Thursday, March 5, 2009

What Literary Magazines Are For

I figured out what litmags are for. Like medical and scientific journals such as The New England Journal of Medicine, Glia, or Wounds (great name for a journal!), they publish discoveries – in our case, discoveries in literature. The best litmags bring to light new, surprising, well-wrought and fascinating things. They change our perceptions, even our lives. That's why we still talk about The Dial, transition, Perspective, and Ironweed, litmags long gone.

A “peer-reviewed” journal published mainly for specialists will never have a big subscription base. But like a medical journal, if a litmag's contents truly advance the cause of life, it gets into the news and attracts readers. And it is worth printing hard copies so people can read it anywhere and everywhere.

Ultimately a litmag is about service.

It's not about service when litmag editors publish mainly their friends’ work; try to canonize their own taste by publishing same-old-same-old, and derivatives of same-old; attempt to use editorship to enhance their status or careers; rule their litmags as their little personal empires; or if the editors don't like editing but can't or won't get another job.

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