Greetings from the Nether Realm,
We are delighted to present our interview with award-winning editor Dan Coxon, discussing his new project The Shadow Booth, which is currently active as a Kickstarter. We encourage each and everyone one of you to support this venture, as Dan is a close friend to G&H and he also will soon be offering a few of our publications as tiers in the crowdfunding project.
Alas, let’s begin!
CP: The Shadow Booth is an exciting venture, and also something to look forward to for all readers of Dark Fiction and Weird Fiction. What were some of the key inspirations behind developing this project?
DC: In all honesty, it’s not something I was planning to do. But I was going out to a lot of live reading events, and talking to a lot of writers, and it became clear to me that there’s an abundance of wonderful weird and eerie fiction out there that’s struggling to find a home. I run my own proofreading and editorial services company (Momus Editorial) so I’m used to putting books together for other people, and getting them to a professional standard, ready for print. It seemed a small step to start doing that for myself rather than for someone else – and to give these great stories a home. At the same time, I didn’t want it to be just another horror magazine. The stories I love are generally strange and unsettling rather than outright horror. Sometimes this means they fall within the horror genre, but at other times they don’t. If a story leaves the reader unsettled and uneasy, then it’s right for The Shadow Booth.
CP: In the Kickstarter, you mention that you are trying to end the trend of non-paying markets. Can you go a little into the background of this trend for our readers, and how it is affecting authors?
DC: Calling it a trend probably makes it sound more ominous than it actually is, but I certainly think there’s a worrying tendency to see writing as ‘content’ rather than creative work, and to assume that writers don’t need paying. Most authors spend a huge amount of time writing and crafting their stories, so to have an editor or publisher assume that they should be able to publish it for free strikes me as dismissive and slightly insulting. I used to work as a freelance journalist, and I saw the same thing happening there. There’s sometimes this deluded attitude that they’re somehow doing the writer a favor, by giving their work exposure. They’re not. If someone truly values your work, they will pay for it.
CP: If everything goes according to plan, what do you see in the future of Shadow Booth? Do you plan more volumes?
DC: The initial idea was for it to be a bi-annual journal. I’m going to stick with that for now, and see how it works out. Volume 2 will hopefully be out next summer, and Volume 3 again next winter. One of the inspirations for the look and feel of it was the Pan Books of Horror, and I liked the way they kept coming, to produce a series. We’ll see.
CP: Literary Journals are far and in-between these days. Why did you decide on a journal instead of a magazine?
DC: I’ll confess that I’m not always clear on the distinction! Some publications that I consider to be journals advertise themselves as magazines, while some magazines claim to be journals. I definitely wanted to produce something in book format though, rather than a magazine. I think it encourages people to take the writing more seriously, and it’s a format that’s nicer to read. Plus it looks good on your shelves, and hopefully has a longer shelf life. In fact, I considered calling it an anthology, but that didn’t seem to convey the sense that it would be coming out twice a year. So, basically, it was a decision based on snobbery.
CP: There are a lot of heavyweight authors involved in this project. Did you and the writers find common grounds in the aspirations for Shadow Booth?
DC: Filling the first volume proved to be ridiculously easy. What was more difficult was saying no to a couple of excellent authors, whose stories weren’t quite right for the tone I’m trying to achieve. I was amazed at how positive the reaction was, and how quickly most of the writers ‘got’ the concept. In fact, most of them already had something suitable written, just waiting to find a home.
CP: What inspired the title “Shadow Booth?” How does it factor in to the themes and purpose of the literary journal?
DC: That’s a tough one. I was just playing around with images and words in my head, very early on in the process. I wanted to reflect the dark, unsettling subject matter, which was where the ‘Shadow’ came from. But then I had an image in my head of something like an old fairground puppet booth, like the Punch & Judy booths you get here in England. There’s something quite creepy about them, quite playful but also edgy, as if anything might happen. I liked that. Interestingly, since settling on the title I’ve read two stories by Thomas Ligotti that feature puppet booths – so clearly I’m not the first to find them a little weird!
CP: Undertaking the editing and marketing for a project like this can be very time consuming. If everything pans out, will you continue other ventures as you have done in the past? If so, do you have any other projects in the works that our readers can look forward to?
DC: I’ll still be running my editorial services company, which is what pays the bills. I’ll also be writing stories all the time – I’ve been doing that too long to be able to stop now. I write mainstream literary fiction under my own name, and darker fictions under the name Ian Steadman. I’m also a Contributing Editor at The Lonely Crowd, an excellent literary journal here in the UK, which I’ll continue to work on. I’ll find the time somehow!
CP: With the recent advent of a surge in popularity of Weird Fiction and Dark Fiction, could you maybe delve a little bit into why you believe these genres are coming back to the forefront in recent years?
DC: It’s interesting, isn’t it. It’s something that seems to be happening across the board, from books to films to TV. If I wanted to analyze it in depth, I think there’s a case to be made for it being a product of the current political climate, and our fears for what the future holds. The news seems to be getting darker and weirder every day, and there’s a growing sense of terrible things brewing that are beyond our control. That plays straight into the arms of the weird and the eerie. But at the same time, I genuinely believe these things come in cycles, as most things do. Maybe its time had simply come.
CP: Finally, I wanted to ask what ways our readers can help with this project. What links can they share, how can they get the word out, etc. At G&H, we celebrate Dark/Weird Fiction and more importantly, the authors behind the works. So let us know how we can do our part!
DC: First and foremost, please order a copy of Volume 1! We’re still crowdfunding until October 25th, and this only works if we meet our target. In fact, I’m hoping to go a little over target, to make Volume 2 a little easier. Many people are opposed to supporting crowdfunded projects on the basis that they’re asking for handouts, but we’re not – we really just want people to order a copy of the journal. If you decide to go a bit further a grab a T-shirt, or a story critique, or a parcel of signed books, then that’s great. But even then, I hope you’ll be getting value for your money. We don’t want charity. Beyond that (and once you’ve backed us!) please tell people about it, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, share the links. Getting the word out is half the struggle.
The crowdfunding page is here:
You can also find us at:
Dan Coxon‘s writing has appeared in Salon, Unthology, The Lonely Crowd, Popshot, Neon, Gutter, Wales Arts Review, The Portland Review, and the DadLit anthology Daddy Cool, amongst others. He is the author of the travel memoir Ka Mate: Travels in New Zealand, and the editor of Being Dad, a collection of short stories about fatherhood that won Best Anthology at the Saboteur Awards 2016. He was long-listed for the Bath Flash Fiction Award 2017, and is currently a Contributing Editor at The Lonely Crowd.
His work has been read at live events on both sides of the Atlantic, including appearances at LitCrawl London and LitCrawl Seattle, as well as performances at Liars’ League events in London, Hong Kong and Portland. In an unlikely – and terrifying – plot twist, he once chaired a writers’ pitching panel at the SCARdiff horror convention.
Dan is a member of The Society of Authors and the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. He runs a freelance editorial and proofreading service at Momus Editorial, and is happy to take on private clients as well as established publishers. Find him on Twitter @DanCoxonAuthor.
Thanks as always for stopping by, and please make sure to visit the Kickstarter for The Shadow Booth and follow us on social media!