Electric Dreams


an Interview


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Nutcracker (1997 February). DreamWorldNews. Interview. Electric Dreams 4(2). Retrieved July 26, 2000 on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams

While surfing America Online one day, I came across what looked to be an interesting site and decided to go and lurk there a while. The site is called DreamWorldNews and is the bouncing baby boy of Jonathan Lethem. DWN is a dream publication adhering to the idea that anything can be made to be funny, their opening line being, "Is the "real" news getting too unreal for you? Then try this from DreamWorldNews instead: Plug-ugly Republicans shower in gushing freon. Frank Sinatra drinks gasoline from a measuring cup. And the Messiah is carted around in a Chevy Impala. "

To quote the editors: "DreamWorldNews reports real people's real dreams using the same journalistic approach and style that mainstream newspapers do. We don't make this stuff up-- all articles are guaranteed 100 percent dreamed. Read uncensored ACTUAL DREAMS, reported in newsspeak. Send us your own dreams, using our handy-dandy questionnaire. We'll write them up and send them out in next week's edition.

Click on "More News From Dreamland" to look at back issues.
Click on "Be A Dream Reporter" to have your own dreams published.
Click on "Post Your Message In The DWN Board". Here you can post your own dreams or respond to other peoples dreams.

The editors of this online zine are Luke Jaeger and Shoshana Marchand. Their bios read as follows:

LUKE JAEGER is a filmmaker whose award-winning animated shorts have been shown around the world and back again. He currently manages the computer network for a national magazine, and has been co-editing "DreamWorldNews" since 1990. He has held down more jobs than you can shake a stick at, if that's your idea of a good time.

SHOSHANA MARCHAND writes fiction, plays, journalism, and kids' books, as well as co-editing the off-line, plain-old-paper version of "DreamWorldNews." She has also been an artist-in- residence in the San Francisco public-school system.

JONATHAN LETHEM, from whose fevered brain "DreamWorldNews" originally sprang, is the author of two science-fiction novels, "Gun, With Occasional Music" and "Amnesia Moon," as well as over 50 short stories, which have appeared in various publications. He hosts "Head Space," a weekly science-fiction talk show on the HotWired Web site, Tuesdays at 9 P.M. ET.

Here is a sample of TODAY'S REPORT dated 9/23/96: KOSHER? HARDLY! The New Spin On BBQ

A barbecue joint in Oklahoma has raised the ire of animal rights activists, who claim the "hog heaven" is a porcine hell on earth.

Located unassumingly in the back of an auto repair shop, customers may only enter the dining area of the secluded restaurant if invited by a mechanic. Once repair work is complete, the mechanics escort their clients to the long picnic tables located behind the garage, where baby pig is the only entree on the menu. According to one patron, "the pigs sit at long tables like trusting kids, not knowing their coming fate."

The anonymous diner said that the cook took several of the baby piglets and put them in a washing machine-like tub, where a "spinning process" was used to prepare the piglet for consumption.

Animal rights activists plan to picket the establishment. At press time it remained to be seen whether county health officials will attempt to close down the auto repair shop as well as the restaurant. "Cars or carcasses, they deal in death," said an animal rights spokesperson. "It sure as shootin' ain't kosher."

The following questions were asked of each editor. Jonathan answered the first few questions, with Luke responding for he and Shoshana during the rest of the interview.

Q: Jonathan, DWN began as your creation. Can you tell us how you came upon the idea for it?

JL: One night I dreamed that a pair of shoes in my closet was actually a cat. When I woke up, I wrote down "Dream News: Shoes Mistaken For Cat." I probably still have the scrap of paper somewhere. This would have been at least 10 or 12 years ago.

Q: How did Shoshana's and Luke's involvement with DWN come about?

LJ: At some point Jonathan wrote me a letter that included something like, "wouldn't it be funny if there were a newspaper where the staff dreamed the news instead of writing it." I guess it stuck in my head.

JL: I remember Luke telling me they were thinking of starting up a zine based on that idea. I did write a few reports for some of the issues, but that was about the extent of my contribution. So I'll hand the rest of this interview over to them.

Q: What steps do you take when transforming someone's dream into a newspaper headline/story?

LJ: It works best when the person who had the dream makes the first attempt at translation into news-speak. In journalistic writing, you put the material that's at the heart of the story right up front, so the first couple of sentences should tell the whole story. The person who had the dream is the only one who is going to know which events from their dream are the heart of the story and which ones are just extra details. We may have to clean it up stylistically and make it sound more like news writing, but we have to have the facts in place. Sometimes we have to find the angle - is it a scientific article about an unheard-of new invention, is it fast breaking news, is it a gossip column? And since dreams tend to be lurid and ridiculous, we often write them up tabloid-style, with lots of alliterations and exclamation points.

Q: And just how far DO you stray from the original dream when recreating it?

