Neutral Spaces first appeared at the end of 2018. I was falling back in love with online writing and digging up some old favourites from the sites I had bookmarked ten years ago. Some sites, like bearparade and muumuu house, were still sitting there with perfect archives, while others like Lamination Colony seemed to have rotted away. I could google authors directly, but it was a mess, and those who did have sites usually were using free services like Wix or WordPress. The result was hard to find, ugly sites, filled with more adverts than art.
I was working on my PhD at the time, and my weird schedule gave me windows to make websites. I reached out via twitter to see if people would like a portfolio page made for them, and while drinking coffee the next morning, I bought the domain neutralspaces.co.
From the portfolios grew a community of writers, and fairly manically, I kept building on top of the site. I created a stream, which allowed writers to anonymously write together (inspired by a group Google doc that Blake Butler had done recently). It was popular enough that I'd wipe it clean every few weeks and archive the work. Around about the same time, I added a chatroom as a quieter space for Neutral Spaces writers to talk with each other. I also had a feverish weekend re-typesetting the whole of Lamination Colony, which was insane and I can’t believe I did that looking back…
It was only about a month after first announcing Neutral Spaces that I started working on a blog. The idea was to capture something similar to HTMLGiant. I would give certain people access to the blog and allow them to post whatever they like. Whatever appeared would direct the tone and this would help me invite more people. I couldn’t be happier with how the blog turned out. There’s more than 1000 pieces of writing on there now. As an organic, self-curated space, I think it’s one of the greatest sites to read online literature today. I’m so thankful to the energy everyone has put into it.
The first year of Neutral Spaces was such a joy, I celebrated by making a magazine of people’s work. I encouraged them to send in their favourite work from the year, or something new if they wanted. I ended up having nearly 100 pieces of writing to share and called the first issue “Celebration”.
Into the second year of Neutral Spaces, there was nearly 500 portfolios which I was maintaining by hand-editing them all. My PhD was getting more complicated (I was starting to actually understand stuff, which always makes things harder) and my energy for editing Neutral Spaces slowed down. I paused accepting new pages, but promised to maintain the ones already online.
Issue Two of the magazine was released after a particularly tough year. There was a sense of collected grieving and with everything slowing down with Neutral Spaces, I was worried what had previously been a celebration might just fall apart in my hands. I was wrong though, and after reading hundreds of submissions, the second issue was bursting with writing from my favourite authors. I was so touched to have been sent so much beautiful work. I love that collection of writing.
Now here we are with Issue Three. My daughter, Heidi, was born as 2021 ended, and everything changed all at once. I have never been so happy as I am now. I love her totally. Learning to be a Dad has been my focus for the past six months, but in a courageous evening back in February, I went back to my twitter feed and asked for some more writing. I was holding Heidi as she slept for hours in the evenings and the idea was I could read submissions on my phone behind her head as she snoozed. It was a sweet plan, but not very well thought through. I could read everything well enough, but soon realised actually typesetting the magazine would be impossible.
So, here we are four months later. Heidi now sleeps in a cot, rather than on our chests, and I’ve been putting this magazine together in the twilight hours after work, food and bedtime routines. I am so honoured to have worked with everyone for this issue. I’ve been slow, I’ve made tpyos, and I’ve taken months to reply to people. But, everyone has been so kind and supportive. Thank you. There's nothing more motivating than kindness.
The magazine is shorter than previous years, but with nearly 50 pieces to pick from, I have kept the tradition of the lucky dip to encourage readers explore new writers. Up in the corner, you’ll see the button, which will take you to a random page of the magazine. If you want, feel free to click here and dive straight in.
To everyone who has been a part of Neutral Spaces for the past three years, thank you. This space of art in my life filled with maths and computers is essential and I couldn’t make anything without the community which has gathered around this little site.
To everyone reading this, or skimming it, thank you for your attention. This letter was a little longer than I imagined it would be. I said this last year, but I want to say it again. Every single piece in the list above is a product of someone’s love and attention. Something totally special to them. If I could ask anything of you as a reader, I encourage you to reach out to the writers who you connect with. Send them a tweet or an email. Tell them you read their work. Talk about how it made you feel. We’re all doing our best, and we’re all still learning. I think the internet’s ability to facilitate these kinds of conversations is a good and genuine reason for this state of permanent connection.
With all my love,
Thank you to everyone who has become part of Neutral Spaces over the past three years. The love and care you all pour into your work is what makes Neutral Spaces such a diverse and beautiful website.