Sunday 3 January 2010

Magazine Reassessments

I tend to stick to the same stable of magazines, but I thought I'd take a look around this year. What's changed?

  • I have access to the online magazines that the University subscribes to - the full text of hundreds of literary magazines ("Poetry", "PN Review", etc)
  • My local Borders has closed. They stocked many US and UK literary magazines
  • WWW magazines have improved in quality and status
  • Some magazines have gone. Others (e.g. Iota) have changed beyond recognition.
  • I read that book publishers care less about slush piles nowadays. I don't know whether this means that they take more notice of magazines. Even if they do, I suspect that only a few magazines matter. More likely they're influenced by networking (of which online discussion boards - some associated with magazines - play an increasingly significant role).

What affects my choice of subscriptions?

  • Brand loyalty
  • Chance - I've tried renewing subs to 2 magazine lately but something's got lost in the post, so I might not try again. And chance encounters affect choices - what tipped the balance towards "The Dark Horse" was Hannah Brooks-Motl's article in the Summer 2008 issue
  • I try to support prose-only magazines - "Riptide", "short Fiction", etc.
  • I get magazines that supply something I can't get elsewhere
  • I get magazines if it improves my chances of getting acceptances

Beneath it all though lies a feeling that paper magazines are doomed. In the UK the main poetry publishers and major magazines seem less influential now (to me and my peers, I guess I mean). There's more small-press infiltration of prize-lists, and more pamphlets are being published. Perhaps the Web has helped smaller magazines more than large ones - the small mags benefit more from the networking and wider visibility that the web provides. Magazines that I've unjustly neglected in the past are "Magma" (whose contents I like), and "Poetry London" (whose poetry I'm rather less sure about). I haven't seen "Tears in the Fence" for years - it's changed a lot, and is a good read. And "Brittle Star" has done well lately. Importantly for me, these latter 2 magazines publish short fiction. At the other end of the spectrum there are 2 venerable magazines I've never been in - "Poetry Review" and "PN Review". Though "PN Review" has a few interesting articles, I have trouble with most of the poetry and some of the chattier essays. I like its reputation more than its contents. But I'll keep posting to "Poetry Review" every two years or so.

I imagine many of these publications are under pressure. Now that US magazine are often easier to submit to than UK ones I wonder how many UK writers sent their work straight to the States. Besides, for fiction there are hardly any UK markets anyway, and "Rialto" tells people to expect to wait 6 months for a reply to a submission.

But all is not rosy for US magazines either. I'm told that "Story" and "New American Review" have gone, "TriQuarterly" has become WWW-only and "Southern Review" is shrinking.

As the water-hole dries up, strangers rub shoulders. On Poetry Publishing Amy De'ath suggests that both Carcanet and Salt cut through the mainstream/avant- garde divide, though Carcanet tends to print older, "established" avant-garders. On the more purely innovative side, Shearsman remains impressive and Barque keeps going. Magazines like "Tears in the Fence" are less mainstream than I'm used to, but not beyond my range. I need new challenges

In consequence of all this I think I'm going to adjust my magazine subscriptions a little, now that I can't buy off the shelf. I'll also send stories to the US rather than the UK, and take WWW magazines more seriously. But I still have trouble evaluating WWW magazines. I'm sending Flash pieces off, but I don't produce many so I don't want to waste them. I know of a few established outlets - "Smokelong", etc - but keep finding other possibilities. Even London Magazine's starting to print them. Time to take a few chances I suppose.


  1. Hi Tim and Happy New Year to you and yours -

    a very good www mag is Night Train. Take a look at one writer's assessment, (scroll down the blog post here to the end, where he rates Night Train as the best)... but also because there are many links here to top Firebox Fictions... a good place for a flash if you can get it accepted by editor Rusty Barnes.

    Good Luck.

  2. I looked at Night Train when you mentioned it a few days ago and yes, it looks good. I've just skimmed my list of mags and found many others that look cute too - AbleMuse,
    literal latte,
    The Pedestal Magazine, etc - they look good, taste good and have been around a while.