3:AM Magazine — How Twelve Years of Literary Content Disappeared in an Instant

On Monday, 3:AM Magazine‘s editorial team made a shocking discovery:

3:AM Magazine, the first literary magazine to champion Tom McCarthy’s work and a pioneering avant vanguard that had published the early work of Tao Lin, Tony O’Neill, and Ben Myers, had vanished in an instant, with the hosting company seemingly disappearing along with it. While a substantial chunk of the magazine’s content was still available through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, there was no backup. And according to editor-in-chief Andrew Gallix, the site was held together by little more than “a doctored WordPress system.”

“It never occurred to me that our server could just be switched off without a word of warning and that the owner would do a runner!” wrote Gallix to me by email. Gallix’s efforts earlier in the week to reach the host were unsuccessful. Emails bounced. The phone had been disconnected. Gallix hadn’t received so much as a notice that his valiant magazine was disconnected and no longer in service.

While Gallix had used another host for a site dedicated to McCarthy’s work, he never switched 3:AM over during the twelve years he ran the site. He had a full-time day job. He wanted to read and he wanted to write. If the server crapped out, it would find a way to resurface after a time. “I kept postponing the move in the hope that things would improve,” said Gallix.

There was no reason for Gallix to worry. Because he had experienced very few problems. “The site was down on some occasions,” said Gallix, “sometimes just for a couple of hours; at worst for a whole day: there didn’t seem to be any real cause for concern.”

* * *

3:AM began, as many literary magazines begin, with a short story. Gallix started corresponding with an American named Kent Wilson, and a website was born. 3:AM Magazine, initially a static site comprised of a handful of stories, was founded in 1999. But Wilson had an unanticipated spiritual awakening. And 3:AM, which abided by the motto “Whatever it is, we’re against it,” didn’t fit into these mysterious ways. Wilson asked Gallix to take over 3:AM in April 2000.

“We were the first to really make use of the global dimension of the web,” said Gallix. “All the editors and contributors met online, and it was only after that some of us became friends in real life.”

This commitment to friendship and passion sustained a literary magazine with a distinct and inimical tone. “While in the middle of a feverish pawing at the back-clip of her bra,” begins one typically edgy and entertaining story around this time, “I did not think much of her whispering in my ear that she could not stay for the night because she had to go home feed Satan.”

But as long as the website continued to work, Gallix didn’t rue over the technical logistics. Wilson had given Gallix the name of a host: RMIhost.com, which was run by Reece Marketing Inc. Reece Marketing Inc. was a one man operation run by Brandon Reece. And when I tracked Reece down by telephone on Friday afternoon, he told me that he was stunned that someone was still using it.

“We haven’t done hosting for four or five years,” said Reece, who sounded somewhat surprised at the news that 3:AM had vanished. “I haven’t hosted anybody’s site since 2008.”

Gallix informed me later in the afternoon that he had paid an annual hosting fee, but it was unclear whether someone had taken over from Reece. He received an email every year asking to pay for the next year. So what was RMIhost.com?

“That’s all still up there,” replied Reece. “It’s not doing any business.”

Reece claimed to not know anything about 3:AM Magazine. He said his company had once specialized in website design and had operated out of Dallas. “It was never a successful side company,” said Reece.

Reece recalled a guy named Kent when I asked him. He identified a “born again Christian,” and confirmed that this was Kent Wilson when I provided the surname. But Reece didn’t appear to know what Wilson had given him. Was it possible that he wasn’t even paying attention to RMIHost?

“I don’t ever remember hosting 3:AM Magazine,” said Reece. “I think I would know.”

Reece referred to “a server admin in Bucharest” — a gentleman named Florin — who he promised to email tonight. When I asked Reece if RMIhost had leased any particular server, he seemed baffled.

“DNS,” said Reece. “I haven’t done anything like this in a while.”

Reece was busy “looking for something new right now.” He intimated that he was in a transition period and that the hosting company had been more of an unprofitable sideline. These days, he was living on savings.

“I don’t trust my personal expertise,” said Reece when I asked him about his technical chops. “I don’t even know how to do that myself. You forget everything you do.” But he did promise to get on the case by Monday. He also allowed me to pass along his contact information to Gallix.

As for Gallix, he informed me that he had tech people retrieving what they could off the Internet Archive. But even if 3:AM manages to extract the content, he’s unsure about what “more reliable and reputable host” he’ll offload his content onto. The experience revealed to Gallix “the fragility of online content.”

It remains unclear whether Reece was playing dumb or acting in good faith. But he was willing to pass along his contact info to Gallix, even after I informed him of the significant online outcry that had followed 3:AM‘s server outage. And these efforts do represent a step in the right direction to preserve 3:AM‘s vast archive.

No matter how the 3:AM predicament works out — and there are positive signs that it will — preserving online work may very well be as dangerous as other historical precedents. Or as Tom McCarthy, reached on holiday, declared to me upon learning the news, “My first reaction is: ALEXANDRIA!”

