Unlikely 2.0


   All the great empires of the future will be empires of the mind. —Winston Churchhill


Editors' Notes

Maria Damon and Michelle Greenblatt
Jim Leftwich and Michelle Greenblatt
Sheila E. Murphy and Michelle Greenblatt

A Visual Conversation on Michelle Greenblatt's ASHES AND SEEDS with Stephen Harrison, Monika Mori | MOO, Jonathan Penton and Michelle Greenblatt

Letters for Michelle: with work by Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, Jeffrey Side, Larry Goodell, mark hartenbach, Charles J. Butler, Alexandria Bryan and Brian Kovich

Visual Poetry by Reed Altemus
Poetry by Glen Armstrong
Poetry by Lana Bella
A Eulogic Poem by John M. Bennett
Elegic Poetry by John M. Bennett
Poetry by Wendy Taylor Carlisle
A Eulogy by Vincent A. Cellucci
Poetry by Vincent A. Cellucci
Poetry by Joel Chace
A Spoken Word Poem and Visual Art by K.R. Copeland
A Eulogy by Alan Fyfe
Poetry by Win Harms
Poetry by Carolyn Hembree
Poetry by Cindy Hochman
A Eulogy by Steffen Horstmann
A Eulogic Poem by Dylan Krieger
An Elegic Poem by Dylan Krieger
Visual Art by Donna Kuhn
Poetry by Louise Landes Levi
Poetry by Jim Lineberger
Poetry by Dennis Mahagin
Poetry by Peter Marra
A Eulogy by Frankie Metro
A Song by Alexis Moon and Jonathan Penton
Poetry by Jay Passer
A Eulogy by Jonathan Penton
Visual Poetry by Anne Elezabeth Pluto and Bryson Dean-Gauthier
Visual Art by Marthe Reed
A Eulogy by Gabriel Ricard
Poetry by Alison Ross
A Short Movie by Bernd Sauermann
Poetry by Christopher Shipman
A Spoken Word Poem by Larissa Shmailo
A Eulogic Poem by Jay Sizemore
Elegic Poetry by Jay Sizemore
Poetry by Felino A. Soriano
Visual Art by Jamie Stoneman
Poetry by Ray Succre
Poetry by Yuriy Tarnawsky
A Song by Marc Vincenz


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Mission and Submissions

We are now accepting submissions for the first issue of Unlikely Stories: Episode IV, due out March 1st.


We are...

Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Margret Crist, Music Director
Joseph Rose, Political Editor
Gabriel Ricard, Staff Reviewer & Interviewer

We attempt to publish new poems, new fiction and creative non-fiction, and new activist journals in the first half of every month. To publish new social essays, new art criticism, new visual art galleries, new movies, and new music in the second half of every month. We publish books when we have the money, the time, and the desire all mingled together at once, which is to say rarely.


General Guidelines

We are aware that this page is very long. It represents more than a decade of publishing philosophy. If you are reading this, please be aware that if you're too damn lazy to at least read our general guidelines, our beliefs, our standards, and our guidelines for your medium, then we're too damn lazy to be civil to you, which we really aren't very good at, on account of the post-fetal alcohol syndrome. Also you have to pretend to be wryly amused by our prefix-based "humor." To continue:

Any reference to television seriously hurts your chances of being published here, mostly because we don't watch it and aren't likely to know what you're talking about. If your work is as hostile to television as we are, send it.

We are trying to increase the level of journalistic and artistic integrity on web sites, and improve the way the web is treated by print media. Our methods for doing this are beyond the scope of this article, but there's one method you should be aware of: we do not unpublish works, even at the request of the author. This is a permanent archive of material, and only when an article is shown to be deceptive will we consider pulling it.

We do accept previously published and simultaneous submissions. Please keep us informed.

We attempt to answer all mail within eight weeks. After eight weeks, feel free to query.

We do accept submissions by regular mail, but since we do not all live in the same area, please send an e-mail first to verify you are sending the right materials to the right address.

