Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Editors: Trevor Denyer

Midnight Street is a smart looking A4 magazine published 3 times per year and containing a mixture of genre stories. I met up with editor Trevor Denyer in the subterranean vaults of CERN, somewhere under Switzerland, to discuss reading, publishing and fiction. Actually, I've never been to Switzerland; we corresponded by email.

GDJ: Like several other magazines, you’ve opted for the mixed genre approach. Are there any advantages or disadvantages to that choice?

TD: Because I have always had fairly wide ranging tastes when it comes to genres, I enjoy working across more than one or two. It broadens the possibility of receiving good quality work and, I feel, increases the magazine’s potential to reach people. Though it may be the case that not everyone will like everything, hopefully enough people will like the majority of what I publish.
I also think that, the more diverse the magazine’s remit, the more leeway I have to publish what I like and what I think the readers will like. This will include work that borders on the mainstream to that which is very firmly slipstream.
I suppose, if I had to consider the disadvantages of the mixed-genre approach, I would suggest that writers who haven’t read either the magazine or the guidelines think that it’s OK to send anything. That’s not the case, as there are limitations on what I’m likely to reject or accept. Still, I suppose writers who haven’t researched the potential market probably deserve to be rejected!

GDJ: The title suggests you’re looking for perhaps darker stories. What appeals to you about them?

TD: I think that darker stories often reflect the human condition more accurately. As a result, I tend to find them more interesting. Everyone loves an anti-hero, whether it’s a character or a situation. Often, an element of darkness in a story gives it more depth and enables the formation of characters that are more three-dimensional.
I think that, in the right hands, the potential to shock, surprise and thrill the reader is more evident where there are shades of darkness in a story. That doesn’t mean that the story has to be overtly shocking. Often the more subtle approach is far more effective. That’s what I look for.
Incidentally, the title, ‘Midnight Street’ was inspired by a line in the David Gray song, ‘This Year’s Love’: (

GDJ: Producing a magazine is obviously a lot of hard work. What inspired you to take on the task?

TD: I’ve always been interested in editing and creating magazines. This began way back when I was at school. I, together with several friends, regularly produced a hand written and illustrated magazine. It included articles, comic strips and news. We came to the attention of the local newspaper, who typed up and printed 50 copies of one issue for us!
I enjoy the whole editorial process, though have far too little time to spend on it. I have a sub-editor who reads for me. Without him, I’d sink without trace under the weight of all the submissions!
I love the creative side of producing a magazine; what stories to include, how to balance them in terms of genre and subject matter, where to put interviews and factual articles, what stories to have illustrated etc.
I think the pay-off is constructive reviews and comments from readers. That’s what keeps me inspired and helps me to make decisions on policy and production.

GDJ: Do you have a favourite sub-genre or author? What other magazines do you enjoy reading?

TD: I enjoy reading Stephen King. I’m currently half way through ‘Lissie’s Story’, which is very different to his other novels. It’s a fascinating study of character and the effects of loss.
I like stories that have that kind of depth (though not so deep that they lose me!). I also enjoy James Herbert, but more for the excitement and escapism factor. I like reading Stephen Baxter’s hard sci-fi novels. Not necessarily for the science, but for the magical way he can twist this into something amazingly creative.
Of the (relative) new comers, I think Joe Hill’s work is outstanding, as is Marion Arnott’s. I admire Joel Lane’s and Tony Richard’s work enormously.
I suppose my tastes are eclectic. I like to read autobiographies, and have recently finished reading Eric Clapton’s excellent book.
As for magazines, I’ve always enjoyed ‘The Third Alternative’ (now ‘Black Static’), though sometimes I find the stories a bit long and something of a triumph of style over content.
I think the BFS magazine, ‘Dark Horizons’ is interesting and well packaged, though sometimes a bit of a see-saw as far as material goes.
Gary Fry’s ‘Fusing Horizons’ was always a good read, though I haven’t seen that around recently.

GDJ: One of my favourite stories last year was Spin-Off Merchandise in Midnight Street #10. Other stories in that issue were quite varied. What is it you’re looking for in a story?

TD: What I look for in a story is good characterisation; depth of character; an interesting and original plot line that is not necessarily obvious. The story has to excite me enough from the beginning (because those that don’t, tend to be summarily rejected!). There has to be something that very quickly hooks me in to the story, by way of writing style/competence, excitement or promise. I have very little time to cogitate over stories!
That doesn’t necessarily mean lots of action or blood and guts. It’s often the subtleness of a story that appeals.

GDJ: Several small presses and webzines have come to a finish in the past year, while several others have started and Midnight Street has moved into double figures. Do you think there’s an answer to be found, or should we just look on the bright side – there’s always something new to read?

TD: I think that small presses and webzines are labours of love. I don’t think that anybody should go into this area expecting to make a profit, because the odds are very much stacked against you.
I do it because I enjoy it. Discovering new talent and promoting it gives me a real sense of achievement. Promoting authors who are outstanding at what they do makes the hard work worthwhile.
The small (or as I prefer to call it – independent) press has always been unstable, for the reasons stated above. Despite all of this, though, there will always be someone fool enough to take it on!

GDJ: What plans do you have for this year?

TD: Plans! What plans? All I can say is that I intend to continue publishing ‘Midnight Street’ three times a year (health permitting). I’ve had a lot of illness over the last couple of years, but things have improved now.
Things I’d like to do are to completely revamp the website, using a new software package I’ve got; perhaps resurrect ‘Legend’ as an on-line magazine; produce an annual anthology; try and do more writing myself…..but we will see. Time is very much at a premium. I’m back at work again now, and there are always other family type things you have to do.
Anyway, one thing you can be sure of is that I will continue to promote the magazine and will be lurking about in the independent press world for, I hope, many years to come.

Trevor Denyer April/May 2008

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