Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

You Have Died of Dysentery

Farewell Prairie Schooner by Eric Jones

When I hitched my spurs to the wagon a year ago I had no idea how fast a prairie schooner could go. We were essentially a party of three. Marianne Kunkel, a phenomenal Managing Editor. Kwame Dawes, the insane genius who drives this rig. And myself, the web editor. I play video games. So it’s us three and we’re going along like that old educational point-and-click game, The Oregon Trail, except its more historically accurate because we’re crossing a vast digital plain made up ones and zeros. 

The whole point of this journey was to greet the literary journal concept with digital initiatives that extend the reach of print journal readership. When used correctly, the internet itself can be a field fertile enough to settle for art and literature. The success of our FUSION web series alone is proof of this. And we’re not the only ones making our way across this frontier. Electric Literature and websites like Narrative Magazine, Glimmer Train, and Unstuck have vast influential web presences that make discovering new voices as easy as touching a screen.

My wife and I chronicled the connection between interactive entertainment and literature in our blog series last year in part to explore where these two worlds conjoin because we wanted to find that line. Where does digital information transform into art? The answer is right here: at prairieschooner.unl.edu and other websites determined to meet the Digital Age halfway. Websites like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Blogger, and WordPress are not ends unto themselves, but tools to be used in the creation of literature. They are prairie schooners hitched with writers who post 2am shout-outs, selfies, status updates, emoticons, and yes, the occasional Emily Dickinson one-liner.   

The Prairie Schooner has been my vessel for the past year and, like anybody who's ever played The Oregon Trail knows, nobody ever finishes. The one thing everyone learned from that stupid game was that no one ever made it to Oregon. They were carried away by birds, robbed by other settlers, set on fire, or died of dysentery. Most often they just quit clicking the damn mouse because the game was so boring. (It’s either that or fourth grade gym, kid, and Ed Breuer sure knows how to wind that towel up tight!) But although we must eventually depart, that little pixelated prairie schooner goes on and on.  

I’ve seen the release of one year’s worth of issues, worked with Sherman Alexie as one of our guest editors, presented to a packed house at AWP Boston, and helped revitalize the Prairie Schooner office for the next party. We’ve won national recognition for columns like Briefly Noted, Oxcart, and David Sanders’ brilliant weekly round up of Poetry News in Review. It’s been an incredible year out here in the One and Zero Land. I’m proud to have been part of the journey. Just like playing The Oregon Trail on Apple II back in middle school, working for Prairie Schooner has taught me that real education comes from the experience of hitching yourself to a new journey and seeing it through to the next beginning.

Or at least until you die of dysentery.

Farewell, Prairie Schooner. Good luck.