August 4, 2012 by Marcus Speh
My own experience with editing and online literary magazine is limited to a stunt of several months with the then fairly new e-zine Metazen, founded by Frank Hinton. Under the nom de plume Finnegan Flawnt, whom I had fully made up, with his Celtic lineage, a Welsh lisp and an Irish limp. Finnegan had emerged straight from The Wake. He was Flann O’Brien’s younger brother, he looked like a disheveled Benjamin Franklin, and the murkiness of his descent undoubtedly predestined him for a career in editing. However, what Finnegan hated more than anything, was to have to read other writers’ stories. If he were still around to ask, he would probably admit that one reason was his own insecurity as a writer, and his absolute ambition, which made it difficult for him to look at anybody else’s work with the cool eye that an editor must possess. This is how I imagine the ideal editor:
“I looked at the man by the workbench now. He was short and thick-bodied with strong shoulders. He had a cool face and cool dark eyes. He wore a belted brown suede raincoat that was heavily spotted with rain. His brown hat was tilted rakishly. He leaned his back against the workbench and looked me over without haste, without interest, as if he was looking at a slab of cold meat. Perhaps he thought of people that way.”
But this blog post is not about the anonymous non-Irish non existing Flawnt or about his indeed lovely co-editors Hinton, Allen, Innis. It is about another mysterious man, a real editor, Vaughan Simons, who ran the online literary magazine > kill author for the past three years anonymously projecting himself onto a team of editors that we all could imagine very well: the less we know, the more we make up. With everyone of the 20 issues named after a dead author, >ka affectionately paraded the open coffins of both forgotten and remembered writers of the past. Though the submission guidelines says otherwise, I always felt the signature of these writers as strongly as if they had been figureheads riding ahead of a ship filled with ink stained pirates.
Besides placing 3 pieces of flash fiction in the magazine, Rites of Spring, La Pointe Courte and Three Berg Passages, I was thrilled to serve as one of the guest editors, too. This was a new experience for me, both daunting and humbling, with the result that I have not been asked to do anything like this ever since. Good riddance! I told you at the start that I wasn’t cut out to be an editor: some people won’t learn the trade, and I’d rather write.
I could go on now and talk about a bunch of other online publishing innovations that came with the magazine but what I will remember most is the superb quality and professionalism that accompanied every issue no matter how experimental content or attitude and that made me want to read it — in multiple formats — also because it was beautiful (which makes me realize how rarely this is so online) — or listen to it.
In my short history of publishing experiences, Vaughan’s magazine stands out as one of the most personal and most delightful. Having been accepted by > kill author has made me proud and was a very important validation of my writing. I am terribly, passionately grateful for that.
It suddenly makes logical sense that Simons achieved this by remaining anonymous. Nobody would respect the Nobel Prize if it was given away by Carl Löfgren, Agneta Svensson and Erik Ikea. Soon, academics will seek Vaughan out to gain a better understanding of the impact of a perfect editorial disguise on the weather in London, the Olympic prospects of British athletes and the results of suppressing a successful online identity, Pessoa-style.
Dear Vaughan, toodle-oo till the next venture from one of your over 400 very satisfied customers. There’s no reason why the next thing, literary or not, that you decide to do, shouldn’t also be a complete global blast, thanks for the ride!
 Metazen is an online literary magazine, still going strong. Its founder, Frank Hinton, currently cycles somewhere in Bavaria and has a book out. Co-editor Christopher Allen must be off and soon has a new book out. Former co-editor Julie Innis has a book out.