considering buying your time.” But I defer. And I beg to differ.

Instead, consider briefly the example of Marlon James. At his talk as the Calgary Distinguished Visiting Writer, James revealed that his first novel, John Crow’s Devil, was rejected 78 times before being published in 2005. Without simultaneously submitting the manuscript, waiting three to twelve months for each publisher’s rejection, James would likely have been pushing 70 before seeing his first work in print and we would be without this Man Booker Prize-winning author.

Not accepting simultaneous submissions is pretentious, self-serving, and unethical. It values and prioritizes the publisher and the publication above all else, including the author and, ironically, the text itself. To value the periodical over its contents is to privilege a name—and often an associated institution—over the contents that have, over many years, garnished an otherwise empty publication with clout. The privileging of names frequently extends to the front cover, where those featured within are advertised without. The names are there to be recognized, to be associated with the cover, with the name, and not with the artist’s productions, often stripped from the cover—contributors’ names dissociated from the titles of their works in service to the title (I too am guilty of this with antilang., though I list all contributors and only on the back cover). Naming results in “making the law (nomos) or making people respect the law.”[1] It is intrinsically tied to Adam, to colonial patriarchy, and to capitalism.

But central to capitalism, particularly the late capitalism of post-modernity, are notions of repetition and plurality.[2] While many writers, and various artists more generally, are notably opposed to and/or openly reject capitalism, we are none-the-less dependant on cycles of production, particularly “the means of mental production,”[3] which the ruling class controls and reproduces, like all means of production. It is this point of reproduction that is central to sim-subs and the post-modern condition of repetition, for the “ultimate condition of production is … the reproduction of the conditions of reproduction.”[4] By refusing to consider work currently submitted elsewhere, publishers attempt to ensure that only their productions (i.e. their publications) are reproduced and that the labourers’ (i.e. writers’) own personal means of production (i.e. publications, which may garner grants, which would in turn enable future writings) are only reproduced if they contribute singularly to one of the narratives (read: institutions) competing for dominance. Thus, through a tacit collective agreement between the most reputable publishers (in the case of periodicals) and nearly all publishers (in the case of books), these conditions of reproduction are reproduced.

And these conditions privilege the reproduction of the issue: the name, the exergue which “give[s] the order, even if this means contenting itself with naming the problem.”[5] The periodical is aware of its own problematic editorial practices, yet opts into them, proceeds to re-perpetuate them, for the sake of its name. Notably, these conditions are reproduced as much by contributors, by the artists themselves, as by the editors and publishers who enforce this monogamous textual courtship. We, as artists, relinquish the means of production, either by yielding publishing rights of a manuscript—for to self-publish is to ‘debase’ one’s own writing and the only way to publish ‘respectably,’ ironically, is to sell the publication rights—or by losing time and limiting the reproducibility of a work by agreeing to not simultaneously submit it in the hope of appeasing a journal of greater prestige. We are complicit in the perpetuated control over our means of mental and artistic production.

To forbid sim-subs is to act against repetition, against plurality and multiplicity. And while this may, on the surface, appear to therefore be a move against the tenets of late capitalism, it is in fact an act of convergence. It is an attempt to return to the singular, to the historiographic construct of the master narrative,[6] to the residual notion of a lordly patron boasting an elevated author.

Sim-subs allow the text to be repeated, to be read by diverse audiences, to evolve through many versions and parallel permutations. Sim-subs, like open access, republications, re-writings, and recollections, democratize the text as well as the conditions of publication. And while repetition has been linked to late capitalism, it is only through recursion that transformation occurs—for every time a text is read/accessed it is remade, ever so slightly anew.[7] Only through the repetition, dissemination, and evolution of emergent culture will the dominant culture shift[8] away from domination, to a point where artistic producers may some day truly share their productions and the means to perpetuate them.

All this to say: we accept sim-subs at The ALP. We believe in sending out sim-subs. And, if publishers wish to remain relevant and strive toward an ethical partnership of artistic production within media that are increasingly interconnected and pluralistic, they need to join us and shift the culture toward a model that equalizes opportunity and visibility.


[1] Derrida, Jacques. Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. Trans. Eric Prenowitz, U of Chicago P, 1996, p. 7.

[2] Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Duke UP, 1991.

[3] Smith, Dorothy E. “An Analysis of Ideological Structures and How Women Are Excluded: Considerations for Academic Women.” Women and Education, Second Edition. Ed. Jane Gaskell and Arlene McLaren, Detselig, 1991, p. 235.

[4] Althusser, Louis. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses.” “Lenin and Philosophy” and Other Essays. Marxists.org, 19 Mar. 2018.

[5] Derrida, p. 7.

[6] Hutcheon, Linda. The Politics of Postmodernism. Routledge, 1989.

[7] Kirschenbaum, Matthew. “The .txtual Condition: Digital Humanities, Born-Digital Archives, and the Future Literary.” DHQ, vol. 7, no. 1, 2013. See also Cornis-Pope, Marcel, and Ann Woodlief. “The Rereading/Rewriting Process: Theory and Collaborative, On-Line Pedagogy.” Intertexts: Reading Pedagogy in College Writing Classrooms. Ed. Marguerite Helmers and Lawrence Erlbaum, Routledge, 2003.

[8] Borrowing Raymond Williams’ idea of dominant, residual, and emergent culture from Marxism and Literature.

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