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When you think of fear-inducing creatures, you may think of werewolves, vampires, or goblins. Whatever comes to mind, early American lumberjacks referred to things that went bump in the night as "fearsome critters". The same creatures help inspire a new generation of writers and artists, including myself.
That's one reason I'm honored to have my own art featured in Fearsome Critters' upcoming second issue. After all, an appreciation for old culture in today's times will always win our hearts at Quail Bell. I asked Editor-in-Chief Korbin Jones, who is also author of the forthcoming poetry collection songs for the long night (QueerMojo), some questions about the new issue and what it takes to run a literary journal in the modern world...which like the old lumberjack days, relies on lots of hard labor.
The name Fearsome Critters was inspired by the way the lumberjacks used to name "legendary creatures". How does this name represent the mission of the magazine?
Well, to be honest, Critters started out as a journal for area high schoolers. I started the journal with some friends at Northwest Missouri State University during my undergraduate program, we were looking at schools within 50 or so miles of the campus. Since a few of us are from that area, we wanted to encourage rural high schoolers to create and nurture their artistic sides. The term “critter” was actually a playful term we use with those in our friend group, predating the journal. Fellow founder and our first Editor of Prose, Bailey Weese, initiated this sort of tradition, as she has proud Southern roots. One night, I was browsing random Wikipedia articles and came across one for fearsome critters. I shared it with Bailey, and she said, “That’s it. That’s the journal name.” We liked that lumberjack folklore is relatively young and rooted in rural areas, reflective of our then-target base, and we loved the idea of telling high schoolers to “create something fearsome.” We want them to break the mold, the rebel against traditions. However, the outreach faced many issues, such as unresponsive or dismissive teachers, mailing issues, and hyper-sensitive e-mail filters. After a few months, we decided to revamp the project. We still wanted to keep it focused on younger voices, which tend to be dismissed, and decided to focus on creators of our generation: Millennials. We also expanded our base globally, as Millennials are a truly global generation, similar yet individual in our experiences, many of us having friends that transcend borders. Millennials are also infamously rebellious and individualistic, to the point that some see as near-mythic creatures, capable of toppling entire industries and reshaping cultural norms. We are Fearsome Critters.
What are your long-term goals for Fearsome Critters?
We try to take it issue by issue, but growth is always our main goal. We honestly thought VOLUME ONE would be a one-off, but I was able to find a new editorial team for VOLUME TWO who have been incredibly dedicated and supportive of the journal. As we wrap up VOLUME TWO, we’re already planning for a VOLUME THREE. We all agree that three is a nice number, so even if we stop after three, at least it’ll be a nice number! Still, we are hopeful. As for now, we are wanting to grow Critters financially. VOLUME TWO was almost completely funded by me and the Editor of Poetry, Kelley Fox—a few hundred of dollars spent for the website, hundreds for the Submittable account, and all the labor (reading, design, typesetting, etc.) done by us. VOLUME ONE had the benefit of being funded by Northwest Missouri State University’s College of Arts and Sciences. While we couldn’t provide copies for every contributor, I think we were able to cover about half. Although VOLUME TWO won’t have such funding, we have a great sponsor—Courtney Valentine—who donated enough money for us to create the Courtney Valentine Prize for Outstanding Millennial Art, which all of VOLUME TWO’s pieces are up for. The prize consists of a $50 cash prize and a complimentary copy of the journal. Additional funds provided by Valentine will pay for contributor copies for the top contributor in each genre, which will be selected by the editors. Moving forward, we want VOLUME THREE to have a more concentrated effort in terms of fundraising. We want to raise approximately $1,500 to pay for VOLUME THREE contributor copies, production costs, mailing costs, and other miscellaneous costs that we’ve been paying out of pocket, which is a bit tough for a collection of graduate and post-graduate students! Of course, we want to continue to expand and diversify our contributor base, but we also want the funds to properly honor them.
Why is it important to have a millennial-focused literary magazine and what kinds of values do you think being a more generational-focused magazine has as opposed to older, traditional ones?
There are so, so many journals and magazines out there that accept people of any age, which we cannot deny is incredibly important. After all, most of us submit to them! Our mission is different, though. We want to distill the diverse, yet shared, Millennial experience into a single volume each year for our reader base. Despite our contributors varying in age, race, gender, sex, ethnicity, ability, and many other aspects, many of us have similar experiences. We’ve grown up with a world that continues to connect and globalize. We were the last generation to experience the pre-personal tech boom. We’ve all been impacted—in varying degrees—by new civil rights movements, growing terrorist threats, the incorporation of technology into daily life, intense movements both for and against progress, nativism and nationalism battling globalism and inclusivity, the failure of economic monoliths, and so much more. This zeitgeist is something we are bask in 24/7 both in real life and online, and this impacts how the artists of our generation respond to the world around them. We’ve seen a rise in personal expression thanks to social media platforms, in the creation and sharing of political art, and in a push to include those traditionally left out of the literary and artistic canons. We here at Fearsome Critters recognize this and want to provide a snapshot, a record that will live on in print and online. That’s what our journal is for.
Tell us about the second issue. What can readers anticipate that is similar or different from the inaugural issues?
For VOLUME TWO, we decided to create a focus. We love through-lines in collections, but don’t want to limit all the submissions to a single theme, so we decided on a focus—the dark, the underbelly, the marginalized, the grotesque, the macabre. Our contributors definitely delivered! There is a lot of fantastical, surreal, haunting imagery throughout the issue. There are stories of witches and monsters, poems about oppression, and cartoon ghosts. Of course, we also have lighter works in the mix, but there is definitely a stream of darkness that haunts the undercurrent of the volume. After arranging the issue, we found that there are fewer nonfiction pieces and a lot of magical fiction stories. We expected a change, though, because we’ve diversified our staff, and expect to add and swap out members for each volume to keep it fresh. Our board consists of queer folks, people of color, immigrants, and individuals with disabilities. We are all dedicated to creating a platform for voices that need to be heard, and I could not be prouder of the coming issue. We all hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
What kind of work do you look for in submissions?
We’re pretty open-minded to most submissions! Unlike a lot of journals and magazines, we do accept genre pieces, especially magical realism and fabulism when it comes to fiction. We really enjoy hybrid and experimental works of nonfiction. We’re suckers for confessional and narrative poetry, but always seek pieces outside of those nets. Honestly, so long as your work isn’t advocating for bigotry and you’re a Millennial (or Millennial-adjacent), we are interested in your work!
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Order your own copy of Fearsome Critters VOLUME ONE here:
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.