Fuck Narrative Magazine
Narrative Magazine has gotten a write up in the San Francisco Chronicle recently which seems to make a game of how completely it can crawl up the Magazine's asshole. The editors, Tom Jenks and Carol Edgarton, are revolutionaries, the article tells us, because they've put fiction on the Internet and gotten "40,000" subscribers instead of the "5,000" subscribers "most 'small magazines,' on- or offline" have. (Try 500 and you might be closer to the truth, but I digress.) Yes, Jenks and Edgarton, a loving couple, a "symbiotic" match made in yuppieville, took time off from writing their own, "acclaimed" novels and went to Martha's Vineyard to put together their revolutionary website. How revolutionary?
Narrative is also atypical in terms of quality. There is no whiff of literary hipsterism here, no veil of coolness to cover up the mediocre writing that is often found in new publications by editors who have spent their college years boning up on David Foster Wallace.
Instead, Jenks and Edgarian offer a wide, well-edited and stimulating selection of narrative forms.
If by "stimulating selection of narrative forms" you mean countless interchangeable, meandering, pointless slice-of-life vignettes that go nowhere, then yes, I see exactly what you mean.
But there is one major, overriding reason to hate Narrative Magazine, which can be seen in their submission guidelines:
Except during our open-submission periods, we require a reading fee for submission, as follows:
—a $20 reading fee for short short stories of 750 to 2,000 words.
—a $10 reading fee for up to five poems in a single submission.
—a $10 reading fee for short audio (MP3) submissions of poetry. Audio poetry submissions may be up to five minutes in length.
—a $10 reading fee for short audio (MP3) submissions of prose, for our TELL ME A STORY category (see description below). Audio prose submissions may be up to five minutes in length.
—a $20 reading fee for a single manuscript (fiction or nonfiction) of 2,000 to 10,000 words in length.
—a $20 reading fee for novellas and book-length works.
And when is their open submissions period?
Narrative is not currently accepting open submissions.
This is a magazine that asks its potential writers to pay them for the privilege of submitting work. I can't imagine a bigger middle finger to the working fiction writer, a way a magazine could treat the already struggling and unpaid short fiction writer more poorly. I mean, fuck you Narrative Magazine.
As for their supposed "40,000" member subscriber list: we linked to Narrative Magazine once in our original mission statement, and the magazine promptly started sending us regular emails about the crappy writing they were publishing, which makes me think their business ethics fall somewhere between porn spammers and casino spammers, and calls into question any numbers that come out of them. But even at face value the number is incredibly weaselly. A "subscriber" to Narrative Magazine is merely someone who has registered (for free) at their site, which you need to do to read anything on it. So someone who signed up on the site once, read a few stories and never went back is still considered a "subscriber", which is nothing like someone who plunks down money to get every issue of a magazine mailed to them. Calling registered users "subscribers" is not only misleading, it's just plain dishonest. Besides the fact that forcing people to register to look at work on your site is kind of a dick move to begin with, especially since it seems to be done with the express purpose of boosting these fraudulent "subscriber" numbers.
In short, fuck Narrative Magazine. If they're "the future of reading" then reading is not something I want to be a part of.