Rather than beginning correspondence with "To the editor:", please address us by name. We like it! Turns out almost everyone does, actually.

We don't give a flying fuck for your resume. If you were considering telling us that you've been published thousands of times in hundreds of journals, you're better off elsewhere. If you were going to send us mail which appends "PhD" to the end of your name, or better yet, "MD," please leave us alone.

We aren't impressed by self-proclaimed iconoclasts. If you're thinking to yourself, "wow, I hate academics too, these people are just like me," then you're wrong. We don't hate academics, we hate people who think we're impressed by their credentials. If you consider the number of whores you've hired and the amount of drugs you've ingested your credentials, then we don't want to hear about that, either.

On the other hand, please feel free to introduce yourself and tell us what you're about. We like meeting new people. We just don't believe that people are best represented by their list of adjectives. Please also feel free to send a bio of less than 100 words, and/or a picture of yourself, which we will shrink mercilessly.

We accept pseudonymous submissions, but we might offer our opinion.


We believe...

Unlikely Stories: Episode IV is an electronic magazine of literature, art, and culture that attempts a direct engagement with society and sociopolitical issues. We believe that art and philosophy are synonymous, and that they are the appropriate source of all social activism and political debate. By tracing social works to their source, we are able to explore sociopolitical concepts freely, without the chimeras of realism, literalism, practicality, and the emotional hang-ups those require.

We are not merely a collection of politically-themed art. Although we emphasize poetry, we are not interested in simple political opinions expressed with line breaks and rhyme. In fact, we are not interested in simple opinions, at all. Unlikely Stories: Episode IV is a magazine of experimentalism. Our goal is not to simplify artistic expression to the purpose of literal political thought. Our goal is to elevate sociopolitical thought to the beauty and madness of art.

The first Unlikely Stories started in 1998 as an attempt to use the Web to democratize literature. At the time, both the Web and our editor were young, naive Americans, and Unlikely Stories focused primarily on neo-pulp poetry and fiction (a wonderful genre which we still love and are proud to publish).

In 2004, high-speed Internet connections became commonplace, and the American discourse became focused on its own gleeful slide into fascism. So a group of friends got together and established Unlikely 2.0, a multimedia journal which sought to explore connections between art and sociopolitical thought. This journal culminated in 2010's print anthology Unlikely Stories of the Third Kind, now available from our subsidiary, Unlikely Books.

In 2011, the world changed in ways we had not imagined possible a year before. Movements like Arab Spring and Occupy, however flawed, introduced a concept that, just a few years ago, had been nothing but a symbol of delusion: hope. Internet-based social networking, something that previously seemed like shallow escapism, became a necessary part of all political action. And Unlikely's overarching concept—the idea that art, literature, and creative discourse are directly applicable to the daily lives of non-academics—became, after decades of unpopularity, a mainstream idea in Western thought.

This, then, is Unlikely Stories: Episode Four, and this section is hopefully the driest six paragraphs you'll ever read on this site. We are devoted to radical, creative thought and all its means of expression. We are dedicated to a wide range of cross-genre and cross-media commentaries and arts. And we are committed to bringing you a thought-provoking, challenging, absolute mess of a magazine. If you'd like to see your own work published here, please see the sections below.


a brief note on journalistic standards...

When we publish essays on current events, and when those essays present facts, rather than pure opinion, we expect total accuracy from our writers. As you probably have the misfortune of knowing, people use the Internet to deceive everyone about everything they can imagine. Thus, it is necessary that all our writers be prepared to back up any claims they make to factual information. (We assume all our readers know the difference between fact and opinion, without being told "in my opinion...")

Please make use of sources more judiciously than you would when writing for a print publication. You don't need to quote a source when you say there was an attack on Madrid, but if you quote anyone in your article, please provide a reference, even if the quote is widely republished. Please use the popular, rather than legal, standard of "common knowledge" and provide a reference for anything that is not "common knowledge." Please use reasonably reputable sources that can be verified.

