A literary magazine/journal is nothing without an audience, but it can’t even try to establish an audience without staffing to create the thing. That’s an obvious statement, but in the world of Mormon letters it represents a major challenge to any ongoing attempt to publish fiction. Very few fiction magazines can support a full-time staff. Many rely on institutional affiliation or at the very least on key staff who have faculty positions at institutions that will give them the time and even credit towards promotion/pay increases for their work on the journal. As far as I know there is no institution that would be willing to provide that. I don’t know that that’s the best idea anyway because of the issues I raise in the previous post. Academic or foundation support comes with a certain set of expectations that are often inimical to the more populist scope that a successor to Irreantum probably should attempt. Irreantum struggled with staffing, especially succession planning. In fact it’s amazing that it lasted as long as it did, and I personally am grateful for all of the hours that its various editors and other staff put into it.
The simple solution would appear to be paying staff. But even setting aside the difficulties of doing so, payment doesn’t solve all the problems. When editors and other staff members become reliant on income, especially when that income is small but meaningful and the community is tight (as is the funding), then it becomes more difficult to change staff when needed (as in: when people get burnt out). Unless you have a hands-off benevolent dictator of a benefactor who can provide competitive salaries but also will intervene when it is needed, it’s very difficult to keep the quality up and the product fresh.
So even throwing money at editorial staffing is no cure-all. There is one area where you generally have to fund part of the mag and that is production. Specifically layout and publication (electronic or print). As hard as it is to find good slush readers, managing editors, section editors and (sometimes) copyeditors who will work for free, it’s even more difficult to find volunteer layout artists because they don’t get the (admittedly, grueling) fun (and accolades such as they are) of the editorial work. And, to be blunt, they have a more rare skillset that should be compensated (and this applies just as much to electronic layout as for print). In addition, even though you can cut costs by not having a print version of the journal, there are still costs for electronic distribution (at the very least the cost of web hosting, but there also may be web development costs as well).
What does that mean for any successor to Irreantum? I don’t know for sure. I’d love to hear what incentives/situations would cause some you to step up and pitch in. But I do have one observation and a couple of thoughts.
1. People are sometimes willing to work for free when the work is exciting and rewarding and important and the people they are working with are cool. Having the right Scope/Positioning can help with that.
2. This would be hard, but, ideally, staffing would be modular and distributed (but also coordinated).
3. Also: ideally, the technical side of production would be set up in such a way that minimal (or even no) work would need to be made by a contracted layout artist. Â