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Call it a comeback: American Short Fiction returns once again

Call it a comeback: American Short Fiction returns once again

Last summer when Badgerdog Literary Publishing announced that American Short Fiction would embark on an indefinite hiatus, the literary community at large collectively suffered the loss.

The publication, since its inception in 1991, quickly established itself as an arbiter of literary taste, maintaining consistently high standards, publishing notable contemporary writers such as Joyce Carol Oates, Dagoberto Gilb and Karl Taro Greenfeld.

After it went on hiatus, there was a great deal of uncertainty about how or when the magazine would make its return. Historically, the publication had always been based in Austin but, with its discontinuation, the future of the journal was a bit bleary.

Eventually, amid of flurry of bids from various literary groups, the Badgerdog board of directors decided that Austinites Adeena Reitberger and Rebecca Markovits would lead American Short Fiction as editors moving forward.

Last week, Reitberger and Markovits sat down with CultureMap for an interview about the undertaking, which was just today announced to the world.

CultureMap: What does the revival of American Short Fiction mean to the literary community at large?

Rebecca Markovits: Well, one of the nice things we've discovered in these early days working on getting things up and running again is how much American Short Fiction's return does mean to the literary community at large. We've gotten so many nice emails from people saying how glad they were to hear the journal was alive, how much they had mourned at the news of its suspension, what it meant to them to have a journal out there dedicated specifically to short fiction, especially a journal with such a solid reputation for publishing fresh voices and really important, interesting work.

Adeena Reitberger: Austin’s been such a generous and loving home to ASF, and we’re thrilled that the magazine’s here to stay. During the past year, our local literary scene has flourished — many new journals, presses and bookstores have emerged — which demonstrates to the national literary community how important literature, creativity and the arts are here. It’s a great time to be a literary magazine in Austin… we’re sending the message that Austin’s an important hub for publishing in the country.

CM: How did the revival of ASF fall upon the shoulders of the two of you? 

AR: This summer, when the magazine went on hiatus, I felt a tremendous sense of loss. For me, ASF wasn’t just a magazine or a reading series, it was a community that I worked in and loved, and it’s where I made many wonderful friends… I was already loyal to ASF — its aesthetic and mission and community — and Rebecca was a huge admirer of the magazine, had a lot of editorial and literary experience, and had worked with Badgerdog, too. There were a few groups who wanted ASF, and we’re so pleased that the board believed we were the right people to head the magazine going forward.

CM: What is your personal creative writing history? In other words, what qualifies you to head the journal? 

RM: We both have MFAs in creative writing and we both, at one point, held editorial positions at a literary journal — Adeena with Third Coast at Western Michigan, and myself at the University of Oxford. Adeena was deeply involved in ASF under Badgerdog… so she already strongly felt that sense of investment and loyalty to the journal. 

I was, for a long time, an editor and writer for the Fearless Critic restaurant guides, which did very well and also gave me a lot of experience in the kind of self-motivated publishing that writing, editing, designing and printing your own series involves… I'm also a regular book reviewer, and find that perhaps this is the kind of writing that I enjoy most.

Adeena and I both are really opinionated about literature… Even better, our opinions frequently don't perfectly coincide. I think that can only help the magazine be interesting and stretch its borders.

CM: Speaking of merging opinions, when is the first issue under your guidance slated to print?

RM: We're planning to publish our first issue in late spring, and we can't wait — we've already read some great stories for it. 

CM: Then submissions are already open? 

RM & AR: We're opening up submissions right away. Of course, there's a tremendous amount of backlog from the hiatus, but we're eager to get going and are reading through what we have as quickly as possible...

Submissions are online-only, through the website. There's a $3 reading fee, which pretty much equals what you would have had to spend in the old days mailing in a hard copy of a manuscript.

CM: On the topic of reading fees — er, money — what does the new ASF operation look like? 

AR: We’re making a few changes to ASF’s operations in order to ensure that the magazine’s finances stay way above the water. One change is that we plan on printing three issues a year instead of four, and we’ll be working from a home office and at various coffee shops around town in order to save money on rent.

We also understand that ours is a culture that enjoys the arts through new media forms, so in addition to publishing a print issue, we’re going to revamp the web presence by putting a lot more material from the magazine online… We also plan to create an app for a tablet or phone, and integrate downloadable podcasts.

CM: So where is the funding coming from?

RM & AR: We hope to continue getting funding from the same kinds of sources that funded the magazine in previous incarnations. We've set up a nonprofit to manage the magazine: American Short Fiction, Inc., which will be a certified 501(c)(3). 

We'll rely on a combination of national and local grants, private donations, subscription and sales income, merchandise sales and money we get from submissions and contests… We have other schemes we're cooking up, too, but that would be telling too much!

Austin photo: news_shannon_american short fiction
American Short Fiction. Courtesy of American Short Fiction
Austin photo: news_shannon_american short fiction
American Short Fiction will return with new editors. Courtesy of American Short Fiction