Gamut Magazine publishes neo-noir, speculative fiction (500-5,000 words) and poetry with a literary bent. Learn more here.
SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
Richard Thomas: I wanted to feature the kind of writing that I enjoy, the kind of stories I write, edit, publish, and teach. I did a Kickstarter last February, to gauge the interest, and we raised $55,000. So far, we've gotten a lot of interest, blowing out our 300 submission maximum each month in less than a day. I'm also eager to publish online, so that we can appeal to people all over the world, and publish a wide range of fiction. We have 800+ backers from dozens of cities and countries. Obviously the USA is the largest, but also UK, Canada, Australia, Spain, Italy, Japan, China, Germany, Belgium, Brazil, Ireland, etc. It's also important to us to be diverse—so whatever your sex, orientation, country of origin, language, current city, experience, age, etc.—we want to see your work.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
1. Originality. The neo-noir (new-black) we mention hints at that—new, contemporary dark fiction, with a literary bent. Nothing formulaic, cliché, old school, classical, or expected.
2. Diversity. As mentioned, I'd love to see new mythologies, cultures, stories, histories, monsters, and protagonists.
3. Emotion. I need the story to make me feel something. If I don't care about the characters, if you don't hook me, and have a powerful impact at the end, then it's not going to work. Dig deep and really leave it all on the page.
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?
RT: I don't like excessive, pointless gore. I will tolerate it if it works, if it's essential to the story, and is earned. I also don't like misogyny. We will not take stories that show hatred toward women (or anybody, based on sex, race, etc.). Way too many vengeance stories. And we really have a hard time with rape, molestation, and pedophiles—it will have to be an incredibly compelling story that includes justice, but that's going to be a really hard sell.
SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?
RT: That you can't just tell a story, move people around, follow the script. It has to be very personal, you have to dig deep, and it has to succeed on three levels—on the surface, with the plot and action, actually moving and doing things, entertaining; down below, emotionally, in the gut, making us feel something, with symbolism, metaphor, and imagery; and up above, intellectually, with thought, and insight, causing us to pause and think.
SQF: If you could have dinner with three authors, who would they be and why?
RT: I was lucky enough to hang out with Chuck Palahniuk and Irvine Welsh last summer, so those two are checked off. Stephen King, for sure, big fan of his, my entire life. Will Christopher Baer is a lesser-known author, but a neo-noir voice that really resonates with me. Mary Gaitskill—because what she does with sex, and sensuality, and the power inherent in these dynamics, and dysfunctions—it's so impressive.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
RT: Okay, here's an easy one—the last three books you read, gave somebody, or encouraged somebody to read. For me, it was Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer; Bird Box by Josh Malerman; Perdido Street Station by China Mieville; and All the Beautiful Sinners by Stephen Graham Jones. (Okay, I listed four.)
Thank you, Richard. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.