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Alternative Literature or Alt Lit is a contemporary literary movement defined by works of poetry and prose that are heavily influenced by internet culture and self-published anonymously.
Though it is unclear when the term “alt lit” was coined, it had been used since as early as 1999 as the title of a literary magazine based out of an art group at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. In 2003, the term was used by author Holly Newstein in an interview with Portland Phoenix in referring to a community writers whose works are made for online audiences and distribution. By the late 2000s, alternative literature had become associated with writers Tao Lin (shown below, left), whose first book of poetry was published in November 2006, and Steve Roggenbuck (shown below, right), who released his first e-book in October 2010.
In February 2011, Roggenbuck created the blog Internet Poetry to post screenshots of poetry that are found in “Wikipedia vandalism, tweets [and] blog comments" among other mediums.
That August, the publishing website Red Lemonade hosted an open conversation about what alternative literature encompasses as a genre, leading to a handful of responses comparing the movement to B-movies and college radio. Throughout 2011, additional websites dedicated to the alt lit genre were launched, mainly the community news site Alt Lit Gossip and Alt Lit Library, an online catalogue of alt lit chapbooks and zines, as well as the first annual Alt-Lit Writers Awards (shown below), which was hosted by Alt Lit Gossip on December 28th.
In February 2012, I Am Alt Lit began running reviews of works in the alt lit genre. This blog inspired the satirical blog I Am Not Alt Lit, which highlights screenshots of criticisms and parodies of works within the movement as well of as the movement itself. As the blog progressed, they began to create image macros using excerpts from the critiques (shown below) for comedy, which were eventually compiled and released as a chapbook. On April 29th, 2012, a Wikipedia page for alt lit was created. In June 2012, Frank Hinton, novelist Noah Cicero and Stephen Tully Dierks of literary magazine Pop Serial were interviewed by Vol. 1 Brooklyn about the history of alt lit and how these works incorporate a language of the internet into writing.
In October 2012, Meta Knight launched Alt Lit Press as an alternative community hub for writers and readers, as well as a Wiki for current publishing houses and writers. In January 2013, Vice UK posted an article about the movement, calling it narcissistic and a glorification of online communication. The same month, the /r/alt_lit subreddit was created. Throughout 2013, discussions of these works appeared on The Guardian, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Beatdom and Thought Catalog, among others.