In case you missed the announcement, made during a brief social networking blitz in early July, we’ve decided to bring down the curtain on this literary journal after three years online. During that time we’ve published the work of just over four hundred writers. That feels like a good enough achievement on which to take our leave. We’re really grateful for all the kind words and thoughtful compliments we’ve received from readers and past contributors over the last three weeks or so.
Why are we stopping? A few reasons, not least that publishing, even at this relatively insignificant level, has changed substantially in a very short time and that pace of change shows no sign of slowing—though as with music, films and journalism before it, progress isn’t always smooth and some pockets of resistance stubbornly remain (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).
When we released the first issue of > kill author in June 2009, the world of online literary magazines was becoming a crowded one. Many are still around and a number of them rank amongst our regular ‘must reads’ (hello Artifice Magazine, hello LIES/ISLE, hello PANK, ILK Journal and DIAGRAM, to name just five that come to mind), but there’s no doubt the pace has slowed and it’s difficult to ignore that the focus is gradually shifting to e-books and the small/self-publishers in that arena.
In mid-2009, e-books were still the preserve of a few early adopters, the Kindle was a US-only product, most publishers weren’t yet on board, and releasing your own work via this particular electronic route was still a long way off. In 2012, whether we like it or not—and we happen to like it, because the evidence suggests it’s encouraging a growth in reading—the e-book revolution has well and truly arrived.
We started producing versions of > kill author for Kindle, iBooks, Nook and [insert name of your preferred e-reader here] in October 2010. They have proven extremely popular and offered a clear indication that the popularity of e-books is rapidly increasing, but putting them together has also shown up their limitations. Two separate versions are required to accommodate the leading e-book formats, with both offering slightly different and uneven results, while working with any text that goes beyond the standard paragraph form is still a challenge. (To any poets whose work we’ve published, please take that as both our excuse and our apology for the ways in which we’ve sometimes had to pull apart your carefully styled work and pummel it into submission in various unsatisfactory ways just to get round these problems.) In short, e-book technology is still in its infancy and hasn’t yet hit upon its equivalent of audio’s almost ubiquitous MP3 format, but that development surely can’t be far off. In the meantime, people are reading on smartphones, on tablets and, of course, on e-readers, and as a result they’ve understandably fallen a little out of love with blinking, wide-eyed, into a computer screen for long periods.
With so many possible developments on the horizon, coupled with uncertainty we can’t help feeling about the place of online literary journals in such a quickly shifting landscape, we’re not sure we’ve got the time, the energy or the resources to keep…
At this point, we should probably explain ourselves in a different way.
From the outset, we’ve referred to ourselves as the ‘editors’ of > kill author. In the plural. Except there was no plural. There was only ever one editor. Or one person. One person who read all the submissions, rejected and accepted work, contacted contributors, put together each issue (including the web, PDF and e-book versions), updated the website, hacked the pages to make them look good and, oh yes, it’s also the same person who designed and built the site in the first place. You name it, we did it. Or I did it. I’m confusing myself now.
Don’t worry, this isn’t the start of an editor’s pitiful whine about the hard work involved in running a literary journal and the blood, sweat and tears expended in the production of each issue. I chose to embark upon this project, had the time, interest and enthusiasm for it, and enjoyed (almost) every moment. But three years of reading submissions means I’ve looked at one hell of a lot of words. It’s best to stop before I become jaded, before I run the risk of dismissing something without even getting to the end of the first paragraph or stanza. Plus there’s also the small matter of the potential developments discussed above, which will, I’m sure, require a radically different approach to running a literary magazine. If > kill author continued, I would want it to remain relevant and be pursuing all these new ideas. As I’m not entirely sure I still have that impetus after reviewing thousands of submissions, I’ve decided to cease publication here. There’s a fantastic archive of all the work published under > kill author’s odd and still slightly unsettling name, and that will remain online for the foreseeable future.
A number of people have contacted me / us / the editors of > kill author / whoever we are / whoever I am (I’m even more confused now) suggesting that a new team of editors could take over and continue the journal, even offering themselves up for the task. I hope this explanation makes clear why I don’t regard that as a viable option. I won’t throw around pretentious arguments about this being one person’s vision, but ultimately all the work accepted for > kill author was my choice alone, based primarily—though never entirely—on whether it grabbed hold of my imagination and gave it a damn good shake, at the same time as the language used in the piece offered strange but nonetheless thrilling sensations for my left temporal lobe. Unless I somehow managed to find an editor with an identical imagination and then presented them with a portion of my brain preserved in a jar and hooked up to the online submissions manager, the identity of > kill author under new management would fundamentally change. It would be unavoidable.
So why portray the editors of > kill author as an anonymous team?
As already mentioned, when this journal launched in the middle of 2009, online literary magazines were in the ascendant. They even came with a ‘scene’ attached (though never kill author’s kind of scene, to be honest). Looking around at these publications, I noticed that many of them had editors whose personalities and reputations seemed, at times, to almost overshadow the work they published. I wanted to put the focus back on the content and, as a result, chose anonymity. This, of course, caused just as many problems for the first few months as the personality editors > kill author was reacting against, as there was an understandable interest in the identities of who was behind this mysterious journal that seemed to have come from nowhere and had no obvious lineage. Fortunately, as it stuck around and proved it wasn’t just going to be a flash in the pan based on one slightly controversial premise, that question receded into the background and the focus rightly turned to the work published on these pages.
At the same time, online journals seemed to be engaged in a battle to be taken as seriously as their print cousins. One marker of professionalism was, apparently, to have a large editorial staff. I’ll confess that I occasionally looked at mastheads of magazines with infrequent publication schedules and wondered what all those names and faces with their various job titles could possibly be doing. Yet it also convinced me that the idea of a literary journal run, no matter how enthusiastically, by one or two people might no longer cut it with often competitive writers submitting their work in an increasingly crowded field. Thus, > kill author’s ‘editors’ (plural) came into being, so that this fledgling publication could demonstrate the same professional attitude as all the other online magazines out there. I hope the discovery that this venture was in fact just one person fuelled by strong cups of coffee and calming mugs of tea hasn’t outraged anyone (or maybe I do, secretly). I was always professional; I was just professional on my own.
If you’re now wondering who is behind > kill author, that’s not for this introduction. It’s certainly not important when compared to the thirty-one writers lined up to fascinate you with their words in this final issue.
One of the comments that kept coming up in the recent messages sent to > kill author is that this journal published work which wouldn’t have readily found a place elsewhere. I’m not sure that was always entirely true, but I’m extremely glad it came across that way to readers. I never set out to make > kill author a home of ‘experimental’ fiction and poetry—especially because I’ve long had a problem with the term ‘experimental’ when applied to any form of art, as it’s essentially a subjective description based on what an individual finds unusual and how it compares to what they’ve previously experienced—but I’m happy it felt like a publication that was different, out of the ordinary, a little awkward; a publication that took a few risks along the way. That’ll do for me.
Enjoy Issue Twenty. Enjoy the archives, too. Thanks for reading over the past three years, for submitting your prose and poetry, and a special thanks to all the writers whose work helped give this journal its unique character.
> kill author