It wasn’t that long ago that the summer holidays involved taking a long car ride, replete with a range of reading options; books, magazines, newspapers and perhaps even the odd journal or two. A particular favourite of mine was the summer edition of The Bulletin a weekly magazine that was published for over 130 years.
The ten hour interstate car ride afforded me (when I wasn’t the one driving) the opportunity to make up for lost reading time, investing in reading long form articles, book reviews and the like.
With the demise of many print forms of media, I’ve decided to do a bit of a reecy into the magazine market today, with a particular focus on the online literary market “scene”. My aims are several – to locate a source of great writing for reading purposes, to chart what is out there and provide a record of this as well as looking to see where my own writing might be (appropriately) submitted for consideration. My being a “gen X-er” means that, while familiar with Digital publishing and content, I am not as conversant with it as I might like to be.
Of course, part of the pleasure in those bumper summer editions of the magazines of old was the tactile value, the feel of the paper, initially fresh but soon becoming worn with familiarity, as one swept back and forth over multiple sittings. One might add an olfactory value of the paper to part of the overall experience . To this end, the ‘e’ version of magazines hasn’t quite worked this out… yet.
In writing this, I’ve done a little bit of research. My first introduction came by accident, via a tweet discussing an article by Chelsea Bauch at Flavorwire – a post looking at 10 compelling online literary magazines. The interesting thing about this is that being four years old, several of the magazines are no longer available. This led me to do some active research and, at the same time, consider what Australia, as my “local” market, has to offer. To this end, Alice Grundy’s article for the Sydney Review of Books, Nimble Innovators, was an excellent place to start. This was published in March 2014 and, as I discovered, even in this time some publications might have folded (higher arc appears to have had their account suspended, as I type this).
My first foray, via the Grundy article, was Cuttings. This had two distinct advantages as a first port of call. Firstly it was available via download (iTunes/Android) and, (at present) it is free. While I’m looking to do some subscribing as part of this process, it is nice to be able to have a look at a mag before committing to a purchase or a subscription.
There were three issues available, all of which I tapped on. My internet speeds being what they are, Issue 1 arrived first, followed by Issue 0. Issue 2, the latest, took a considerable time to ‘arrive’. Even though I clicked on Issue 1 first, I gave it only a cursory glance, feeling a sense of latent guilt that I wasn’t doing them in order. Cuttings holds mostly short form, dynamic writing and, in this regard, is an excellent example. It is interesting to see how it has developed. Issue 3 took a substantial amount of time to download. The reason for this became apparent when opened, as the addition of a number of original music tracks (that both accompany particular stories, as well as being ‘playable’ at other times) filled out its download size. This feature was certainly novel, providing an engaging way to to connect with the writing and perhaps countering the lack of ‘tactile’ feel of print media through the audio addition. The use of image and layout is similarly sumptuous.
While representing a good place to start, there are two reasons why Cuttings is probably not for me. Firstly, the writing is predominantly short-form. Pert and snappy, it does an admirable job yet in terms of long-form writing, leaves one feeling a little underfed. The second reason seems a larger concern. The magazine is supported by a tumblr journal; this highlights the lengthy timeframes between issues (issue 0= April 2013, issue 1= October 2013, issue 2= October 2014). In an age where the expectations for content frequency and delivery are high, the ‘downtime’ between issues just seems too long.