14.08.12 | Gary Hartley
“So it turns out that printing short stories on china plates really would be expensive.”
There have been a few conversations that go a bit like this over the last few months. My co-conspiritor Mansour Chow and I are launching The Alarmist, a new literary magazine. It will feature poems on balloons and scratchcards and a cover so patently ridiculous you’ll wonder why someone sensible in our lives hasn’t vetoed it before it got to this stage.
All this aside, who needs another literary magazine anyway?
There are tonnes out there. There’s the smaller lit-zines, which tend to be aimed at a young crowd. Some are excellent, like the relatively fledgling Inc. Then there’s the really high-brow ones that seem aimed at those suspicious of the young, those who don’t even deign to provide a rejection note; advise almost to assume rejection before submission. You know who you are.
Our M.O. is picking up the waifs and strays of any age: great writing that might defy categorisation by enough of an extent to have been unfairly ignored previously. We’re trying to bridge the gap between comedy and ‘literary’ writing by proactively inviting comedians to submit. Mostly we’re looking for that thing you read and love but can’t explain why it’s good to your friends in the pub without getting them to read it too.
And unlike many such things, we’re hoping the experience will be a lot of fun—for us and our readers. What we hope will help is the fact we’re enthusiasts starting with a love of the surreal, twisted and comic, and hoping to pick up a little business nous on the hoof.
Too many people get hung up on the self-branding that literary pursuits offer them. We are happy to admit to being amateurs; two exiled northern lads who’ve saved just enough from low-grade office jobs to have a pop at something we actually like doing. It may also be the first editorial partnership to have met on a 5-a-side football pitch.
We recently attended an event at Guardian HQ on magazine start-ups. It wasn’t very good, but no doubt made them a lot of money. What did stand out, though, was that paradoxically, it was the print enthusiasts who seem to be full of drive and ideas beyond the medium, while the digital people seemed entirely hung up on the form; sort of drudging through in the language of the Only Way to Do Things These Days™.
Plenty of the people whose work we’ve accepted for Issue 1 felt encouraged to submit simply for the fact it’s a print-only production. I don’t think it’s just the view of the steadfast Luddite—people want their work to have love put into it, to be caressed in printers and manhandled by readers. Maybe that’s just the romantic in me. It goes without saying that we think print has a whole lot of life still left in it. But if it turns out we’re wrong, at least we’re going to die laughing.