I mourn the departure of any ULAer from the team (there have been eight), seeing it as ULA failure-- failure in screening, or in meshing the person into our mad campaign.
We ask ULAers to support one another. The Underground Literary Alliance is supposed to be a team. The idea being, that which benefits the group benefits the individual. That which benefits the individual, by extension benefits the rest of the group, because of the individual's connection to the ULA. Getting the ULA name known is our first priority. One name, all focus on that. ULA. ULA! Everything else will follow. One can't jump to step D by skipping steps A, B, and C.
The amount of influence one has in the ULA depends on the amount of work one does for it, and how strongly one defends it. We ask for agreement with our general goal: The creation of an authentic, alternative literature. We remain open to all kinds of writers, as long as they believe in what we're doing, are willing to identify with our cause, and tie their fate to the ULA name.
We've never demanded loyalty from ULAers, we've only asked for it. Otherwise, why be in the ULA? What would be the point? One of our early members attacked the ULA publicly for over a year, even produced a zeen announcing our demise, yet we never once asked the person to leave. I've given loyalty to each ULAer, even on occasions when doing so burnt bridges to lit people. In return I've HOPED for support from them for the ULA. Commitment is a two-way street. I've never asked anyone to do what I wouldn't do myself; I've been at the forefront of our actions and activities. This to me is the essence of leadership.
Three years ago Michael Jackman was made Director of the ULA in hopes he would take a leading role as organizer and spokesman for the team. He had the personality for the role, was more presentable and articulate than myself. At some point he chose to adopt a low profile. When we find someone else suited for the role, who understands ULA philosophy, who believes in the team and the campaign, that person will be pushed forward.
MEMBERSHIP PROBLEM I
Too many ULAers have identified the ULA solely with me, judging their positions in the organization according to the status of their relationship with me. If I don't pay them enough attention, or answer every one of their e-mails, or read the entire body of their fiction and poetry-- as if there were ten of me, each one with endless amounts of time-- they're in crisis. The idea is for them to bond with the team; or as important, with the ULA name.
MEMBERSHIP PROBLEM II
Many of those we've lost were embarrassed to be in the ULA-- and so had no business joining in the first place.
To date, zeensters-- those for whom zeening is not an experiment but a lifestyle; who long ago dropped pretensions of snobbery-- have been the best fit for the ULA. I believe the underground poets we're slowly bringing in will be a good addition as well, along with literary e-zinesters who understand what we're doing. Satirists and comedians mesh easily with us also. (After Neal Pollack fails at everything else, he'll be in the ULA.)
Several profiles of those who weren't completely right for the team:
I brought Michael Grover into the ULA solely because he was a good friend and I liked his poetry-- without thought of preparation, of letting him know exactly what he was joining.
THE FENCE STRADDLER
This is the person who hates to takes sides; who, like Rodney King, wants to get along with everyone. "Will Ratblood," for instance, is a nice guy who liked the ULA but also liked our most egregious enemies. He wants to like everybody! Since leaving the ULA and moving to New York City he keeps checking his mailbox for an invitation to join McSweeney's, but the mailbox remains empty.
This is someone who sees, to his mind, our basic incompetence, but also sees the attention we received, which must've dropped by accident from the sky. "What hapless losers!" he thinks. A word registers in his brain: "Opportunity." The cynically impatient hustler appears from nowhere with offers to get us squared away. "I can do this for you, and this, and this. You'll look and sound just like the big guys!" Because his hidden attitude toward us is one of total contempt, the attitude eventually explodes from him and he doesn't last-- particularly when we don't immediately follow his prescriptions for success, don't make peace with conglomerate-run lit media and meld into the System-approved tried-and-failed rulebook mode of operating which for him is a given, but continue speaking out and doing things our crazy ULA way.
We've interested a few conservatives in our campaign over the past several years, but have had difficulty retaining them. Some of our common sense criticisms and ideas are conservative, or at least libertarian, or at least anarchist masquerading as libertarian. Most conservatives, however, believe in hierarchies, while we're egalitarian. We not only represent the underdogs of the lit-world, we ARE those underdogs.
THE LITERARY SNOB
This is a "Writer" with a capital W, the next coming of Henry James, whose accidental fall into our camp is merely a momentary setback. Ugh! Such company! Who is this idiotic Wenclas with his 40's skid row styles, or that unruly Wild Bill guy? Or Wred Fright! The snobby "Writer" is clearly slumming, generously allowing us the honor of promoting him or her while keeping one eye open for better opportunities. We know exit is near when the person stiffly stands and walks with head cocked at a proper nose-in-the-air tilt, and speaks, Madonna-style, with a phony British accent while nasally quoting Martin Amis.
This individual joins up without bothering to learn our history, or read the manifesto on our site, or understand we're a radical, noise-making operation with hosts of enemies; or realize to be a ULAer is to be the most ostracized kind of outcast on today's literary landscape.