LJ: The best ones don't have to be changed much at all. If the dream has a real storyline, identifiable characters and maybe some good quotations, the work is cut out for us. Celebrities are good too - lots of people have dreams about celebrities, and since they are inherently newsworthy you don't have to fish for an angle.

Q: Is DWN exclusively on AOL or do you have an internet site as well? If so, where can it be found?

LJ: We don't have an internet site right now, though it's in the works. Stay tuned for details.

Q: How long have you been producing DWN, online and off?

LJ: We started in 1647 . . . no, it was 1883 . . . actually it was 1989. For all you equipment queens, we did the first issue in PageMaker 3.0 on a Mac SE with 1 MB of memory. I did the layouts while Shoshana pedaled the generator. Ah, those were simpler, easier times.....not! The AOL site started up in March of this year.

Q: Are any of you familiar with Electric Dreams, the dream E-zine?

LJ: It's quite an extensive site.....has work been pretty slow around the UNSW physics department lately? But seriously, I wasn't expecting to find such a quantity and range of material. I was especially interested to see that you have a page of dreams relating to Jerry Garcia, because we've printed a couple ourselves. I think ours were from before he died, though.

Q: Do you get any of your ideas from outside sources such as this, or do you go strictly by what people send you at DWN?

LJ: In the print version we only print dreams from ourselves and people we know. Mainly because we didn't want to get involved in legalities and busywork - author's contracts, copyright issues, rejection letters, all that. Also because not having an open submissions policy is that it helps reduce the amount of scary mail we get from loonies, which is part of the territory for zine publishers. The AOL version was set up to accept submissions from AOL subscribers because the idea all along was to have it be interactive . We got around the usual problem we have with submissions - that they're not written in anything resembling news style - by designing a form which helps us get the facts by asking particular questions about the subscriber's dream: where were you, what happened, were any laws broken?

Q: Have any of you used your own dreams in DWN?

LJ: Is the Pope Catholic? Does Frank Sinatra drink gasoline from a measuring cup? Probably at least half of the dreams we've printed have been our own.

Q: You've all had exciting careers into other venues, has this helped in your publication of DWN? If so, to what extent?

LJ: My background in commercial printing has furnished me with many of the skills and tools that a career zine publisher needs, as well as the ability to report on exciting developments in the DreamWorld printing industry. For example, did you know that the night sky is a giant film negative which is held in place with red lithographic tape, and that God is actually a celestial pre-press worker who lays it all out? Of course, a lot has changed in the printing business since I had that dream in 1988. These days, God probably does it all digitally - or else sends the work to Hong Kong.

Q: Some people see dreams as windows to the future, others, simply as inane parts of our (unconscious) thought process run amok while we sleep. Which side do you ascribe to?

LJ: They can be both, can't they? Personally, I tend to fall more into the thought process run amok camp. Allan Hobson, of Harvard Medical School, has done a lot of research which supports this, and I happen to think he's a sharp guy. He takes a lot of abuse from certain Freudian elements because he deflates the idea that every dream is always meaningful. This doesn't have to mean they're never meaningful, or that they can't still be funny, or scary, or sexy. I personally don't buy the Freudian idea that every dream is an incredibly urgent message from some submerged, tortured mental realm and if I don't decode it, something terrible will happen. It's a very Victorian idea that there's a part of your mind that is being held prisoner and it can only communicate with you by smuggling out these little secret messages. Maybe that is what some peoples' dreams are, but I tend to view mine as little Dadaist performances that my brain produces for my entertainment.

Not to belittle the fact that some people do have dreams that solve incredibly difficult problems, or foretell future events. The only problems I've ever solved in my dreams have been boring, minor problems, and I've never had a clairvoyant dream. Well, that's not true, I had one that sort of foreshadowed the death of a friend in an obscure kind of way. And my brother had one that predicted the death of someone he had never heard of, which is an odd story.

Q: Do dreams hold any deeper meaning for you?

LJ: As an artist, I view them as an inexhaustible source of copyright-free subject matter.

Q: Do you sway toward either the Freudian or Jungian dream theories at all?

LJ: Let me preface this by stating that I make no claim of expertise about dream theory. But here goes.

I think of Jung more as a philosopher or a visionary than a theoretician.....some of his ideas are so loopy that I can't imagine how they'd be put into practice. To me Jung has more in common with William Blake or Allen Ginsberg than with Freud. And at the risk of having my house torched by an angry mob from the New York Psychiatric Institute, I think Freud is overrated. Freud was certainly smart, and he came up with some interesting and useful ideas, but let's face it, people studying the human mind 100 years ago were using primitive tools. It's time to get past it - it's as if engineers were still trying to find new applications for the steam engine.

Well, there you have it. DWN can be found on AOL by going to KEYWORD: DreamWorldNews. When they finally make the leap to the WWW we'll keep you posted.

Sweet dreams!