The New Inquiry’s Malcolm Harris and The Los Angeles Review of Books’ Evan Kindley talked on Twitter with Spook¬†Magazine’s one-man editorial team Jason Parham about the new publication’s founding, goals, and forthcoming first issue.
Evan Kindley:¬†I’ll start us off. Jason, how long have you been planning Spook? When was it born?
Jason Parham:¬†The idea was born in December. I officially started reaching out to possible contributors in January.¬†There seemed to be a gap, so I thought, foolishly enough, I could fill it.¬†Toni Morrison is famous for saying, “Write the book you want to read.” Spook is born out of that thinking.
Evan:¬†What gap exactly were you perceiving?
Jason:¬†There are a ton of great and important literary journals, The Paris Review, Slake, Harper’s, and so on.¬†But so often writers of color don’t appear within the pages. There are always one or two. ¬†I wanted, in some way, to change that.¬†Don’t get me wrong, Spook is not a terribly original idea. There have been African-American lit journals in the past,¬†The Crisis, Fire!!, Bronx Biannual, and Greg Tate’s Coon Bidness, which came out in 2011. Spook extends this tradition while imagining its own future.
Malcolm Harris:¬†As an organizing principle for the magazine, and maybe this is still evolving, is there a distinction between African-American and People of Color?
Jason:¬†There is a difference, of course. The journal isn’t solely intended for African Americans.¬†Most of Issue 1 contributors just happen to be black. Going forward I hope to involve others.¬†Even so, the content within the magazine appeals to all folks. At least I hope so.¬†
Evan: You mention print magazines here. Is Spook going to be print only?
Jason:¬†For now, Spook will be print only. I’m very much a traditionalist in that sense.¬†I love how The New Inquiry, LA Review of Books, Slake¬†and other lit publications are re-imagining how we consume fiction and art and criticism online. I have yet to figure out how to translate Spook to the web in a creative way.¬†Although, a digital version of the magazine will be available for purchase.
Malcolm:¬†How do you see Spook‘s relationship to academia and professional scholarship? The content I’ve seen so far¬†seems to take thought seriously but not itself too seriously. And there are some top-level scholars on that contributors list. What should we expect?
Jason:¬†Well, I wanted contributors to have fun. I wanted Spook to sort of be a free space for them to discuss big ideas.¬†We take what we’re doing very seriously. Some pieces are lighter than others. Some are dense.¬†But therein lies the beauty of Spook (I think). I wanted the magazine to be a tapestry of ideas.¬†I imagine Issue 2 will look much different than Issue 1. Spook is constantly evolving.
Evan:¬†Who else is on the editorial staff besides yourself? Are any of you academics?
Jason: The brilliant Victor LaValle was kind enough to come on as Fiction Editor and lend his genius.¬†He worked with Justin Torres on his fiction piece and really helped to mold the message of the story.¬†He has an exceptional eye for storytelling.¬†Aside from Victor, it was just me editing pieces. Not that many of them needed it.¬†
Malcolm:¬†Besides LARB and TNI (literally, right now) are there some other publications you see Spook in dialog with?
Jason:¬†I love Slake¬†and what they’re doing. It’s such a great and necessary product.¬†From the beginning I’ve always told folks I see Spook as a mix between The Paris Review and Wax Poetics.¬†So I very much see us in dialog with the new and emerging publications, as well as the more established journals.¬†But it was also important that we create and dictate our own conversation.
Tavia Nyong’o: When/where is the release party?
Jason:¬†¬†The release party will be on June 28th. I can’t yet divulge the location. Hope to announce it by Monday.
Evan:¬†How often do you plan to bring out new issues?
Jason: Spook will be biannual. I hope to have the next issue out the first week of December.¬†As a one-man operation, that’s all I can manage for now. I’m excited though.¬†Writers and scholars I admire have already reached out in regards to Issue 2. So things are moving.¬†I do want to stress that Spook isn’t just a literary magazine, though.¬†Going forward we’ll be collaborating on projects with arts organizations, other publications, etc.¬†Maybe even a gallery or two. (But you didn’t hear that from me.)
Evan:¬†Do you anticipate bringing on more editors, or will it be primarily a one-man operation for the time being?
Jason:¬†For now it’s just me. I’d love to bring more folks on in an editorial capacity.¬†My emphasis, however, is on providing compelling and thought-provoking content.¬†I know so many great minds. My goal is to expose their genius.¬†That said, I can manage the editing for now, with the occasional help from Victor.
Malcolm:¬†How can people interested in collaborating get involved with Spook?
Jason:¬†Any one interested in contributing can reach me at¬†firstname.lastname@example.org.¬†For the debut issue I reached out to friends and writers I thought best captured Spook‚Äôs essence. Going forward, I’m open to submissions.
Evan: Maybe you could end by teasing us with some highlights from Issue 1?
Jason:¬†Here’s a partial list. I don’t want to give too much away!
We also have poetry from Warsan Shire and Kyla Marshell, and fiction from Justin Torres and Angelica Cheri.¬†The magazine will be available June 26th through the website.
Evan:¬†Any other distribution? Stores, etc.?
Jason:¬†We hope to have it in a few independent NYC bookstores. Most of the distribution, though, will be online.¬†And of course, folks can purchase a copy at the release party.¬†For online buyers, a digital copy is included with the purchase, which should hold people over until the print copy arrives.