Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Underground Library Goes Experimental

A Bookworm In An Erlenmeyer Flask Is The Logo For The Chicago Underground Library's: Son Of Science Of Obscurity Festival.

Is your kitchen table buried under so many rough drafts it doubles as a recycling bin? Do you have one or two (or a dozen) short stories that have needed "a final polish before publication" for the last 15 years? Do you find "Science" in "Library Science" becoming an ever more distant and foggy memory? Would you like to launch your latest novel (or somebody else's) into the literary stratosphere? If you answered "Yes" to any of these questions, The Chicago Underground Library wants you.

The Windy City's most avant-garde library is hosting its Son of Science of Obscurity festival on July 10, 2010. This is a two-for-the-price-of-one experimental and far-flung literary celebration, part Dr. Science and part Medieval Times. And the deadline is looming to submit your textual alchemy to the judges.

Part One of the fiendish festival is a new-fashioned bibliophile's version of a Science Fair. Published or unpublished authors, as well as book artists, editors and publishers, are invited to submit their fiction or non-fiction works in any form, style, or genre to this talent-seeking showcase. The only catch--and there's always a catch--is that the work must be "repurposed science-fair style as a diorama, poster, or tri-fold board." If that last bit has left you scratching your head, the library has kindly provided some instructions and examples on their Facebook page:

  • Baking soda volcanoes are welcome, colorful graphs encouraged.
  • We have near-unlimited room for wall poster displays. Out-of-town writers are encouraged to submit posters, rather than moping at home all night on Facebook.
  • We'll need a short proposal for any table-top display, due by June 1st. A couple sentences are just fine.
  • Plot the effects that prolonged exposure to an audio recording of your poetry has on cattle grazing patterns over a six month period.

  • Place a page of your manuscript in three different kinds of potting soil: plain (control), loved (variable 1), and unloved (variable 2).

  • Design the ideal underwater adventure suit for your novel's hero, whether or not your novel at any point occurs underwater.
Now if that isn't enough to get your inner Dr. Jekyll to dust off his chemistry set, never fear. Part Two, the throwback (or in this case throw-forward) to ye olde Middle Ages, may be just the literary lift you're looking for. The Chicago Underground Library is ready to (literally) launch your book.

Reconstruction Of A Medieval Counterweight Trebuchet At Chateau des Baux, France.
(Image Courtesy Of Wikipedia Commons.)

The Library will provide a "trebuchet," (which, as far as I can tell, is a $5.00 word for "catapult," and has nothing to do with the typeface of the same name), allowing proud authors to "celebrate by launching [their] work into space--or at least halfway down the block. Read a paragraph, then release!" And in the spirit of one of the favorite uses of the trebuchet in the Dark Ages, pitching plague-riddled corpses into the enemy's castle, writers can also take this opportunity to position their less-than-stellar efforts a little higher in the heavenly firmament. Finally, disappointed readers are invited to contribute any publication whose content simply makes them want to hurl.

Eric Bartholomew's Junk Drawer, Last Year's Winner For "Best Use Of Found Objects."
(Image Courtesy of Eric Bartholomew.)

The Chicago Underground Library does not discriminate, and takes a broad view of what constitutes a "literary work." If you wrote it, drew it, or otherwise manufactured it they'll consider it. One of last year's efforts, by zine author Eric Bartholomew, was an attempt to trace the origins of various species found in his junk drawer. And to add to the fair's festive atmosphere, "food and drink will be available for sale, and you should feel free to BYOB." And one more enticement for those writers desperately seeking muses: fair entrants can volunteer as guinea pigs for "scientific speed dating."


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