Saturday, February 21, 2009

Thorn and Pagan Magazine Publishing

I like magazines. I have worked for three, owned one (still going), and sold freelance articles to a bunch of others. I taught university classes in magazine-writing and production.

So when Vol. 1, No. 1 of Thorn, subtitled Paganism in the Silicon Age, hit my mailbox, I was eager to read it.

Having made various cynical comments in the past about "Wicca as fashion statement," I was a little amused to see two fashion layouts in the magazine. One, "Creation Myth: Intelligent Designs from the Descendants of the Sun Gods," showcased Peruvian textiles. The models looked like models, and I am not sure where the photos came from. (Ex-editor that I am, I always look closely at credits, trying to determine what was in-house content and what was not.)

More fashion. The magazine's centerspread, "Phos: Primal Wear in the Forest," shows two designer/models looking sullen and "alternative" in their own designs. No word on where to buy them--or if you can--whereas the Peruvian clothes were at Saks.

Don't get me wrong. I like Thorn. It's a generational thing—in the publishing sense.

Having worked much of last summer on Green Egg Omelette: An Anthology of Art and Articles from the Legendary Pagan Journal, I had plenty of time to reflect on its content. Green Egg was -- and is -- about visions of Pagan spirituality and culture, much of it speculative.

Thorn, however, takes Pagan culture for granted. As far as I can tell, that is a Good Thing. Not that such culture is a finished product, no way. And it is still minuscule in the overall picture. But it exists.

The magazine has good writers, a wide range of articles, and most of all, the opportunity to help define what Pagan culture is. Blogs like this one are fast but fragmented. Books can take a long-range thoughtful look at what has happened and what might happen. Magazines, meanwhile, have enough lead time to get thoughtful articles but come out frequently enough to be more or less current.

From a media point of view, I think there should be a place for Thorn—and for its competitors, such as PanGaia, newWitch, and, yes, Green Egg.

I like the fact that you can subscribe with PayPal, but being conservative about these things, I would include a blow-in or bind-in card for people who want to use other payment methods.

Since Thorn is published quarterly, it is alternating print issues with online issues--the February 2009 issue is now available, with a report from PantheaConm, an interview with paranormal-romance author Sherrilyn Kenyon, and a thoughtful piece on the threat from racial-supremacists to the Pagan movement.

I have mixed feelings about this approach. Magazine-guru Samir Husni, a journalism professor who studies the industry, pans the whole e-zine concept: "So it is beyond me to understand why people, very creative people, spend so much time to create what they call “e-zines” that do nothing but imitate ink on paper."

He wants the Web to do what it does well—short prose, sound, video—and print to do what it does well.

Green Egg has switched to sending subscribers a PDF file of the print magazine—you print it yourself. Switch email addresses, though, and you're in trouble.

I want there to be a place for print magazines with good artwork and articles that you can curl up with, so I subscribed to Thorn and wish it well.

A publisher friend of mine says that Sunset magazine helped define "Southern California" for a generation. We need the Pagan magazines to do the same for Pagan culture generally.

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Anonymous Pitch313 said...

For as long as I can recall, the editorial offices of Sunset Magazine have been in Menlo Park, CA--right in the heart of the San Francisco Peninsula. Call me a quibbler over regional cultures, but this is a long way from Southern California, world view and mind set-wise. It used to be further, but all California culture is LA toned now.

I think that a successful magazine that presents today's Paganism will probably not reflect any regional Pagan culture too strongly.

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Chas S. Clifton said...

I take your point about Northern and Southern California, Pitch, but "Southern" is what the man said.

Where is the line? I used to wonder if it was not Army Street in San Francisco. ;-)

I added four words to my last sentence to clarify what I meant.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Peg A said...

I agree that we need to continue to have print pagan magazines. I still treasure all my old issues of Harvest and Fireheart and Green Egg and Obsidian and Moonrise. I miss that plain brown envelope school of mailing out the latest 'zine or newsletter.

Chas, if you'd write for it, I'd do a pagan zine. Old School.

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Pitch313 said...

The line between SF and LA regional cultures probably wasn't so much geographical as technological. National access to popular culture via cable and satellite TV/radio and extended distribution of products really blurred the boundaries of these regional cultures.

Last I looked, Sunset Magazine sorta promotes regional lifestyle differences among Western locales--Coastal, Inland, Seattle, Bay Area, LA, that sort of thing. It's probably more me, but I never thought of Sunset as especially LA, talking of styles.

There used to be some differences between SF and LA Paganism. Based maybe on which trads and lodges were rooted where.

12:00 PM  
Blogger Kensei said...

I agree that the web needs to do what it does best a good example of an Ezine that works well in the medium is Crossfit journal. Its a fitness journal but it uses video, PDF, and audio to create a well rounded product. Take a look at
If a good pagan product could emulate this concept I believe it would be very successful.

11:23 AM  
Blogger Kisses said...

I subscribed to Thorn today and am looking forward to finding it in my mailbox. I don't care much for eZines and am glad that Thorn offers print editions.

10:01 AM  

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