Year end! As another festive December comes to a close, I’m happy to be introducing the latest issue of CAROUSEL, our third issue of 2022. We managed to get one more than usual out this year, due in part to all the great works creators submitted to the journal: thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who sent in writing for consideration to our recent public calls; whether we ended up working with you or not, we always love seeing what you do. This is also a good place to offer a huge thanks to the dedicated members of our editorial team for offering up their time, creativity, and most importantly, their wonderfully literate perspectives on what poems and stories should make the moment’s essential cut.
Here’s what our discerning collective has chosen to carve from the culture-pile this round: a fine post-holiday meal for you, the reader, to consume and enjoy (we recommend reading on an iPad, in the landscape orientation, with a bit of wine or cake at your side) … included in CAROUSEL 49 are the following tasty treats:
Our Poetry section features a varied selection of new writing by Louise Carson, Rocco de Giacomo, Adam Lawrence, Mickey Haha Mahan, Tyler Raso, Leah Schnurr, Mark Truscott, Sabrina Vellani, E.A. Wang and Martha Webster … that’s 10 amazing poets, the majority of whom have never appeared in our pages! Additionally, we have included a few commissioned ‘prompt poems’ in a special section of the journal, featuring works by Kaile H. Glick and Marisa Kelly — we’ve detailed the terms of this commission in the section’s introduction, so be sure to give that a good contextual read before enjoying their spontaneous typewritten compositions.
In our Fiction section, we present three exciting new prose works: An attempt at witchcraft goes devastatingly awry in Krista Eide’s ‘Seraphina,’ setting off a chain of unpredictable events with splintering consequences for two young women’s entire lives; the narrator-protagonist of Rachel Lachmanasingh’s ‘Eat Well’ is possessed by bizarre, and sometimes poetic appetites, both at the table and in love; Ben Rawluk’s story of a doomed romance between a man and a sea monster, ‘Kiss of the Leviathan,’ is by turns a delightfully funny romp and a poignant and moving allegory for humanity’s confrontation with impending climate crisis.
This issue’s Featured Artists section bears some explanation: in it, we highlight a few works created by humans but co-authored using AI programs … blasphemy!? Maybe, maybe not. As the long-standing editor & art director of this spirited journal, I will say that it seemed imperative at this moment to acknowledge the monumental changes taking place right now in the world, creatively speaking. From the release of image generators like DALL-E 2 or Stable Diffusion to chat bots like ChatGPT, it’s clear that, for better or worse, AI has become accessible to all. Creators on all fronts will undoubtedly need to acknowledge this new frontier, and find ways to make peace with this Brave New RealityTM.
As a creator myself, I’ve spent a decent amount of time during the past six months ‘seated in the audience’; quietly looking at the feeds, taking note of what early adopters have been doing and thinking about change. It’s definitely been hard work not to be dismissively turned off by fanboys trading Vaders or colliding elements of superhero & mainstream movie franchises with lowbrow glee — exactly the kind of predictable distractions one would expect from average Jaeden’s whose minds were co-opted by Disney at birth. Occasionally fun, but shallow at its core.
However, just like any other creative zone one commits to paying close attention to, some really interesting visual tendencies inevitably catch inside the discerning eye like glitter in a sandstorm. More than a few creators have taken deep-dives into this new method of image-making, embracing the quirks of the current tech and developing novel positionalities — resulting in a kind of hypervisual anthropology that simultaneously fascinates and horrifies.
Some, like Canadian artist Jon Rafman, have already been at this for years, using technology to create work that “poetically addresses a virtual world filled with obsessions, sexual extremes and violent fantasies, but also the loneliness and melancholy that have become increasingly prevalent in our real, everyday lives and in the minds of the coming generation,” and, over many projects for both screen and white box, he has managed to world-build his way into the upper echelons of the contemporary gallery scene. Others, like Douggy Pledger and Petr Válek are newer to the genre, but have embraced it with verve, breaking everyone’s brains over the past year with chaotic visions of restless worlds gone completely haywire; I am particularly partial to Pledger’s Vogue magazine cover parodies, which shred the beauty industry with Cronenberg-esque flare.
The always magical UK creator Dave McKean is an artist who has been vocal about his reaction to this technological revolution, publicly declaring he had to either “retire or respond”: earlier this year, McKean spent 12 days creating Prompt, a book of graphic short stories developed while immersed in contemplative conversations with AI; I missed getting a copy of the book’s limited edition initial run, but have heard him speak on the project and hope to read it soon so that I too may benefit from his in-the-moment techno-philosophical musings. Fabio Comparelli‘s ambitious minute-long animation The Evolution of Visual Expression uses AI-generated images as the source for a sequence that begins with horses scrawled on cave walls and quickly morphs its way through centuries of human creativity, passing into sci-fi architectural realms before moving into the synapses of a post-human mindscape …
All of these (and many more) examples of compelling works recently created using AI lead me to the opinion that — current controversies aside — real art can certainly be made using this unique tool that is also a collaborator. Moving forward with that premise, it made sense to dedicate a small bit of CAROUSEL space to this innovation straight off, and for me, as an art director (who is also an artist), it also made sense to include one of the pieces that I created on the very first day I dabbled with the Midjourney platform in the mix — a way to set the tone for the kind of things we may want to see in the future.
Finally, to continue on with the back-end of the journal: as always, the closing part of this issue formally collects traditional, experimental or concentrated capsule Reviews posted in recent months on our social media feeds as part of our weekly USEREVIEW column; this section offers readers who prefer to take in a bunch of reviews in one sitting (or contemplate book culture in wide view) a perfect way to enjoy more than a dozen insightful reviews from the ongoing review column — including several each from Taylor Brown, Joelle Kidd and Bryce Warnes, who individually served month-long stints as reviewer-in-residence in the summer/fall of 2022.
With that, it’s time for you to get to the good part: go read the journal, from cover to cover! We sincerely hope you enjoy CAROUSEL 49, our 6th entirely paywall-free online issue. As always, we encourage you to let your friends know about your favourite works by sharing/spotlighting them to social media today. See you in 2023!
Mark Laliberte is a Canadian artist, writer, editor and graphic designer — and the publisher of Popnoir Editions (est. 2016) which publishes art books, comics, zines and other creative ephemera. Books include: BRICKBRICKBRICK (BookThug), Grey Supreme 01 (Koyama Press), asemanticasymmetry (Anstruther Press), BookBook (above/ground) and Explosive Comic (Swimmers Group). Laliberte is also a member of the collaborative writing entity, MA|DE, whose first full-length manuscript, ZZOO was recently acquired by Palimpsest Press (forthcoming, spring 2025). More info: @originobscure (Insta) + ma-de.ca