Since we have no fact-checkers, we have to take the writer's responsibility to be accurate very seriously. If we have reason to believe that a writer is deliberately misrepresenting facts on this web site, he or she will be permanently barred and publicly discussed. Writers will not be barred for reasonable errors, and we always encourage satire.


On Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction:

We assume a base level of writing skill. We do not assume you know how to spell, but we assume you know how to work a spellchecker. If you do not, be braced for a nasty note and a really firm pinch. We assume a basic familiarity with the rules of English grammar, but are very open to grammatical experimentation. We are not, however, interested in poets who are simply ignorant of how to use an exclamation point. On the other hand, the idea that all ellipses must have exactly three periods is a fascist rumor put out by Strom Thurmond's evil stepmother.

Once that base level of skill is achieved, we judge fiction and creative non-fiction by how much it makes us think. We define "fiction" as that which occurs when an author writes material that expresses the opinions of people who do not exist. If an author writes non-factual stories that express his or her own opinions, we call that "inaccurate journal-writing." Either is an acceptable submission.

We do not expect to agree with the opinions expressed through your stories. We expect opinions that stimulate us. We consider the revelation of a character's opinions the most important part of character development. "Plot" interests us only insofar as a character's actions reveal his or her opinions. (We consider the narrator a character.)

If you use mathematical concepts in your story, we'll run it by a mathematician. If you use engineering jargon, we'll run it by an engineer. If you use the word "entropy" to scientifically prove that everything breaks down, even human relationships, please just stop: the Second Law of Thermodynamics does not work that way. And if you use drug references or any other kind of illegal references, rest assured that you'll be able to slip anything by us, because we have no idea what you're talking about, no experience, no friends with experience, and certainly no connections to any illegal activities whatsoever.

Please send no more than three stories, or no more than 8,000 words, at a time. If you would like to send a single story longer than 8,000 words, please query us first. All fiction and creative non-fiction submissions go to jonathan AT unlikelystories DOT org.


On Poetry:

Meaning is more important than Cadence is more important than Rhyme. This formula will not guarantee a good poem, but failure to adhere to it will guarantee a bad one. We appreciate cadence and rhyme but by no means require them.

We expect our poets to be more skilled with language than our storytellers. Because of our focus on sociopolitical content, we often publish the English-language essays of authors who are not native English speakers. We respectfully remind people that very few poets achieved success writing in languages other than their native one. We are regretfully obliged to reject a large number of poems because the authors do not know English as well as they think they do. We have, on the other hand, published poems in Spanglish, and are interested in patois literature.

In poetry, we are interested in the socially relevant and the radically experimental. We are only interested in those poetic works that comment on society in some way. However, we believe that art which greatly pushes the boundaries of form or content inherently comments on society (since we believe, however naively, that art and society are linked). We have read an enormous amount of poetry in a wide variety of genres. What do you have, either in form or content, that we've never seen? Send that.

Please send up to six poems at a time. We will publish no more than three at a time, except by special arrangement. Any normal length is acceptable, but if you're sending a single book-length poem, or something otherwise weird, just drop us a line first and let us know. All poetry submissions go to jonathan AT unlikelystories DOT org.


On Music:

We are interested in showcasing and promoting the works of musicians who are working to change the definition of music and musical genres. All artists crave recognition, but if you're hoping to become a Top 40 band, you're not our thing. If you think you're a rebel because you're churning out music that strictly conforms to a rebellious genre, you're even less our thing. We're looking for people who genuinely push the boundaries. We're looking for people who use advanced counterpoint techniques in industrial music and wah-wah pedals in their interpretations of Peter & the Wolf. We're looking for people who either subvert our expectations from a specific type of music, or better yet, subvert our expectations about what music is entirely. Genres are the artificial constructs of critics desperate to leave their mark on the uncontrollable force of music. That said, your copy of FruityLoops does not make you a composer.

