|Up the Staircase Quarterly Presents: |
Up the Staircase Quarterly: Thanks for joining us, Adam. Tell us a little more about yourself. What are you up to when you are not editing Danse Macabre? What other projects and interests do you have?
Adam Henry Carriere: I wish I had le Carre's George Smiley's reticence about talking on one's self, but as this is written, thankfully, I'll spare everyone the lurid details of failed careers, incompetent loves, and latent adjustment disorder. But I read a great deal every day, before old age takes my eyes. Lashings of mostly older fiction I've accumulated since childhood. Inculcated in the old magic of movies as a child, so there's always something on hand. Working on some tweaks to a spy novel for an agent, who also wants the framework of a series, which is cool. My two rescue ShihTzus are a daily preoccupation. Plus, there's Lazarus Media LLC, the e-book imprint I founded October of '12; over 30 titles in hand in 7 mos.. Which might all sound terrifically manic and OCD, except that it's all done (or not) on my own schedule, so I can do bits and bobs at my leisure and sleep in between.
UTSQ: When, how, and why did you first begin publishing? Has your editing process evolved from when you first started out? As an experienced publisher, what advice would you give to those just beginning in the field?
AHC: I'd won the State of Nevada's sole official poetry fellowship in '05 and thought I'd take it for a test drive to see how it rode. One notion was a Ph.D., which turned out to be a marvelous inanity (but happily shook me free of wasting any more of my life in acadum, pretending not to loathe what I believe utterly is the ivory ossuary, where ideas, talent, and any sense of self goes to die - unless of course the id becomes tweedy and desires tenure). The other was to begin an online literary magazine, of which none emanated from Nevada. So, I started that, and it continues today, assuming I don't die before the moon rises. At first, it was mostly a matter of finding writers willing to buy our then decidedly A-ticket ride, so editing was minimal. At some indeterminate point, that changed very dramatically, so sifting through the intake is not a matter of a blue pencil but a scythe.
Because DM's established a very clear profile, a track record borne over the years, maybe a rep with a very small aquarium of scribes, and are like me declarative to the point of gall, a delightfully large majority of our submissions have already been self-selected, so we almost never get material that's just not for us, or in need of dramatic dusting up. For that, Macabristas, molto grazi.
But I'm personally very, very hesitant to impose editorial predispositions or biases on work folks send in. If it fits our oeuvre, it fits. We take plenty of things I'm not personally mad about, but if the aesthetics are right, the larger product, the brand, is more important than the vanity of wanting things to exactly reflect my personal creative whims, whether it's my party (and I'll cry if I want to). When you take the larger view, it makes things much easier than bleeding over every paragraph from every poor soul that knocks on the door.
Our technical platform imposes certain frameworks that are a bit rigid, though. Poets who insist on writing margin to margin, going berserk with formatting, and pretty obviously carpet- bombing half of online Christendom with their promiscuously multiplying submissions have a steeper hill to climb to get into DM. Plus, often our pages are shared with small murders of authors, which some folks feel is beneath them. Oh, well. As for the fictioneers, our system simply can't handle word counts exceeding 6 or 7 single-spaced pages of text. But, again, selfselection helps here, because if they've actually ever read us, they know this already.
(We suggest bespoke cover letters from newcomers not to be churlish but to get a wider sense of the writer and what they've already gleaned of the DM brand. The simple use of the word 'bespoke' keeps a lot of chaff away, but has also led to our attracting a steady, heartening stream of souls who are quite keen on joining la famille. Which helps us maintain what we feel is our content's consistent quality.)
But for folks starting out, I ask you pointedly - what are you attempting to do with your magazine / journal? Exactly what niche or perceived need in the literary marketplace are you deigning to fill? What do you in your heart of hearts feel is so lacking or so disappointing out there that you think your little engine that might will fix this? What literary power do you wish to speak truth to? Because a glance at Duotrope or Poets & Writers will reveal an ocean of titles, some of which have been around for some time, some are eternally funded by forlorn taxpayers on the hook for endless boxes of unsold, unread issues churned out for the vanities (and tenure points) of the jobs-for-life set living off the indentured toil of graduate teaching assistants who too often feel their little kaffeklatches spent ridiculing submissions and contest entrants will somehow lead to a seat at The Paris Review. That's who we're quite happy to out-design, out-explore, and outimagine. What's your object of desire, or contempt, and what are you prepared to do time-wise as well as imaginatively to have a go at these poseurs? If you know this, mazel tov, welcome to the fray. If this never occurred to you, frankly, your little whirlygig probably won’t last a year, sad to say.
UTSQ: How did you come up with the thematic structure for Danse Macabre? Did you feel there was a literary void in this area? What draws you and others to this genre?
AHC: My being as much a music guy as a literary person, the notion of trying to use the imaginative space carved out by musical images and emotions appealed to the conceptualist in me, which film school developed during the daze of St. Ronald of Reagan. On the surface, certainly from a glance at our toponomy, we're a horror outfit. And I've been a giant fan of Universal, RKO, AIP, Amicus, and Hammer films forever, so that's a natural. But DM and its musical genesis (listening to Saint-Saens' tone poem of the same name the night I chose our moniker) has never been genre specific. If it's imaginative, colorful, fantastic, stylish, dark, unique, or funny, we're interested. The kiddies working on their pieces of paper in marketing might decry the notion of a shape-shifting brand identity, and might actually in the context of their milieu be making a point, but aesthetically, the idea we can (and have) accommodated horror, science fiction, fantasy, pulp, murder mystery, adult sensuality, and dollops of humour, from freshly minted as well as salty dog writers from around the world, has worked for us. In a boutique sort of way, absolutely, but that very promiscuous nature allows our brand to transcend genre and be as much of a designed performance piece as a (insert Sir John Gielgud's voice here) literary (end) journal.
