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Alive 13

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..

Alive 13