missing in action: > kill author

Vaughan Simons: phoning in.

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[1], founded by Frank Hinton. Under the nom de plume Finnegan Flawnt[2], 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[3], 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[4]:

“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.”

“Where The Sea Gives Up Its Dead”

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[5] 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.

Vaughan Simons: undercover editor.

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.

Swedes building the first IKEA megastore

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[6]. 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!

[1] 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.

[2] Flawnt was a pseudonym of mine. While he’s not been seen alive since 16 June 2010, his flash continues to flash.

[3] Who said famously: «Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.» Not Flawnt, Franklin did.

[4]  I am reading a lot of  Chandler lately. The quote is from Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep (1939).

[5] > kill author is an online literary magazine that ceased publication with issue 20 and was edited by Vaughan Simons (as we now know), who is on Twitter and Facebook.

[6] No similarity with any living persons bearing these names is intended. IKEA isn’t actually a Swedish surname. I apologize to my many Swedish pals, friends and relatives.

6 thoughts on “missing in action: > kill author

  1. I adore > kill author! I just discovered it a few months ago. So sad it’s over. Submitted two things that unfortunately didn’t get accepted. I was not surprised as I’ve just started in on developing my writing chops. Nice to know who the mysterious editor was 🙂 and you as a guest editor! That’s pretty wonderful. As for editing I love it! I edited during my first year of college and I have just started my own literary magazine.

    • Hi, thanks for commenting—I believe while all magazines like to steep themselves in a magic potion of exclusivity and competitiveness, whether any particular magazine likes you work or not need not mean anything. At least that’s my experience, but I haven’t been at this long enough myself perhaps to see the true light of editorial excellence. In any case, >KA was a 1st class act. I wish you luck (and more than that: fun) with “churn thy butter“! I would consider submitting if I still wrote flash fiction for publication, but as it stands, I’ll only put texts on my blogs. Of course, feel free to invite any of the stories you see here for publication!

  2. Perfectly said as usual, Marcus.

    It’s true, too, that I owe a debt of thanks to Vaughan Simons. I said in a post elsewhere that, unlike most other lit mags, he got me, understood what I was trying to do. I submitted twice to >ka, and was accepted twice. However, I don’t hold that to be such a coincidence. I only submitted my finest, most honed work to >ka. Both pieces now catalogued in the >ka experienced rejection elsewhere, and subsequently, saw extra fine revision from a young writer who probably still hasn’t mastered knowing when a piece is ready to submit. “Lawn Clippings” and “Apnea” were ready when I sent them.

    As for reading, >ka always provided such a unique, poignant and entertaining lineup of writing, often featuring heavyweight sluggers of the online lit scene, but also left open the door for writers who I’d otherwise never know existed. The examples are myriad, just choose an issue and get lost in incalculable strangeness.

    Farewell, indeed, >ka. Job well done.

    • …and I think you put it perfectly, Matt. Even though a magazine is produced for a mass audience, it’s really the relationship between editor and author that accounts for the basic quality, so every author can only tell his or her own story. Love your expression “get lost in incalculable strangeness”! “Lawn Clippings” and “Apnea” were fantastic. Looking forward to read your next fine story elsewhere.

  3. Pingback: The Humbling «

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