Friday, December 15, 2017

Six Questions for H. Andrew Lynch, Editor, Black Dandy

Black Dandy publishes literary fiction “that grips readers with vivid characters under unusual pressures. Bizarre, dreamy, unsettling.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

H. Andrew Lynch: As a long published author myself, I wanted to create a market for writers who tell stories on the fringes of genre. There are heaps of markets for labeled, traditional types of writing: mystery, horror, detective, etc. Many of them are great. Sometimes, a writer creates something that straddles genres, or belongs to no genre at all due to its outright uniqueness.First and foremost, we want to champion the beauty of magic realism—or dream realism, as it should be properly called. Stories that are rooted in a very familiar world or set of situations, but which are slightly...off. A great example is a story from our premiere issue called "Sandbar, Stop-Motion". On the surface it seems to be a slightly absurdist detective story in which a poodle is reported missing, but there are other things going on, all of which accumulate into an effect. It's not about the plot, per se, although there is a very clear one. It's about this well-defined sheriff, the colourful characters around him, a location that is unusual, and the mild but slightly disturbing introduction on the periphery of an unnatural set of circumstances. On top of this natural strangeness is an authoritative literary structure. What does this mean? It means that the characters' inner lives, the metaphorical and subtextual meaning of each action and its consequences binds the whole thing into, as I've stated before, an effect. This is not easy to do, and we are all about fiction that irritates the boundaries of easy to do.


SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

HAL: That’s an easy one. Characters that pop. Can't put it more simply. Your character is not defined by his gender, height, weight, and day job. He or she is defined by their quirks, their habits, their perspective. I don't mean "She disliked kids". I mean "She smiled at kids as if smiling at the enemy." If we get to the end of an amazing plot and don't really care about the character's journey, we're going to pass on the story.

Second is authorial perspective you don't encounter much. I love a good Lovecraft pastiche, but we're not the market for that. There are dozens of markets for that. For traditional ghost stories, for dystopian futures, etc. If you're coming to the table with a ghost story, it has to be special. It has to be driven by a character, since ghost stories are about as mundane as they get. For example, in our premiere issue, one writer retells the moment when airplanes collided with the twin towers, but he's chosen a perspective that I've never seen before. Rooted in surrealism, in an impressionist accounting of those planes as well-organised flocks of birds. It's a terrifying use of beautiful objects in nature to embody the horrific manipulation of engineering to destroy human life. But he roots it all in three distinct characters with outrageous qualities, drawing them so convincingly that the entire experience is a bit like drinking too much. Dizzying.

Third is an aversion to safety. So much entertainment is safe, and we all take refuge in safe entertainment for very good reasons. It's escapist. It allows us to cling to things that make us feel cozy. We want fiction that is jarring and unsettling. I want to be clear here. Visceral horror is not jarring and unsettling. I can do my taxes while reading or watching visceral horror. It's safe and I'm inured to it. But if you make me doubt the motives of a character, or present the possibility that my expectations are not safely protected, then you've got my attention.


SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

HAL: Not understanding what surrealism and magic realism are. Not understanding the difference between strange and horror/fantasy. Not reading our guidelines, which includes stopping to think about our reading list. Poorly formatted manuscripts—it's 2017, this hasn't been a mystery for many decades. First drafts, poor grammar. Vampires, werewolves, Lovecraft pastiches.


SQF: What magazines/zines do you read on a “regular” basis?

HAL: Bourbon Penn, Zyzzyva, McSweeney's.


SQF: Many editors list erotica, or sex for sex sake, as hard sells. What are hard sells for your publication?

HAL: Not taking that bait. We don't feel the need for a hard sell. Any quality reader is after a quality reading experience. That's our proposition. Whether we succeed or fail is up to them. All we can do is try.


SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

HAL: ”Why would anyone focus on a literary sub-genre that nobody is screaming for (magic realism)?”

What a great question! Look, I've always been interested in poking holes in expectations, bending rules, seeking to find or breathe life into the neglected art, whatever form it takes. Magic—or dream—realism is everywhere. Sometimes it's hard to detect, surrounded as it is by more concrete, less magical structures. Because it's relatively soft compared to, say, outright fantasy, people tend to shove it into the fantasy hole. Sometimes, if that feels too reductive, it gets shoved into the literary hole, where it's free to be respectable. It's all a labeling problem. I want Black Dandy to openly celebrate dream realism. It's not a cute side effect of fiction. It's a form of expression.

Thank you, Andew. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

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