Interview

Interview

John Joseph Adams and Creeping Hemlock Press Team Up to Kickstart New Horror Magazine

Acclaimed anthologist John Joseph Adams and R.J. and Julia Sevin, the husband-wife duo behind small press publisher Creeping Hemlock Press, are no strangers to quality fiction. Between them they've worked with just about every major author in the horror, fantasy and science fiction genres, so the news that they're planning Nightmare Magazine, a new online horror fiction magazine, together should have every fan of the genre leaping for joy. Well, they'd like you to save your energy and click over to their Kickstarter page, where you can donate a little cash to the cause and secure your place in line for the late 2012 launch. If you still need convincing, spend some time after the jump with Adams, who spent some time telling me about his latest editorial venture.

Tell us how the idea for Nightmare Magazine came about.

In June 2010, I launched Lightspeed Magazine, an online magazine that focused exclusively on science fiction. In March 2011, I took over as editor of Fantasy Magazine, an online magazine that focused exclusively on fantasy. It was around that time that I first started thinking about launching a horror magazine as well. While editing both Lightspeed and Fantasy, I often came across stories that were horrific in nature, and while I did publish a fair number of those, I did encounter a number of stories I thought were great, but felt like they would be more appropriate to publish in a horror magazine.

My desire to edit a horror magazine also stems from my experience working as an anthologist; my biggest success in that realm has been in horror, with my anthology The Living Dead, which came out right around the time the zombie craze was cresting. Many consider it to be the definitive zombie anthology, and it was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. I also did a vampire anthology called By Blood We Live, then a sequel to The Living Dead (The Living Dead 2), and many people consider my post-apocalyptic anthology Wastelands to be horror. All of them—especially The Living Dead—sold very well, but other than those three (or four) books, all of my other anthologies have been science fiction or fantasy. Ever since I edited those books, I've wanted to find a way to keep my fingers in the horror market—and a magazine seemed like a great way to do so.

How did you end up collaborating with the Sevins from Creeping Hemlock Press?

I met Julia and RJ at a zombie convention called ZombieFest, which took place in the Pittsburgh area—in Monroeville, actually, in the actual mall where Dawn of the Dead was filmed. We met on the first day, and we just hit it off, and then stayed in touch afterward. I hadn't been familiar with Creeping Hemlock before then, but after meeting them and seeing the books they'd put out, I was really impressed, and so when I decided to pursue launching a horror magazine in earnest, I reached out to the Sevins to see if they'd be interested in partnering with me on it. Given I'm already publishing Lightspeed, which now incorporates Fantasy Magazine, I thought it best to have a publishing partner on board if I was going to do another magazine. Turned out, after our meeting, they wanted to figure out a way to work with me, so it was just a big ol' mutual admiration kind of thing happening, and it all just worked out.

Why go the Kickstarter route? Would this project even be possible without Kickstarter?

The project would be possible without Kickstarter, sure, but it would make it a whole lot more risky and less likely to happen. The way we've setup the Kickstarter, by donating, you're basically pre-ordering either the first issue of the magazine or a subscription. We do have some upper-level rewards that include some other things, but primarily we wanted to setup a price structure that rewards the donor fairly, so that it's less like charity and more like, as I said, pre-ordering.

As for why go that route—it just makes the entire enterprise a lot more viable. It lets us really get a great idea of what the level of interest will be in the magazine, and if we get funded, we'll be in a great position to launch the magazine, without having to worry about going several thousand dollars into the hole first. I had a pretty good idea what kind of interest we could expect, based on the existing horror fanbase and potential crossover with my own readership, but this lets us get a very clear idea where exactly we stand.

Also, I think the social nature of Kickstarter is a great way to get people excited about a project well before it launches. I think it really does a great job of spreading awareness in the community, so instead of people finding out about the magazine when it launches, you've got readers and writers excited about it well in advance.

What kind of contribution do you hope to make to the horror/dark fantasy genre through Nightmare?

Our goal at its most basic is simply to bring great horror short fiction to the masses. There are other horror short fiction magazines out there, but for the last decade or so at least there's been a dearth of venues for quality horror short fiction in magazine form—at least when you compare to the market for science fiction and fantasy. And I think our publishing model is one that hasn't been utilized in the horror field before; there have been free online magazines, but I don't think any that have made themselves self-sustaining via a combination of advertising and eBook sales. Plus, with our editorial model of publishing two original stories alongside two reprints every month, I think we'll be able to expose horror readers to a lot of great stories, both new and classic.

