Tuesday, December 19, 2006
They say the short story market is dying. They're probably right, but there's still time to subscribe to some fairly wonderful magazines. Why should you? Because if you are here you are fans of the science fiction and fantasy genres, and the magazines out there will keep the best and brightest of today's writers front and forward, while keeping you up to date on trends in genre literature and elements of the culture.
I have subscriptions to "Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine", "Realms of Fantasy", "Weird Tales", and "Dark Wisdom". I love all four of them, although I never know when another copy of "Weird Tales" is going to arrive, if ever. By the way, if anyone wants to buy me a magazine subscription, which is a great gift, I still would love "Starlog". Just in case anyone wants to step up....anyone? Okay.
Over the next month I'll be spotlighting all four of these magazines to which I subscribe, and probably a few others. Since we have to start somewhere, let's begin with one of my favorites:
"Dark Wisdom," billing itself as a magazine of dark fiction, is a slick, neatly edited 80 page quarterly, published in full color. Originally, a gaming magazine for "Call of Cthulhu" Role Play Game aficianados, the magazine quickly found its legs and evolved into a serious vehicle for horror. Mixing thought provoking and avante-garde work along with more traditional horror themes, "Wisdom" is currently available in all major book chains in the United States, including Barnes and Noble and Borders. It is also available internationally.
At a time when fiction magazines have been losing readership, "Dark Wisdom" has forged a growing subscriber base and continues to evolve from what was once a small gaming digest. It has featured such writers as Richard A. Lupoff, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and "Babylon 5"'s creator J. Michael Straczynski. In reviewing this fine publication, Ramsey Campbell has written: "Dark Wisdom is a feast of the macabre and fantastic, showcasing both top names and those on their way there."
I have contacted Publisher/Editor William Jones and asked him some questions about his publication:
Q: "Dark Wisdom" describes itself as a magazine of Lovecraftian horror. How would you define that?
A: Initially "Dark Wisdom" used the sub-header "A Magazine of Dark Fiction and Lovecraftian Horror." While the contents are still the same, it is now described simply as "Dark Fiction." I consider Lovecraftian ficion to be cross genre -- SF/Horror/Suspense, but always dark. So I used the term Dark Fiction, which was commonly used prior to that. "Dark Fantasy" was, but I consider that part of "Dark Wisdom's" focus.
Q: Where do you see the magazine headed? You also helm Elder Press, a small press that handles mostly horror. Is there anything new happening with that?
A: "Dark Wisdom" has switched to a color format, which is the last stage in print magazine evolution. I hope the content continues to evolve by blending genres (including the "Lovecraftian"). As for Elder Signs Press (ESP), it continues to expand. There are new imprints, which include Mystery, Thrillers, SF, Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, and still some Horror. Of course, ESP still looks for multi-genre fiction.
Q: Dark Wisdom has been around for a while, do you ever see yourself putting out a "best of" anthology?
A: I've thought about it. In the market, anthologies tend not to sell well, and "Best of" magazine anthologies are a touch more difficult to sell. This makes such a project a challenge. But as the issues sell out, it would be nice to see some of the fiction collected in print. So: maybe.
Q: A lot of bookstores seem to be cutting back on their horror titles and putting horror in along with fantasy titles. What's happening there? Has horror crested? Is it passe?
A: The 1980s is often called the Golden Age of Horror. The market has decreased, I think, because the focus on "Horror" fiction has become broad. This means publishers and stores tend to sell Horror under different names. I'm not sure Horror has crested, but it might be in transistion. I believe it will always be an important part of fiction, but like the Gothic Romance of the past, it might disfuse into several sub-genres.
Q: What's the most difficult thing you experience about being the editor of a magazine?
A: Time management. As the number of publishers of "dark" short fiction decreases, the number of submissions increases. When another magazine in the same market closes, "Dark Wisdom" sees increased submissions. Trying to give each story an honest reading requires a great investment of time. I also act as the Art Director for the magazine, so after story selection comes the task of deciding the story order in the magazine (so they read smoothly or feel related), the size and style of the artwork, and of course editing. Somewhere in there is responding to submissions as well.
Q: You're located in Michigan. Aren't publishers and editors supposed to be in places like Boston, New York, or LA?
A: It seems that way. However, many of the large printing houses are located in Michigan. I know of publishers in California and New York who use Michigan printers. Likewise, many distribution warehouses are located in this region. This actually gives ESP an advantage in shipping times and costs. But maybe we'll open an L.A. office just to keep up tradition.
Q: If you were going to promote Dark Wisdom, what are one or two things that you would start off promoting about the magazine.
A: I think I have three things. Variety: Fiction, non-fiction, reviews of books, films, and music. Artwork: Like magazines of decades past, Dark Wisdom uses plenty of art to work with the fiction. And this year the magazine was nominated for an International Horror Guild award -- a wonderful remark upon the contributors.
The picture at the top of the posting is "Dark Wisdom"'s most current release, now or soon to be available at the book store. If you wish to know more about "Dark Wisdom" visit its website: http://www.darkwisdom.com/ . You also might enjoy stopping by William Jones' blogspot page at http://williamsramblings.blogspot.com/