You don’t work for a literary magazine for the money. You work for a literary magazine for the fringe benefits. And one of the advantages of working for a magazine like subTerrain is getting to attend a professional development symposium—you know, for free.
One of these conferences was held at a former drug and alcohol rehabilitation care facility overlooking Sidney B.C. that had been taken over by the University of Victoria and had been repurposed as a conference centre—apparently at a significant financial loss to that venerable institution. Hidden above Highway 17 between Victoria and Schwartz Bay—you had to drive up a switch-backed road through a dense second-growth forest—the centre was comfortable and tastefully decorated but couldn’t hide it’s original utilitarian underpinnings. I imagined the ghosts of the clientele from the 70s and 80s, wandering the halls late at night muttering to themselves, desperate for a line, or a drink, looking for someone, anyone, to talk to and share a smoke and convince the other to share a cab and get the fuck out of this place.
Anyhow, one of the sessions I attended was all about “proper” magazine cover design. The presenter was a man with a tendency to repeat how he was “an eternal optimist” and was “really bullish” about the Canadian magazine industry. Upon hearing these superficial epithets, seemingly directed at newbies to the industry, I knew I was in for a tedious lecture. This man, white—verging on pink—middle-aged, balding, proceeded to lead us through a Power Point presentation showing examples of what he thought to be good and bad magazine covers. I was dismayed to see that the covers he praised were overwhelmingly generic. You know the type: heads and sub-heads running down the right side of the cover superimposed on an object of consumer desire.
When it came to the part of the lecture given to describing bad cover design, in a room of my peers, my heart sank when a slide of subTerrain # 52, the “Forms” issue, came on screen. Given the presenter’s taste in magazine covers I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was especially annoyed because this was an issue where I made a contribution to the cover design. I remember suggesting to editor-in-chief Brian Kaufman that it would be amusing to base the design on an actual government or bureaucratic document, or, you know, “form.” And that’s essentially what Derek von Essen, our regular designer, came up with. Apparently the guy didn’t get the joke.
My pride wounded, I probably sat there with arms folded rolling my eyes, thinking, “What do you know, Mr. Generic magazine guy? This is art we’re trying to create here, you dickhead.” A momentary silence fell over the room.
Then, a nice girl form the UBC Creative Writing MFA program sitting behind me leaned forward and said in my ear, “I kinda like it.” »From issue #65