Friday, July 23, 2021

Six Questions for Phil Slattery, Publisher, The Chamber Magazine

The Chamber Magazine publishes short contemporary dark fiction (to 7,500 words) & poetry weekly from around the world and from all genres: mainstream, literary, science-fiction, fantasy, horror, grim, dark, suspense/thriller, action-adventure, experimental, gothic, noir, mystery/crime, cyberpunk, and more.” Dark, in this instance, should be thought of as an attitude or a mood, as opposed to a genre. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Phil Slattery: I started this magazine as publicity for my own writing in a roundabout way. Several years ago, I toyed with the idea of starting a magazine, but I didn't approach it with what I now consider to be the right mindset and so it went nowhere. Since then, I started writing two novels in earnest which I had toyed with over the previous few years. As I closed in on completing my current magnum opus, I thought that I would have better initial sales if I already had an audience established. Therefore, I resurrected The Chamber Magazine, and, to my surprise, it took off like a rocket. As to be expected, with the magazine growing, I am having to take time away from my novel-writing, but I enjoy publishing this magazine. It's becoming an addiction, though at this point, I am making nothing from it.

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

  1. Is it well written from a technical perspective? Are words spelled correctly? Is the grammar top-notch? Is the punctuation used well? These things detract from the reading experience. One cannot become engrossed in a story if one has to wade through a morass of misspellings, redundancies, poor word choices, comma splices, overwriting, and other venial literary sins. This also shows if the author took the care necessary to compose a well thought out story. 

  2. Does it keep my attention? Does it grab me and not let go? Is it intriguing? 

  3. Does the story make sense? Is it logical? Does it progress logically? Can the reader grasp what is happening from the outset?

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

PS: Anything that violates items 1-3 in the response above. Bad spelling, redundancies, and hyperbole are particularly vile.

SQF: What do you look for in the opening paragraph(s)/stanza(s) of a submission?

PS: Does the opening paragraph/stanza grab my attention? This doesn't have to be in just the first sentence but definitely in the first four-five. This could be setting up an intriguing scenario or setting the reader on a roller coaster of action or something that keeps the reader from putting the story down. 

Here are a couple of examples from movies. I always thought the opening scene of Lethal Weapon 2 was terrific. The titles rip across the screen then in the opening shot you see Mel Gibson's face up close, as if you were nose to nose with him, yelling with eyes bulging as he and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) are caught up in a high speed pursuit. That kind of scene grabs the attention from the outset whether in a movie or a book: a pure adrenalin rush from the outset. There you start in medias res. One that is much less action-filled but sets up mystery from the start is Lawrence of Arabia. You see Lawrence dying in a motorcycle crash and then see people talking about him at his funeral. You have to ask yourself: who was this guy? What made him so noteworthy?  

In literature, I think the opening from A Farewell to Arms is intriguing from an artistic perspective. You see the leaves dropping from the trees somewhere in northern Italy as the soldiers march past on their way to the front and the haunting symbolism hits you. You have to read more to see where this is leading. Those are the first three examples that come to mind. Of course, there are many others.

SQF: If The Chamber Magazine had a theme song, what would it be and why?

"Losing My Religion" by R.E.M. I think of it sometimes as my own theme song. But as regards The Chamber, it would be its theme song because it is dark and it is about self-discovery and throwing off the shackles and blinders of the accepted social beliefs and norms that our culture instills in us as children but that we leave behind as we mature. It is about looking beyond the superficial sheen and flimsy image that the world wants us to believe about it and about ourselves and getting to the core of existence, getting to its essence. Not only breaking through the Doors of Perception as Aldous Huxley called them, but going beyond them into the darkness of the hidden and the unknown, like Randolph Carter going on a Lovecraftian dreamquest.

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

PS: What do you enjoy most about publishing/editing this magazine?

I have always had an interest in cultures from around the world and world lit and this magazine gives me an opportunity to read some top-notch stories from around the world. A writer should read as much as possible, and this magazine enables me to read a wide variety of literary styles and some intriguing stories. It also teaches me about what to look for in good writing and what to avoid in bad writing, thus improving my own writing.

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

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