UTSQ: Danse Macabre is a monthly publication. Has it always been that way? How do you manage your busy publication schedule and the influx of submissions?
AHC: No, we started quarterly, I think. Went bi-monthly as the submissions ramped up, and monthly, at first simply to flummox the competition but also to accommodate the cascade of concepts and designs we wanted to have a go at. And many of the issues on the now-defunct OfficeLive site (to the Devil with Microsoft) were simply gigantic. How they were pulled off, I still wonder. As far as management, a lot of folks might say I don't at all manage the schedule or the influx, well if at all. I'm not sure I do, either. But I can also assemble and announce a new issue in less than 48 hours when pushed, so there's that. (Insulin, mania, and spite can do that to a person.) But, working at home, aside from the aforementioned dogs being single, living in a 24/7 town like Las Vegas, and having total control over my own schedule allows me to do what must be done to keep DM a monthly destination for connoisseurs of the coloratura. (We've missed one month, and been late only a handful of occasions. And the missing issue was due to my dying at the time. Death came twice for me, but waved me off both times, for whatever reason. Once you’ve done an issue in hospital, the rest are pretty easy.)
UTSQ: Speaking of "macabre" submissions...spill it! Give us the details of the most ghastly reaction to your rejection.
AHC: Ha! That's easy. One galoot from Palm Beach, Florida went absolutely berserk after we passed on an ersatz epic poem of his. I'd actually gone back and forth on it, which I don't often find I have to do, but ultimately found it too academic in its studied hunger for profundity. Well, this guy lost it altogether, 15 or so subsequent e-mails about how DM sucked, how I was an idiot (and a bad poet, at that), and how I wouldn't know good poetry if it bit me on the ass when I was in the w/c. A Google search revealed he had done jail time in his hometown, non-violent but enough for him to arouse John Q. Law and spend some time as a guest of the County. Which goes to show DM attracts a pleasant variety of souls, lost and otherwise. He wrote a tremendously abstruse treatise dissecting my and 3 other contributors' poetry, decrying how such 'poetasters' were single-handed poisoning the warp and woof of Western letters with our masquerading crimes. I made it a point to publish the link to this screed across our social media network and marveled at the sheer wasted energy the man expended simply saying 'fuck you'. Sadly, he has not submitted nor apparently published, since. Maybe no broadband in the County stir.
UTSQ: As both an editor and a writer, what is your opinion on print journals vs. online journals? Do you believe one has more quality or value than the other? Which do you prefer?
AHC: Nobody doesn't like the whole corporeal 'thing' of a book, except for the dreary gadget dorks and too busy being busy on the go sorts. (I've traveled with books for years and never found them heavy or space-intensive, but that's me.) So, print journals are great - so long as they have an actual paying readership (not in-kind library swaps and booby prize free issues given in lieu of winning any number of writing 'prizes') and appear in actual bookstores off-campus (or, more to the point, outside the risible little cubby holes stuffed from floor to ceiling with unsold backissues of The Fill-in-the-Blank Journal found in nearly every auld Anguish department in the country).
The costs of scale, distribution, and the extremely thin margins have marked for extinction all but a very tiny gaggle of print journals. We can whinge about the tragedy of it all, but it's the new normal. Big box book retailers may not exist in a few years, and, to be frank, the pool of readers willing to actually buy print literary journals is very, very modest indeed. Contrary to a sight too many acadumic boffins, the Internet is here to stay, and online journals have now every bit as much validity - and relevance - as both literary and marketplace forces as anything associated with the boffins. (Who, by the way, often discourage students from submitting to online destinations, as this might 'lessen' their future 'credentials' - perhaps because ye auld ossuary doesn't 'count' literary publications toward service as do print sightings. Which is a riot, as certain online ports of call, like, um, DM, have more readers in a single day than the 'scholarly', refereed journals no one actually reads do in their respective subsidized print runs. So, there you go.)
The mouldering mavens can cavil at that whole Internets thing all they want, but online publications are the future, and the future is now. Online publishing allows a brand to offer design possibilities utterly beyond the capabilities (or grasp) of the lemony acadumic set who dominate the print journal field. As if anyone reading this doesn't already know, we live in a visually oriented (and aurally informed) society. It is what it is. Online publications (can and sometimes do) satisfy those realities, and, in a not unrelated aside, have democratized the literary marketplace - and letters as a whole. Which certainly explains the ivorian biases toward them that persist so perniciously.
UTSQ: Finally, Adam, if you could have a meal with anyone, dead or alive, real or imaginary, whom would it be, and what on earth would the two of you eat?
AHC: I'm tempted to unfurl a litany of musical bon mots about composers, or be showy and name some Great Personage, but I'll go with the only modestly known Joseph Roth, born in Brody, Galicia, in the then Austro Hungarian Empire. Very famous journalist of his day (between the wars) and noted scribbler of stacks of feuilleton, fictional and otherwise. His stories and novels have only recently been translated into English, and I am completely in their thrall. For anyone who has dabbled in or outright struggled with identity issues, existentialism, and the palpable sense of having lost whole worlds you once inhabited, Joseph Roth may be your Saviour. The notion of being regaled by him in a legendary Viennese cafe long enough for his masks and poses to tire, then to truly be among this brilliant, sad soul adrift in a vanished world, is to me irresistible. After all, most of us came from some vanished world, and inhabit a world that too will surely vanish equally, as we will, spending much more time at rest rather than 'alive'. So, I'm for a sensationally common Viennese dinner with a master chronicler of the stateless, the dispossessed, the diaspora, the lost believer, the found skeptic, and various holy drinkers, somebody with which I could appreciate, understand, identify, and hopefully learn from.