[7/6/2012 6:45 PM UPDATE: As of 6:45 PM EST, 3:AM Magzine has been restored. Many thanks to all who helped out with this story and to Mr. Reece for following through with his promise.]

The Bat Segundo Show: Tom McCarthy II

Tom McCarthy appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #365. He is most recently the author of C. He previously appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #154 and The Bat Segundo Show #155.

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Considering the vital associations between the third letter and the need to sweat.

Author: Tom McCarthy

Subjects Discussed: [List forthcoming]


Correspondent: Tom, how are you doing?

McCarthy: I’m fine. How nice to see you again.

Correspondent: Yes, how nice to see you too. I’ve been advised by you to ask not how you feel.

McCarthy: (laughs)

Correspondent: So now I’m wondering, by asking you how you’re doing, if I’ve betrayed what I’ve just said.

McCarthy: No, no, no. I’m doing a brisk —

Correspondent: Okay.

McCarthy: Briskly.

Correspondent: So we can have at least one bit of small talk. That’s acceptable.

McCarthy: Yeah. (laughs)

Correspondent: Okay. Serge says late in the book that the newspaper headlines have a nice alliterative ring.

McCarthy: Oh yeah. Beaulac bludgeons Mr. Block, bludgeoned in blue Beaulac.

Correspondent: Yes. Similarly, this book — it’s safe to say — that it could be read as a game of monkey see, monkey do. Ecce homo. Insert your bad pun of choice. In a word, there are numerous words beginning with — actually, not in a word, but in several words — there are numerous words that begin with the letter C. Carapace…

McCarthy: Cocaine, cyanide.

Correspondent: Copper, cable, control. You name it. The four parts are named after C. So this leads me to wonder. At what point did this come into being during the course of writing? And I’m wondering if there was a maximum C word count that you established during the course of writing this book. Just to start off here.

McCarthy: It came pretty early. Because the genesis of the book — well, there were several geneses.

Correspondent: Genesii?

McCarthy: Genesii. But one of them was thinking about Carter and Carnarvon, who dug up Tutankhamun. And I knew that a kind of hybrid of those two historical figures was going to be part of — I mean, Serge is a composite of several things. But that’s kind of one part or two parts of it. And so as a marker, I just used the letter C. I said, “Well, Carnarvon. Carter. Let’s just call them C for now.” And it was stuck. I liked the single letter title. It made me think of Sesame Street. You know, how every episode is brought to you by the letter.

Correspondent: C is for cookie.

McCarthy: C is for cookie, right.

Correspondent: But there isn’t a cookie in this.

McCarthy: No, there’s no…there’s no.

Correspondent: You do have cunt at one point.

McCarthy: (laughs) Yeah, that’s true. There was lots of Cs going on. I mean, the caul. With a U. Of the Wolfman. That was where it originally came from. Although quite a few critics later have pointed out that Copperfield — another C.

Correspondent: The Jennifer Egan review.

McCarthy: Yes, of course. And several others. And other people who have pointed out that, when he’s born, not only does he have a caul. But there is a copper being brought to make a transmission field. And I shouldn’t not take credit for it. Because it’s brilliant. But I wasn’t actually thinking of it at the time.

Correspondent: Well, maybe we can establish how much of the riffing on C was subconscious and how much of it was planned.

McCarthy: Yeah. I mean, that’s the thing. I think of it like pinball. You put a certain number of balls up. And then you hope they’re going to hit some buffers. And maybe, if you’re lucky, you may go into multiple modes. When there’s like three of them all going around the ramps and going crazy. But you’re not going to control every collision and every which lighting up of each little mushroom buffer at which point. So yeah, there were some very deliberate throwings out of different Cs. And not just Cs. A whole change in association along different mutating phonemes that’s really what the book is. More than characterization or whatever.

Correspondent: It was your own little bubbling chemical equation, essentially. With lots of Cs.

McCarthy: Yeah, kind of. Exactly. But you know the really exciting thing was when I remembered C as the chemical sign for carbon. Which is the basic element of all life. And it has a kind of proximity to writing, right? White, black. Carbon paper. CCs. Carbon copies.

Correspondent: BCCs.

McCarthy: A BCC and all this kind of stuff. It just seemed right. It started off as a marker and then it became the main thing.

Correspondent: The carbon association then came late in this act of writing.

McCarthy: No, it came early. But not at the outset. I didn’t start out thinking, “Oh, it’s all going to come down to the sign for chemical carbon.” I hadn’t even remembered that C was the chemical sign for carbon. I never did chemistry in school.

Correspondent: And then, of course, the third novel, C.

McCarthy: Yup. And already D figures in the new one. And the next one as well.

The Bat Segundo Show #365: Tom McCarthy II (Download MP3)

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