Genre-busting isn't the only way to change the face of music, and should your music have lyrics, we'll be taking them seriously. You might want to read our comments on poetry, although we're less dogmatic about lyrics. We particularly like to see the blending of the political and the personal. We find that song lyrics aren't generally the best place to introduce truly new concepts, though we'd be delighted if you'd prove us wrong. Music itself is the perfect place, and truly new concepts are what we're looking for.

When we create a page to promote a musician, we expect to be able to offer our readers ten minutes or so of free music, either as a download or streamable. Please don't send that much in an e-mail, though. If your music is currently on the web, that would be great, as would a sample copy of your CD. If you need to send MP3s by mail, please send only a few minutes of music at a time, until we've had a chance to download them. Music submissions go to margret AT unlikelystories DOT org.


On Visual Art:

We are interested in displaying visual art that pushes convention and alters how we perceive any given form. We are interested in new techniques and new messages of any stripe. We will consider art that makes us feel good, but we will not consider art that makes us feel comfortable. We want our perceptions, priorities, and aesthetics questioned.

This doesn't mean we are fascinated by the lurid. We've seen lots of lurid. Drawings of Japanese vampires do not alter our perceptions a whit. We are fascinated, not by art that proposes to give answers, but by art that insists on asking questions. We believe that good art has inherent social relevance, and that in the best art, the social relevance is immediately identifiable. That said, we are not automatically interested in pictures of roughed-up hookers or starving children in Africa.

A photo that merely conveys that life is shitty is not making social commentary. We know life is shitty. Is there some aspect of life's shittiness that you've thought of that we haven't? Probably not, but is there at least some way to convey life's shittiness that no one else has attempted before? Show us that.

We rarely present single works of visual art. Rather, we present virtual galleries of work by an artist or artistic team. To facilitate that, please send six to nine .jpg files to art AT unlikelystories DOT org. (Remember that this is for screen viewing, rather than print, so medium-resolution should be fine; screens are typically 72dpi.) If you have visual art that cannot be expressed by a .jpg file, please write to us and let us know because we are hell of curious now.


On Movies:

After years of high-speed Internet communication, we still find that the majority of movies available on the 'net are created by people who find the word "boobies" inherently funny. While we are glad that young suburban males are exercising their rights to freedom of expression, we seek to raise the bar. Our comments on visual art and storytelling should give you a pretty good idea of what we look for in a movie, and our comments on music should let you know what we seek in a music video. If you manage to make a movie that does not involve visual art, storytelling, or music, we very much want to see it. No promises on actually publishing it, however.

We love humor. We find Andy Kaufman to be the funniest and most relevant comic for our era. We find experiments funny, the funny experimental, and find both to inherently include social commentary. We'd love to hear from those who agree.

We prefer Vimeo to YouTube, but if you're only on YouTube, we'll get over it. We're also happy to embed .mp4s directly, but please don't go e-mailing us with those things; give us a link where we can download and check 'em out. Please send the relevant link to art AT unlikelystories DOT org.


On Political Essays:

We operate under the assumption that all humans are, to borrow a wording from "Invictus," captains of their fate and masters of their soul, and that to interfere with another's right to their fate and soul is the quintessence of criminal behavior. From there, we note that almost all human behavior is criminal. We would like your opinion on how it can be made less so.

In political essays, we are interested in both the theoretical and the practical. We would love to hear from anyone who'd like to propose a way to end all war, forever. In the meantime, however, we're open to the idea that any given war is a necessary evil, and interested in debating these points. Feel free to tell us about how these lofty principles can be applied to the daily grind. Or, if you prefer, skip those lofty principles entirely. They are our assumptions, and we want writers and readers who appreciate them, but they are not the entire scope of our interests. We are also interested in your fear of airplanes and advice on anal sex. We are interested in the 21st Century human experience, both individual and shared, and how it will apply to our readers. Surprise us, in the unlikely event that you can.

