Edgar Allan Poe: World’s First Kickstarter?

Funding has often been one of the most difficult elements of any artistic endeavor. Guys like Shakespeare and Marlowe got patrons, rich blokes who basically gave them a bunch of cash to write for them. Lots of authors nowadays hope to get funding from big corporations, as advances against the potential that the books they write might sell enough copies to turn a profit.

Now, there’s Kickstarter, which is a website that makes crowdfunding possible. Very interesting.

Basically, pretty much anyone can go to the site with whatever project they have in mind and create a central hub for a donation system. Need to raise $20000 to fund a film? Check. Just want a couple hundred bucks for a new phone, and in return post a story on your website? Done, too.

Lots of people are using it for lots of different things. Interesting way to involve a potential audience in the actual making of something, rather than hope to reach them after the fact. You can set up the site to receive as little as $1, and it appears the sky is the limit for donations. Most people implement a tiered system: pledge $1, you get a thank you. Pledge $5, you get an ebook. Pledge $20, you get a paperback. Pledge etc.

Filmmakers are using it.

Technology creators are using it.

Musicians are using it.

Writers are using it.

(I’m not using it yet, but I might, one day, in the future.)

Edgar Allan Poe used it–

Wait, what?

I know, right?

But interesting story: Poe died under mysterious circumstances on October 7th, 1849 (My choose your own noir “Jamais Plus” tells the story. Or lets you participate in it. Whichever you prefer.).

For basically the entire final decade of his life, beginning in January 1840, he was contacting friends and business associates, attempting to raise money for his literary venture, The Stylus, which was meant to be a new journal, probably edited by Poe.

Story goes that, when he died, he had $5000 he hoped to invest, and was close to getting it off the ground.

Investors were promised subscriptions to the upcoming journal. Some might have been even more invested; maybe Poe offered them contributing or editorial positions.

Because it wasn’t just Poe’s Magazine. Poe, so far as I can see, didn’t intend it as a showcase for his work. He saw it, instead, as a showcase for all things literary and cultural. His role, arguably, would be of curation.

Sad he never got it off the ground. Sad he passed when he did. If not for his untimely death, we might remember him more as one of the great editors and influencers of literature of all time, rather than as a troubled, possibly rabid probably drunkard. Which, interestingly, seems to be a myth propagated by one of his rivals, who might have merely been one of the most effective trolls of all time.