Chris Kelso and Garrett Cook (click image to enlarge)
As many magazines disappear or go entirely digital, there are intrepid folks out there who still want to put out top-notch fiction in magazine form. Such is the case of Dog Horn Publishing’s new project, Imperial Youth Review. This literary venture, which hit the streets on Halloween day, will surely to be a success with lovers of horror, science fiction, bizarro, and all sorts of great literature. The great promise the Imperial Youth Review shows is due to the two men spearheading the effort and taking the editing reigns: authors Chris Kelso and Garrett Cook.
Kelso and Cook, besides sounding like a great action movie duo, bring a wealth of combined experience to the table. Kelso is the author of Schadenfreude, which received a positive review here at HorrorTalk back in March, and an assistant editor for Dog Horn Publishing, among other things. Cook is an experienced editor and the author of Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective (one of the best bizarro books of 2011) and Archelon Ranch, to name a few. His work was also selected to be in The Best Bizarro Fiction of the Decade, a very recent Eraserhead Press title edited by Cameron Pierce that also features authors such as Joe R. Lansdale, Bentley Little, Andersen Prunty and Jeremy Robert Johnson.
Imperial Youth Review cover (click image to enlarge)
To know more about what IYR is bringing our way, I interviewed both editors. My first question was simple: Why create a new literary magazine when so many other are collapsing?
“First and foremost, I feel like there are all these magazines coming out with the intention of accommodating a specific genre, be it poetry, sci-fi, horror or basic literary fiction,” said Kelso.” If you’re like me and you have an eclectic taste in books/culture, then you want a publication that caters to those needs. If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself (or get Garrett Cook to help you). I feel like we’ve created a community of amalgamated writers worth admiring. Independent publishing is an overwhelming and challenging endeavor with little financial reward, but, of course, success isn’t just measured in monetary terms - you gain the opportunity to work with lots of talented people and the creatively challenged is hugely satisfying. It’s been totally worth it. I’m immensely proud of Imperial Youth Review already.”
Cook had a more scatological response to the question of why, but one that echoes Kelso’s sentiments about the creation of a new, important, genre-mixing space.
“Because other magazines are often shitty and because they're going downhill, not as numerous as they could be,” said Cook. “And when writers have shitty options to submit to or few options, then the writer's life becomes shitty. And when the reader has to read these magazines which exist in an environment where options are drying up, then reading becomes shitty. And reading's one of the greatest things there is. There are publications like Phantasmagorium and Magazine of Bizarro Fiction and Video Watchdog and Cemetery Dance and such, but there aren't enough of them. And if we let the risk factor of creating a magazine dictate whether we do it or not when the option is there and we feel we can do it well, then we're willing to let writing and reading become less of a thing to do, we are actively saying we don't care about our art form. For me, that dog doesn't hunt.”
Imperial Youth Review is a US/UK magazine and thus the pool of authors and its reach make it something special. There are rumors that the original idea was to start a magazine with Russia, but apparently at some point Cook knocked out Vladimir Putin and that was the end of that. In any case, between Kelso and Cook, IYR is plugged into a plethora of literary scenes. Kelso had some words about the significance of bringing the two countries together for this project.
"It’s crucially important," said Kelso. "I don’t think we’d have gotten half the people on board without our internal contacts. This just reinforces my point about the IYR as a community. We all help each other, and in this current climate of extremes, recession and ambivalence, that’s a pretty special thing to have found. The US/UK thing just seemed like a sensible thing to do, I mean, why limit your options? There are fantastic writers on both sides of the pond and they need a platform to communicate their art. I think the bizarre boys will benefit from more exposure in the UK too."
While many fledgling magazines have to start things off with newbie writers and up-and-coming authors, the IYR is coming out of the gates with a powerful lineup behind them that includes work by writers and artists of the highest caliber. Nick Mamatas, Tom Bradley, Nikki Guerlain, Matthew Revert, Jess Gulbranson, Justin T. Coons, and Alan M. Clark are only some of the names in the first issue. This mix of talent is something Cook wants to turn into a staple for the magazine.
"I'm not just looking to make things easier and cooler for bizarro authors," said Cook. "Bizarros know I'm one of them and that I fly the freak flag high. But, I want this to be a magazine about the qualities of brilliance and defiance and if I say bizarro is all that's brilliant and defiant, I do every genre including bizarro a disservice. I want this to be a magazine of independent thought and cool ideas, instead of just a magazine of genre fiction."
Cook's point will be even more clear with the second issue, which the editors are already working on. It'll include work by Scottish science fiction and fantasy writer Hal Duncan, art by British Fantasy Award winner for Best Artist Daniele Serra (all you DarkFuse fans know his amazing covers), and photography by Chris Shaw. The Imperial Youth Review promises "gore, grit, big ideas, bad ideas and liberation at any cost," and it seems like they're quickly delivering on that promise.
Garrett Cook and Chris Kelso (click images to enlarge)
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