Also, I hope to bring a more diverse audience to Nightmare, and to publish a more diverse range of authors. The horror community can tend to be fairly insular, but I'm hoping that my extensive experience in science fiction and fantasy will bring some of those readers and writers over to the dark side (and perhaps vice versa as well).

In what ways will you be taking advantage of the digital format? Will there be print editions of the magazine available?

We'll be doing a one-time limited edition of the first issue of Nightmare in print, but we have no plans to have a print edition otherwise. Nightmare will be following the same basic business model as Lightspeed: Every month we'll publish and sell an eBook edition of the magazine, while at the same time serializing that issue's content on the web, for free, posting one story a week.

The primary way we'll be taking advantage of digital format is that we'll have all of our back issues available for sale indefinitely; so whereas a traditional magazine will have a shelf-life of about a month, our issues will essentially have an indefinite shelf-life. That, and the synergy we'll have between our website and the eBook edition, will allow us to reach both paid-for eBook readers and read-it-for-free online readers. And, obviously, digital publishing offers a lot of general advantages over print: lower production costs, shorter lead times, easier distribution, etc.

You've got the fiction for the first issue lined up - how far ahead of that first issue have you planned?

We basically just have the first issue lined up. If the Kickstarter doesn't fund, we'll have to re-evaluate, so we didn't want to get too far ahead of ourselves. But we have reached out to a lot of authors in the horror community, and we've received a lot of enthusiastic interest. If the Kickstarter funds, we'll open to submissions shortly afterward, and with our planned launch date of October 1 for the first issue, that will give us a sufficient amount of time to line up stories for issue two and beyond.

That first issue contains stories by a mix of award-winners and bestsellers, featuring work by Laird Barron, Sarah Langan, Jonathan Maberry, and Genevieve Valentine. We're pretty excited about it, and can't wait to share it with readers.

What types of stories will you be publishing in Nightmare?

The format will be pretty wide open. We'll be open to all kinds of horror. I'd say that the majority of the fiction we run will be of the supernatural horror variety, but I don't want to close off to the possibility of publishing a really great psychological horror story if I find one.

When picking stories for this, or any of the anthologies that you've edited, what catches your eye?

For horror, the best way to grab the reader, I think, is to make them feel something visceral. It's a tough trick to pull off, and a lot of horror fiction—even great horror fiction—doesn't quite manage it, but when it does, man do you know you've got something special. I'm not easily frightened or disturbed by fiction—be it prose or film—so whenever I come across something that truly unsettles me, I immediately take notice. Otherwise, what I look for just boils down to the basic tenets of good storytelling: deft prose, engaging characters, originality... I want to be surprised and delighted by an author's turn of phrase, or by the plot turns a story takes, or—in a case where the events are all but inevitable—that feeling of satisfaction of a story coming to a conclusion in the only way that it can.

Will all content be available on the Nightmare website, or will there be content that is exclusive to the paid digital edition?

It's too soon to say with certainty, but the majority of the content will be definitely available on the Nightmare website, serialized over the course of each month, the same way it is in Lightspeed. At Lightspeed, we've been experimenting lately with some exclusive eBook content; namely, in every eBook issue, we've been including a bonus novella reprint that appears only in the eBook and not on our website. We might try something like that with Nightmare. In Lightspeed, we've also been running some forthcoming novel excerpts in the eBook editions, and that's certainly something we'd be open to including in the eBook editions of Nightmare.

Okay - hard sell time. Why should people contribute to your Kickstarter fund to get this magazine off the ground?

The team putting together Nightmare — the Sevins and myself — is a well-established one in the field of horror, and, as you can see from the first issue we have lined up, we do have an eye for quality. Nightmare will also be running on the same model as Lightspeed, which has been proven to be successful (both critically and commercially). So I think that readers can feel secure that the project they're investing in will be high quality, published well, and around for the long-run. And on top of all that, I think that the pricing structure we've set up provides great value in return for donor contributions, so we're not really asking you to donate; we're inviting you to pre-order.

But perhaps the best reason to support us is: The world needs a new horror magazine, damn it, and I think we're the team to do it.

Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog, October Country, and contributes interviews to the Horror World website. Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand.

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