An Interview with Dan Russell, editor of Midnight Echo Issue 7on May 17, 2012 at 9:02 pm
With two weeks to go before the release of Midnight Echo Issue 7, the taboo issue, the Midnight Goblins, lead by Greg Chapman, cornered the issue’s editor Daniel I Russell and used the cattle prod to get him to answer a question or two…
Midnight Echo’s reputation is gaining momentum, how would does your issue stack up against the previous issues edited by the likes of Leigh Blackmore and Lee Battersby? Give us a run down on the sorts of taboos which feature in the issue.
Thanks for reminding me, Greg! It was my biggest concern when I was considering the position: how the hell do you fill such big shoes? The reputation of Midnight Echo has been well-earned through releasing quality magazines full of excellent fiction and articles. What if I ruined it all? What if my issue pales in comparison to its predecessors? Who is this joker who ruined Australia’s premier horror magazine?
Now that the magazine is at the layout stage and the stories, poetry and artwork are put to bed, I’m confident that issue 7 will fit right in with the previous issues. Our proof readers and in-house editors enjoyed the selected pieces by such names as Lee Battersby, Gary Kemble and Andrew J. McKiernan. We also have a brand new story by horror legend Graham Masterton, with an in-depth interview. Joe R. Lansdale and horror photographer Joshua Hoffine feature, with Joshua providing our stunning cover image.
And what taboos are on offer? We received probably every taboo you can think of during our submissions window. Technically, anything forbidden can be considered as taboo, but due to our desensitised modern society (he says!), I wanted really dark taboo elements. Fifty years ago, most of our horror stories would have been considered taboo, so these stories had to push the boundaries without overstepping the mark. I could have easily produced a magazine filled with splatter and extremities, but hopefully readers will be pleasantly surprised.
Specifically, we’re featuring stories that dabble in drugs, sexual fetishes, crippling secrets, addictions and basically places any decent member of society should stay away from.
Your own work seems to feature taboos. Is that why you chose that theme for ME 7?
It wasn’t really my own writing preferences that influenced the theme of the issue. I knew that I’d be doing a hell of a lot of reading for this, and I wanted to enjoy the experience. Is that selfish? I don’t know, but if I’d opted for romantic horror, I know that the submissions process wouldn’t have been as much fun for me personally, and my heart wouldn’t have been in it. That would not have led to the best magazine I could produce.
How can I sum up my love for the taboo? There’s a story I read a while ago called The Narcslaag by Matthew Fryer. It started off as pretty usual and descended darker and darker. That moment when you’re reading a story and, if you’re like me, the nastier part of your brain perks up. Is this writer taking this where I think he’s taking it? He wouldn’t dare…would he? That feeling of wanting to turn the page, but dreading what you’ll find on the other side. THAT is what horror is all about for me, and putting out a call for taboo stories I felt would garner that kind of storytelling.
This isn’t your first editing gig – you were editor for Necrotic tissue for many years. How did the editing process differ for ME 7?
Editing on the Necrotic team was easier as we went through the process four times a year, plus the submissions pile was split four ways! Then we had the democratic way of selecting the final table of contents, resulting in a combination of tastes. Yes, it felt a bit daunting at times with Midnight Echo, seeing all those submissions piling up, but now the work is done, it’s the pressure that’s the thing. This wasn’t a democratic selection process. This was me. If readers don’t like the stories…it’s on my head. And again, this being such a popular magazine, stakes are high!
I imagine you enjoy writing over editing?
With my own work, yes. The editing stage is like cleaning up after a party. The fun’s been had and the clean-up is a necessary evil! Editing a magazine is a different beast and it’s hard to compare. What I enjoy the most is discovering unknown talent. I’ve come across quite a few Australian writers who aren’t as established as others in this submissions period, and I’ll be hoping to read more from them in the coming years.
Graham Masterton features in the issue in an interview and with a brand new story….”What the Dark Does”. In his interview he expresses a fair bit of admiration for Australia and ME. Did you approach him for a story submission or was he already aware of Midnight Echo Magazine?
I’d contacted Graham in the past in the Necrotic Tissue days so when we were discussing possible big name authors to appear in Midnight Echo, he was obviously a contender. Also… this is a taboo issue! Graham’s been pushing boundaries his entire career so was a perfect fit for this particular issue. This also revealed how many huge Masterton fans there are in Australia.
Were there a lot of submissions for ME 7?
I’d love to give a figure but don’t have one at hand, but oh yes, there were many, many submissions!
Were there any stories that were just too taboo, or did too taboo guarantee you a spot in the issue ;)
The taboo itself would not have guaranteed a spot without originality, a strong voice and a high level of writing skill on show. Most of the rejections were great horror stories, but didn’t have a dark enough taboo element. Granted that a slasher story, for example, includes forbidden acts (stabbing, hacking and…sawing, for example), to stand out from the crowd stories needed more than standard horror fair.
There was nothing too taboo, but some of the delivery wasn’t quite right for the feel of the magazine. Taboo doesn’t necessarily mean extreme. Even with some of the selected stories, we stripped the gory details right back. Less became more. I wanted readers’ imaginations to fill in the gaps.
A special tribute to the late Paul Haines will feature in ME 7 – can you give us some insight into what it will involve?
We wanted to introduce Paul and his work to readers who might not have had the pleasure, and what better way than to reprint one of his most successful stories? We’re proud to feature Paul’s story A Slice of Life: A Spot of Liver. It was hard to pick just one story, especially when considering the taboo element! We also have a few quotes from the man himself and the touching speech written and delivered by Cat Sparks at the memorial service for Paul.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Just a gratuitous plug!
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(Courtesy of Greg Chapman)