One of the charges that’s been levelled at short fiction, and especially semipro zines, is that they’re venues kept alive by wannabe writers, that they fail to attract the highly elusive and amorphous being that is called a ‘reader’. A reader, by this definition, is a passive creature who does nothing except sit back and be taken for a ride.
A poll in my local rag last weekend raised the subject of readers being writers. The exact details don’t matter much for the sake of the argument (besides, I can’t find the reference) except to say that a high percentage of avid readers also write, or have dreams of doing so.
Humans are artful creatures. We like to express ourselves and our thoughts and dreams in what’s broadly termed ‘art’. Some art is fairly inaccessible. If you want to make films, you need a fair amount of money, a number of very good friends and a lot of time in large blocks, and I’m just talking about the backyard movie.
In contrast, writing requires no more than pen and paper, or a computer and a word processing program. It’s cheap, it’s easy. Writing is a highly participatory art. Hence, I think it’s only natural that you’ll see a lot of avid readers dabbling in writing. Ditto with music. Instruments are not very expensive, and there are plenty of venues for lessons. There is a large body of musicians, including myself, who have no aspirations of becoming professionals, but enjoy (and buy) music. Enjoyment and participation encourages consumption of the finished product, CDs, or books.
What then is so wrong with a magazine by writers for readers, a large percentage of whom are also writers? What is this amorphous, passive, largely unknown ‘reader’ anyway?