the editors chair
Describing diskmag editorial styles down the ages..
It's navel-gazing time again, oh happy readers. This issue, we consider the
varied ways of approaching the task of putting together our favourite
diskmags down the years, and how things have changed.
One upon a time, I was just a humble writer, somewhere below the earthworm
in the scene hierarchy. I handed in my contributions via the pre-internet
'jiffynet' to the Teddington address of the mighty Michael Schussler, or
'Sammy Joe' to his friends and detractors alike. In spite of my seventy-odd
miles distant location, I got off my arse and managed the feat of getting
down there to visit him in his lair a couple of times. His editorial
powerhouse, or indeed penthouse looked normal, like any other mutant teenage
ninja bedroom in fact.
On one of the occasions, he fielded a phone call from someone who was
disturbed to be the target of one of the other Maggie contributors in a
diskmag-based scene feud. I saw the effortless editorial or proprietorial PR
skills deployed, to tell this person that he was basically out of luck!
There was also an interesting Computer Shopper Show, where he deployed his
natural resources of maximum chutzpah, to blag as many freebies as possible.
But not a lot else was learned about the myriad jobs that an editor needs to
know about, but still this was not an issue at that very early stage, as I
had no expectations of running my own diskmag whatsoever.
So when control of Maggie was passed to me in 1993, I had to learn the whole
task from scratch. One way around it was to have nothing to do at all with
putting together an issue. So issue 11, the first of the new regime was left
to Felice to puzzle out and do!
This was all fine and dandy in the short term, but issue 12 would need a
different approach. I opted to get help from someone more experienced in the
wacky world of diskmag menu shells, and took a rainy break with Mr Pink in
his lonely cottage in Wales for this benefit.
I was aware, from my reading of the likes of ST News, of the sociable nature
of their final construction, and we managed a decent imitatation of that
here. That week in the rainy valleys of Wales presaged a future working
relationship, the two-handed editorial team, which became the successful
model a little while later.
We even duplicated that to a small extent with Felice in the deputy chair,
for a while, literally taking it in turns to type in the menu entries, but
with me totally changing Felice's parts back to resemble my preferred style
og layout a bit later on!
In those early days, I don't tend to remember that 'managing' contributors
was much of an issue. We wrote a fair bit of the mag ourselves, gratefully
accepted whatever contributions drifted in, organised a cover picture from
the mighty K-Klass, and without too much fuss, yet another Maggie was ready.
I'm sure there were some delays, mainly Mr Pink inspired ones, but his stuff
was a vital part of the mag even fairly early on, and the wait was worth
The pinnacle of the 'sociable' model of diskmag creation came with the
Maggie 5th birthday party in 1995. This was where the epoch-making issue 18
was released. This was truly a multi-handed enterprise in all senses of the
word. You could say that the famous "Maggie Team" had properly stepped out
of the shadows for the first time. All the subsequent issues of Maggie,
until the end had a team input, and a team management dynamic to consider.
But from that time, with the demands of the new Falcon specific shell, most
of the labour of physical assembly was done by myself, with little ceremony
or ritual. Instead, there was just a feeling of deep relief that we had
somehow done it again when it was finished.
The team system, and the ability of it to respond quickly meant that we
could respond to self-imposed deadlines, if we wanted to. The Maggie issues
21 and 24, were turned around very quickly to be able to launch these on the
opening days of the Goodman Atari Shows. Also with the later issues,
technology came to our aid, with the increasing role of the internet, email,
and the web. These tools were to come in very handy for my post-Maggie
diskmag career as well.
This system was initially strong enough to survive some major life changes.
In 1998, with more time pressure on myself (hem!) I handed issue 27 over to
Mr Pink to put together. However, he, and other members of the team were
becoming rather time-poor themselves, With this multiple factors working
against us, the writing was on the wall.
For the final acts of Maggie, it reverted back to the earlier model of
central construction and control. The Maggie 10th Anniversary issue was the
last in that line, and horribly delayed to the point that "Tenth
anniversary" as a concept was distorted and almost pulled out of shape!
During the summer of 2000, the Alive Mag started up. Through the magic of
email, myself and STS managed to assemble a framework for this new
publication to exist before even one word had been written for it. Apart
from the two-man top team, there was a small but willing band of
contributors ready, it looked like another diskmag success was assured.
The editorial duopoly handed the bulk of the editors job for the
'management' role to STS. He was taking what was my role in Maggie, as the
constructor and contributor asskicker in chief. This suited me just fine, as
doing Maggie like that was very wearing at the end. I took the Mr Pink role
from Maggie as the 'super contributor'.
This worked rather well, and we continued as a two man 'virtual' partnership
through email, until the inevitable strain got to Seb and he gave it up.
When Cyclone took over, the editorial approach changed yet again. He still
took on the bruising role of the main constructor. There was a move to a
more interactive element through the irc, with regular meetings and even
progress reports! There have even been online 'live' sessions of article
construction for recent issues. This seems to work well, especially if you
are allowing plenty of lead-time between issues, and bodes well for the
continued survival of Alive. To help with the editorial workload, when he is
able to, we added Moondog as a THIRD editor too.
In conclusion, there is no single ideal perfect method to edit a diskmag.
But I would say that some degree of social interaction is much better than
slogging it on your own.
CiH, for Alive Mag, June '06..