The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

And On And On And On

Posted by BigWords on November 8, 2013

Putting together the first issue of anything is exciting and awful at the same time. There are things you know you have to somehow include even of you don’t want them there, and there are other things you know you are never going to get to sit well on the page, no matter how hard you try. I settled on 76 pages as being the absolute minimum number of pages I would need per issue, mostly because that gave enough room for the kipple – both in-house ads and those which paid. From this set length, I began breaking the first issue into twelve distinct sections. The speed of each of the sections was paced out (open slow, build, big moment, slow, build, moment, wash and repeat) so that everyone could get an idea of what content was needed.

The content. That lifeblood of a magazine – words. I had a dozen or so people in mind, people who could tailor themselves to the largest audience without going middle of the road, who could appeal to a wide variety of individuals while retaining the essential themness which was critical to their writing. I threw down cash in front of receiving most of the material I wanted (which is always a good way of getting what you want) and made sure the pay was at least comparable with other titles, if not better. By the end of the third month of pre-production I had three serials and a clutch of short stories which were – IMHO – fucking awesome. Really outstanding. With those in hand, the detailed layouts were begun in earnest.

I was never enough of a traditionalist to respect the formal layouts (two or three columns being the standard), nor the largely-accepted “rule” that a block of text had to be set in the same font at the same strength for legibility. The trouble with following what has been done for so long is that there is no room to play. I had slanted columns, quotations in bold (and slightly larger than surrounding text), and used blocks of text in shapes for a couple of the pages. There was a real attempt to steer well clear of what everybody else was doing, or might in the future do. It was during the setting out of, I think, a piece on the history of New York that I had the first shift away from clean, detailed layouts.

There’s a whole range of magazines which pioneered behind-the-text illustrations – a beautiful glossy which was published during the coronation of Elizabeth II is the one which I latched onto as a perfect example of neatly circumnavigating the problems of legibility which has plagued modern titles. Using images which contain large spaces around the central image (sky, plain walls, water and white tablecloths are all perfect for this) gives room for text, while retaining the mixture of image and words. As a smart guy once (possibly) said, “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” There’s no reason that picking up on bygone ideas has to be a slavish devotion to what has gone before, and I went to town on the six pages which were going to have this feel.

Using an ancient, crumbling map procured from a private collection in Germany, I set about crafting the background to the page. The map was spotted with brown marks, had holes where there should have been information, and was so fragile that repairing it would have probably been beyond even the most skilled restorer. It was something I wanted desperately to use, despite these obstacles. Using two sheets of plastic, the map was carefully sandwiched so it could be photographed in the best quality possible. I used a few of the same people who had done image restoration on the grimoires I used in the creation of Boahi. The technique used to get images from those print-ready was rough, brutal and makeshift. It resulted in smaller images than I had expected, but the possibility of a more refined way to achieve the quality – and size – needed was put to me.

I desaturated the image to remove the brown-ness which was making the page appear muddy, and gradually increased a yellow tint on the map. It looked wonderful, and allowed some interesting slanted text. This was the process I used through other features and stories – looking for things which were tucked away in collections or completely forgotten, and setting out to bring them to light. There was so much uncovered – sketches, paintings and etchings, maps and blueprints, even the odd letter – that I figure I could have ran the history section for sixteen months or so without having to think about looking for more material. There was to be something else which would replace that aspect of the title, but while I was busy discovering interesting oddities I didn’t consider that the instruction was one which implied other concerns at work.

Despite being the originator and driving force behind the strangeness, I was only spending three or four hours a day working on the title. Jobs were portioned off to the people best suited for the tasks at hand. If notes were needed, I would supply them, or if major alterations were required I would spend a while explaining exactly what I wanted to see. The concept behind this was simple – the people I had selected were smart and unconventional, and had a sense that they were at the very edge of what was possible. They needed the push to take chances which would have been shot down in flames anywhere else – text printed backwards, upside down and at odd angles, references to things left unexplained so they could be picked up on in later issues… the freedom to just plain go nuts.

The hope was that they would go on to do amazing things on their own. To fully appreciate just how much they could accomplish if the reins were loosened.

My section on history was the first of the elements which was cut. Despite being, supposedly, in charge of things, I had to tow the line on certain aspects of what was included. Someone, probably in middle management (where all the stupidest ideas and comments in the world originate), had done a quick and entirely unscientific study of people, determining that the average reader was uninterested in history. I threw together a quick list of important works from the 90s and 00s which hinged upon a basic understanding of history, but it wasn’t to be. My first encounter with restrictions on content had been a messy, expensive, and futile battle which lingered on in the subtext of correspondence for weeks.


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