“Making The Magazine,” By Brian White

 

So, here’s the deal. There’s this magazine, right? It’s called Fireside Magazine, and it’s put together by this guy, Brian White, who I sometimes kidnap and keep in my cellar, ostensibly to edit my work but most times just to watch marathons of bad cartoons and throw cans at his head.

Right now, Fireside Magazine is on a Kickstarter campaign for its third issue.

I’ll give you two reasons — well, two and a half, anyway — to consider taking a look at the page and pledging a little something-something to the cause.

First, Brian has pulled together some crazy-go-nuts talent across all three issues. Elizabeth Bear. Stephen Blackmoore. Mary Robinette Kowal. Ken Liu. That’s just the tippy-top of a really shiny, really lovely iceberg. I’ve heard his plans for other authors hopping on board and — well, all I’ll say is it’s in our best interests to have this magazine keep living on.

Second: Brian is committed to paying writers really well. Well above the norms, by the way — you’ll find very few (if any) markets paying what Fireside is paying. So, if you’re a fan of authors: help him pay them.

Second-and-a-half: I know this because Fireside published me in their first issue. Brian let a little Atlanta Burns short story called “Emerald Lakes” slip through the gates and, oh, that’s right — you can now read that story for free online thanks to him.

Now, time to bring Brian over here so he can talk a little about the subject of putting together a magazine and what that means for the stories, authors, and readers of said magazine. Say hello to him.

And don’t mind that he smells like my root cellar.

* * *

Storytelling is the blood that flows through the veins of Fireside. When the idea for starting a fiction and comics magazine bubbled out of a brain stew of ideas about writing and publishing, I knew I wanted to break the convention of a genre-focused magazine. The inspiration was what Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio did with their 2010 anthology, Stories, which was to find fiction that, as Gaiman wrote in his introduction, keeps readers asking “and then what happened?”

When it comes down to it, I don’t think genre matters. I used to. I used to think I was a sci-fi and fantasy guy. It defined me as a reader. But other genres kept pecking in around the edges. And then Twitter happened, and I started seeing people talking about all kinds of great books, and great writers, and I started buying other things. And you know what? I like it all. Crime, comics (not a genre per se but let’s lump it in for this discussion), horror, non-genre, clowns, just give me a good story and I will read it. All genre defines is how a story is told, not whether it is somehow “worthy” of your attention. Same goes with prose versus comics.

When I started asking writers – people like Chuck who I knew a bit from Twitter – if they’d be interested in taking a chance on me and our first Kickstarter, most everyone asked, “OK, what are your guidelines. What genre do you want? Theme?” And I told them to write whatever they wanted. Just write a good story. And they did. And some of those stories weren’t anything like what I’d have gotten if I’d asked for something specific based on what the writer was “known” for. Ken Liu, one of the best short speculative fiction writers emerging now, wrote a beautiful non-genre story. Stephen Blackmoore – whose first book, City of the Lost, a violent pulpy zombie novel that nearly made me puke in my Cheerios – wrote a sweet, optimistic science-fiction story.

In our first two issues, we’ve also had fantasy, horror, crime, near-future sci-fi, and ninjas. And I love that. I love that each issue has a different mix of lenses to peer through. I love not knowing exactly what that mix will look like until the stories come in after the Kickstarter is successful. The writers I’ve worked with have really embraced the idea, and I think we’re producing something that isn’t quite like anything else. Our readers don’t quite know what they’re getting from issue to issue, except that the stories will keep them turning the pages to find out what happens next.

Fireside started as a stew of ideas in my brain, and now we are making a stew of stories for each issue. And I think it’s pretty damn tasty.