Did The Oxford American crash and burn? Where's its Southern music issue, due out last spring? What's up with Conjunctions: Who are all those new people?
Magazines are scrambling to survive these days, publishers are impatient, and readers are clicking on the web, going wireless for their news and entertainment. Meanwhile, advertisers are sitting tight, just trying not to get laid off or go out of business themselves.
Like the tortoise in the fable, the latest issue of Conjunctions, that crusty little literary-predictable 21-year-old from Bard College, shows up on the racks with a knock-out cover and cool issue on "The New Wave Fabulists." (Don't worry: I had to crack the mag open to find out what they were talking about, too.) Not only that, their web site is huge, with an audio vault, and more than 500 contributing poets, writers, artists and playwrights.
Gahan Wilson's full color cover (rare enough for a lit zine) clues us to the fun inside. The New Fabulists are the stew created by combining the best of contemporary science fiction, horror, and fantasy. In his intro, guest editor Peter Straub jokes about Neil Gaiman's inclusion and his roots in "um, graphic novels, the street or gutter phrase for which is comic books."
Conjunctions:39 gives the reader stories by John Crowley, Jonathan Carroll, Jonathan Lethem, Karen Joy Fowler, and the most local New Wave Fabulist, Raleigh's John Kessel. Wilson's familiar black and white New Yorker line drawings highlight the issue.
But you'll have to wait until April 2003 to get The Oxford American's Southern Music Issue, complete with the coveted free compilation CD. Editor Mark Smirnoff is promising another upcoming theme issue, too: a Southern Food OA next October.
Smirnoff had to wait until last month to break the news about the magazine's new ownership. John Grisham and Smirnoff will still be part owners, but the business end of the magazine will be run by Home Media, an Arkansas publisher, and the magazine's offices will be in Little Rock. Smirnoff suggests checking the web site to keep up with latest OA news and rumors.
Just as they were reorganizing, The Oxford American (called the "New Yorker of the South" by USA Today) was feted with a Best Of anthology. Their list of contributors over the past ten years is impressive, from Rick Bass to Donna Tartt, Tony Earley to Barry Hannah, Marianne Gingher to Hal Crowther. It's been a long dry spell without their voices this past year.
Conjunctions circulation is closing in on 10,000 copies, twice a year. In their heyday, The Oxford American distributed nearly 30,000 bimonthly copies. Presently, they're aiming for eight issues in 2003.
Two little magazines bucking the trends, redefining genres, making it into the new year. New Wave Fabulists, Food Issues, what ever it takes, we'll be there.
For more information, go to Conjunctions.com and Oxfordamerican mag.com.