Tuesday, September 4, 2012

interview with THE ALARMIST

The Alarmist is a great new literary magazine from the UK. We are happy we have it in our shop.It has a great layout like The Believer, Das Magazin and Popshot. 
They publish poetry, prose and scenario. The quality of the work is high, daring, authentic, funny, sharp and pushing literary boundaries without too many concessions. 
We asked editors Gary and Mansour a few questions about their cool magazine.

What inspired you to make a magazine?

Partly it was because neither of us talked the other one out of it when it was crazily suggested. Mainly, it was because we felt that there was something lacking in the literary magazines that were out there. They were too stuffy, not brave enough, seemed to choose well-written work over well-written work that was also entertaining, and they didn’t have as eclectic a mix as we felt they should.

We also wanted to publish work from great writers whose work doesn’t conform to the magazines and formats currently out there for publication. Thankfully, there are a lot of writers who aren’t tailoring their work especially for the formats available which I think is one of the most sinful acts as a writer. Instead, they were writing what they hoped or thought was good which often turned out to be even better than they hoped (just without a place to put it). I guess, in a sense, we wanted to build a platform for those miscreants that refuse to bow down.

We also want to make literary magazines more accessible in general. We think a lot of people are put off by the idea of a literary magazine because they think that they might be made to feel stupid by reading it. And, sometimes, we can see why.
There was also a conscious attempt to get away from the pretentiousness of submitting to a literary magazine, particularly one in print. We do believe there is a prestige to print and we want people to understand and appreciate that as much as we do but that doesn’t mean that we’re going to ask people send their submissions by mail with Self Addressed Envelopes or wait nine months before rejecting their work.  As people who write ourselves, one of the last things we want is to be patronised by a magazine just because we want the pleasure of having our work in print & being part of something nice. 

It wasn’t that long ago that a publication that will remain nameless were asking all their submitters to send a receipt of a recent book they’ve purchased with their submission. They have some brilliant writers adorning their pages but we thought that was a really rotten way to treat their potential contributors. Don’t get us wrong that’s just an opinion. I know some people think that we are dicks because we don’t accept work that’s been on a blog or website. I guess we all have good intentions and we don’t think it’s too unfair to ask for original unpublished work. We don’t refuse simultaneous submissions and, if we did, we’d be missing out on some great stuff.
A lot of writers will make part of our audience and as we well know ourselves, vanity sells, but we hope that as a result of a not being too precious about submissions that we will end up getting great work that may otherwise not have crossed our path.

Why did you chose the format of a printed magazine over publishing on the internet?

Some of the things we’re doing with the magazine would only work in print and there’s something quite beautiful about the smell of the freshly baked magazine, the feeling of the pages in between thumb and forefinger. It has a tangible existence which we feel makes it infinitely more valuable.
There was a study made during that strange time when CDs and MP3s were roughly neck and neck with one another (in terms of what people listened to more).  What the study found was that downloaded albums were not appreciated, listened to, or valued as highly as the actual CD’s. There’s something about existing in real life, away from double clicks, executables and pixels that gives it a special kind of value.
Also, on a quite simple level, I really struggle to read stuff on computer screens and phones. Kindles are effective but our magazine has some fucking amazing graphic design by Chris Tavoularis which not only makes people want to read it more, but actually adds to the enjoyment and appreciation of the actual written work.

What is your favourite magazine? 

Mansour: I am very fond of Port magazine. Inc Zine (a small Hackney based poetry mag), Popshot. I know it’s a bit of a clich√© to choose it and probably quite surprising considering what we’re all about but the New Yorker is a bloody good read. 

Gary: As idiotic as it sounds, I hardly read any of them at all, as I’m much too impressionable. Agree with Mansour’s sentiments on Inc and Popshot, mind.  


What are your plans for the future with The Alarmist? 

To publish more brilliant writing, art and graphic design.
Our first issue features a scratch card and a balloon. We don’t think they’re gratuitous, though it might seem that way on the surface, we think they add a little something to the work featured on them.
With that in mind, we have quite a few more ideas up our sleeve. They may be silly but we can promise they’ll be interesting and fun and push the boundaries of what print publications.
Another plan is for us to encourage more British writers to submit. After all, we’re a literary magazine published in Britain and edited by two British men, so it would be nice to have more content from Brits (as proportionately, we find these easier to engage with) but we’ve found they’re either very lazy or nowhere near as into writing as Americans.
I quite geekily worked out that US is five times the population of the UK but our submissions from the US outweigh submissions from Britain by a multiple of about 20.




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