The call for submissions for our latest books, the Hipflask Series, is open until 25th October 2021. These are unusual titles, even by Sidekick standards, so we’ve put together a series of short posts, one for each of the four books, breaking down the ideas and influences behind the book and what we’re looking for from you. This time we’re squinting and spying to find the covert comms in the texts all around us, with…
What’s the big idea?
“I carry my unwritten poems in cipher on my face!”
– George Eliot
We all want to be in on a secret, to have some subtle inside knowledge that gives us mastery over a subject. It’s the root of conspiracy theories, espionage and even honest translation. Just as we look for faces in everyday objects, even if the original author hasn’t planted a message in their work for someone to find, chances are we’ll spot one anyway.
Who and what gave us the idea for this book?
There’s a rich tradition of text-bothering in literature, and we’ve been keen to revisit this theme since our micro-anthology Korsakoff’s Paper Chain, which saw a hapless Meccano manual burned, eaten and dissolved, then painstakingly restored by poets making their best guess at its contents.
What are we looking for in submissions?
We’re after two different kinds of text for this title: firstly, pieces which conceal, typographically, a hidden message which an average reader stands a good chance of being able to figure out. Each piece should be no longer than 250 words, 25 lines of verse, or one page (see template for page size).
Secondly, we want your discoveries of hidden messages inside existing texts. You can send us high-res scans of texts you have annotated, blocked out or doctored to reveal the message, or you can send us an image accompanied by an explanatory text. The explanation should be no longer than 250 words, 25 lines of verse, or one page (see template for page size). The image should fit on one page. Bear in mind that the book will be printed in black and white.
There may be copyright issues with reproducing some texts, and we will have to examine these on an as-they-come basis. We recommend using texts that are in the public domain.
Please send us no more than three pieces per individual submission.
What are we not looking for?
Brand names, fleeting trends and adult content. We want the Hipflasks to be as enjoyable 20 years from now as they are today, and we want to take them to as large an audience as possible.
Where to look for inspiration?
• The New York Public Library has an excellent selection of text and image erasure art: https://www.nypl.org/blog/2015/04/20/erasure-literature
• Spycraft of all kinds, e.g. singer Josephine Baker’s secret messages to the French resistance, written in invisible ink on her sheet music.
• Vladimir Nabokov’s genre-dodging Pale Fire chooses not to deface or erase its core text (a poem by the fictional writer John Shade), but instead drowns it out with the pompous footnotes of his narrator, Shade scholar Charles Kinbote.
• Writing Through The Cantos by John Cage takes a typically disruptive approach to Ezra Pound’s opus, as Cage seeks and caps up the author’s name hiding in various lines: