Dogma '01

We in the last quarter of 2001 affirm the following guidelines for the publication of literature, patterned upon the manifesto of the Dogme95 filmmakers. The Dogme95 Manifesto declared itself to be a "VOW OF CHASTITY" from the coercive representational techniques of mass-market cinema (sets, lighting, musical soundtracks, etc.); Dogma '01 goes even further, rejecting the no less coercive marketing and distribution apparatus which Dogme95 filmmakers seem content to have deployed on their behalf. Dogma '01 rejects the division of labor between writer and publisher that prevails in the literary market-place, and therefore its productions are unfit for all but the most informal modes of distribution (barter, give-aways, and low-volume sales). These rules are to ensure that they remain so:

1. Dogma '01 is unalienated labor. Author and publisher will ideally be the same person. If not, they are to share the labor and cost of printing. Dogma '01 productions are to be assembled and bound by hand. No sending books out to be Docu-teched, and no perfect binding.

2. The contents of Dogma '01 books should be photocopied. Type may be set on a word processor or typewriter, but handwriting (the textual equivalent of the hand-held camera mandated by Dogme95) is best. No technique of reproduction is definitively barred, but those methods and materials most widely available to the general public are preferred. What in the world of fine printing are considered defects, Dogma '01 views as beauty marks: staples, thumbprints, "binder's creep," etc.

3. The one-of-a-kind is hateful. Editions should be as large as humanly possible, unsigned, and un-numbered (except perhaps to compensate for the flaws of "first fruits" rush-jobbed in time for a reading). Scarcity should never be exploited to drive up exchange value. At such time as an author's Dogma '01 publication turns out to be a valuable commodity (i.e., quickly reselling for inflated amounts soon after issue), that author is obliged to produce ever-larger editions to compensate. Should demand exceed the author's production capacity, that author is obliged to withdraw from Dogma '01 and either go with a mainstream publisher, or become one. This is the only excuse for going with or becoming a mainstream publisher.

4. Publishing in journals is kind of a gray area, on which we do not care to pronounce. Without it, Dogma '01 would risk becoming a solipsistic enterprise, with a readership as tightly circumscribed as that of any corporation's report to its shareholders. On the other hand, the wider an author's public, the harder it will be for that author to remain within the bounds of Dogma '01. The same goes for anthologies. Nor have we come to grips with the question of later reprints of Dogma '01 productions. Entering contests is fine, unless you win one.

5. Dogma '01 is not a bid for elite/outsider status, but the affirmation of a literary and artistic sphere of exchange unmediated by the apparatuses of market capitalism. (Except does the post office count?) Authors need not lose money to qualify, though they assuredly will. Dogma '01 authors are to maintain cordial and friendly relationships with mere writers. No Dogma '01 clubs or juries are to be formed, and no one whose work meets these Dogma '01 criteria is barred. You will know it when you see it.

Dogma '01 is no guarantee of quality. Without going so far as to abolish the category of "artistic merit," it is our stance that 1) the above criteria are more important at the present moment in the history of writing, and that 2) they lead to better work anyway ­ aesthetically as much as ethically speaking.

Please note that the above rules cannot be bent to include unqualified authors whose company and fellowship we may covet. For example, the book "Scram #2" by Mark Gonzales and Cameron Jamie with Raymond Pettibon ­ photocopied in a signed and numbered edition of ten and sold for fifty dollars apiece last year at a gallery in Hollywood ­ cannot be claimed as a Dogma '01 production. (Too bad, because it's the summit of the half-sized booklet form.) It will also be noted that Dogma '01 is hard for novelists and writers in non-fiction genres, though we would be delighted to see someone try.

You are invited to reproduce and disseminate this manifesto freely. We will not rest until the earth is encased in a rustling jacket of paper. Oh wait, that's already happened.

Oakland, Calif., 10/6/2001

On behalf of Dogma '01