We are not interested in emotional appeals; appeals to patriotism, racial pride, or fear. We consider these things the barbarous manipulations of powerful sociopaths. Please engage us on an intellectual level. However, it should be pointed out that both humor and satire are intellectual pursuits, and we assure you that even the most extreme satire is welcome here. Don't feel obligated to say what you mean or mean what you say. We are interested in scholarly works, and by that we mean you should know what the hell you're talking about. We are not interested in dry, academic-style writing. There is absolutely no reason that your article on politics and culture should not be entertaining. There are thousands of books of political opinion, most of them written by people far smarter than you. Do you think you could make yours stand out a little? Or even a lot? However self-infatuated and overprincipled we are, we're still doing this largely for fun. Please help us have fun.

Political essays should be sent to joseph AT unlikelystories DOT org. Note that Unlikely Stories: Episode IV doesn't publish as many of these as did Unlikely 2.0: these days, we're more into activist journals.


On Activist Journals:

We are interested in first-hand accounts of attempts to bring about sociopolitical change. We are not terribly concerned with whether or not we would agree with the change you are trying to bring about, so long as the change you desire falls in line with our political assumption, above. That is: we are interested in activism that promotes the rights of humans. Humans aren't states, they aren't borders, and they aren't corporations. You can argue that with us, if you like, except we aren't listening and you should really just fuck the fuck off instead.

That established, there are a number of different ways to approach this, and we don't want to limit you. A story of why you felt motivated to take action? Good stuff. Facts and figures to support your case? Fantastic. Simply an account of your experience as a force for social change? Also good.

Please understand that you will be published for a worldwide English-speaking audience. Does your language assume a local audience? For example, if you live in the US, are you using a two-letter postal abbreviation to refer to your state, an abbreviation that might be meaningless outside of the US? It's easy enough for our staff to correct something like that, but what other assumptions are you making about your audience? Can you summarize the history of the political issue you're addressing? If not, can you link to a site that gives it a fair treatment?

Please send these journals to joseph AT unlikelystories DOT org.


On Reviews and Art Criticism:

We believe that it is high time that art critics took the path of Gonzo journalism. We aren't horribly interested in whether or not you like a particular piece of art, or whether or not you think we'd like it, although you should feel free to share this information. We are more interested in how a given piece of art has impacted (or will impact, or could impact) culture, pop culture, or you personally. Tell us what it meant when Lauren Bacall came out of hiding to do The Mirror Has Two Faces, and the social relevance of the inherent Hollywood self-commentary. Tell us why Digimon: The Movie scared you and Invasion of the Body Snatchers made you horny. If we wanted facts on the artwork or artist, we'd go elsewhere. Send us opinions and navel-gazing, not plot summaries. Please send all reviews to jonathan AT unlikelystories DOT org.

We sometimes review works upon the author's or publisher's request. Query at gabriel AT unlikelystories DOT org. We specialize in in-depth reviews, and the receipt of material does not guarantee that we'll be able to review your work. We often do shorter write-ups at our blog, however. A bad review is always possible.


On Books:

Unlikely Stories: Episode IV runs as a financial loss to the editors, and our physical imprint, Unlikely Books, is pretty much run the same way. As a result, we will only publish books if we think we will enjoy the experience. That's not to say we won't publish assholes—some of our best friends are assholes. But we will only undertake the long-term, difficult project of book publishing for an asshole we enjoy working with. Even then, please understand that we can't publish a full-length manuscript from all the assholes we enjoy working with, or even all the assholes we enjoy working with who've written an exceptional manuscript.

You must be published at either Unlikely Stories, Unlikely 2.0, or Unlikely Stories: Episode IV to be considered for book publication. You must consider that a fun idea.

Please query before sending a full manuscript. Hypothetically speaking, we accept any form of writing or audiovisual material, so long as it can be easily recorded on portable media.

We typically focus on electronic editions of our books. However, we always provide a few physical copies, since small-press books are sold most heavily at author readings and events. You do plan to do author readings and events, don't you?


And finally...

If there is anything you'd like us to see which is not covered in the above guidelines, just query us at jonathan AT unlikelystories DOT org.


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