Fantastic Floridas: a primer

When we launched Fantastic Floridas a few weeks ago, our logo wasn’t even finished. It was a soft launch, though, and we wanted to start slow. We’re still going slow, only one post a week, but the response has been immense. We wanted to take a minute to give you an overview of what this whole project is about, what it means, and what is to come.

The Name

At first glance “Fantastic Floridas” sounds kind of silly, like a failed tourist website. Does anyone use the word “fantastic” anymore? Well, that’s kind of the point. The origin of the phrase comes from a specific translation of Rimbaud’s poem, “The Drunken Boat,” in which the speaker describes a psychedelic boat ride. There are singing fish, small electric moons, panthers with human skin, and at one point the speaker touches “fantastic floridas.” It is the perfect phrase, not only for its literary roots and the bizarre poem it inhabits, but because taking the word “Florida” and twisting it into new contexts is part of what this project is all about. (Note: a common translation is “unbelievable Floridas,” which would have worked, too, but lacks the catchy alliteration of a poorly written timeshare brochure.)

The Logo

Created by the, um, fantastic Orlando-based artist, Boy Kong, the gator eating its tail is a reference to the symbol of the ouroboros–often depicted as a snake or dragon. It is primarily a symbol of re-invention, and Fantastic Floridas intends to reinvent the myths and stereotypes that shape how Florida is perceived. The logo also serves as a talisman to ward off some of the unwelcome changes threatening the state–be it encroaching oceans or diabolical governors slashing arts budgets.

The Mission

In addition to turning the weirdness of Florida into art, we are fully committed to highlighting all of the literary magazines, presses, festivals, and organizations that make the state a wonderful place to visit and live. These organizations should not operate in literary silos. FF’s mission is to be an online hub for all things literary and Florida.

What We’re Publishing

Writing About Florida Literature

What is “Florida literature,” and what might it mean as a movement, aesthetic, or trope? We want conflicting ideas, opinions, manifestos. We don’t expect resolution. We’re more interested in creating a space for conversation.

Literary Writing About Florida

“Literary” is a pretty broad and troublesome label, but for lack of a better word that’s what we mean. Be it a personal essay about spring training in Florida, narrative journalism/history, or a heavily place-based short story set in a defunct Winter Park strip club, we’ll consider publishing it.

Despite the insistence on “literary,” we remain open-minded. For example, a spec fic story about how climate change has turned a formerly inland city into waterfront property, can also be literary. Another example: pretty soon we’ll be launching a “Florida comics” section run by Jarod Roselló, publisher of Florida-based Bien Vestido Press.

Florida Lit Partnerships

The comics section is one example of a partnership, but there’s a lot more to it. We’re highlighting literary orgs by posting meaningful work produced by, or related to, those orgs. For example, we just published an excerpt by Jennine Capó Crucet from the latest issue of Saw Palm. On that page we’ve made it easy for you to learn more about Saw Palm and subscribe to their mag. More excerpts are forthcoming from Florida-based lit mags like Bridge EightBlack Fox and presses like Beating Windward. Not to mention, we’re running giveaways for these books on social media.

We’ll be highlighting Florida writers with excerpts as well, but also conversations and essays. We’ll also be profiling Florida reading series, events and festivals. And pretty soon we’ll be a place to check regularly for state-wide lit events.

Have we not reached out to your lit mag/press/org yet? Are you a Florida writer who wants to be a part of FF? Well, please introduce yourself.

Art

At the moment, we’re simply profiling “Florida art” by “Florida artists,” exploring the artists’ relation to the state and how it inspires a specific work. This section is primed to grow and evolve.

The Uncategorizable

The use of the word “uncategorizable” is directly inspired by Claire Vaye Watkins essay “On Pandering.” Watkins writes:

Let us, each of us, write things that are uncategorizable, rather than something that panders to and condones and codifies those categories.

This is where we gladly break open the term “literary” and encourage you to have fun, be weird, experiment. Fiction, nonfiction, video, audio, art, mashups, gatormeat. Can you really capture or categorize Florida in any kind of neat and orderly way? Of course not. If it is artful and Floridian in your view, we want to give it a home on Fantastic Floridas.

Where You Fit In

Readers, writers and weirdos alike: we encourage you to take a gander at the sidebar of this post and (1) familiarize yourself with some of our inaugural posts (2) stay in the loop by subscribing to our posts and/or our email list, and (3) submit your work (bigger ideas/pitches/partnerships can be sent here).

In the meantime, we’re keeping things loose. Categories may shift and alter, new sections may emerge, special features and series seem imminent. We’re extremely excited about all of this, and we couldn’t do it without the wonderful artists and writers living in and writing about this state. Our list of contributors is ever-growing, just as FF is poised to grow into something big… but not too big, like that python in the Everglades that tried to swallow a gator whole. We all know how that ended.