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Why Does the World Need Another Zine?

The Year After Staff

Reading is dead. They shout it from the mountaintops. They write about it in the magazines and newspapers — you know, those things you scan to find an interesting headline, skim for a paragraph, and put down after feeling your phone buzz. It’s dead. What are we thinking bringing yet another literary magazine into an increasingly visual, fast-paced world?


The 21st century has seen an unprecedented volume and accessibility of knowledge for each of the world's 4.5 billion internet users, ushering in new practices of how we consume, communicate, and understand our place in a shrinking world. In many cases those practices are an epochal force, bringing voice to the marginalised, livelihood to the exploited, and political agency to those suffering under oppression. We believe this power of the internet is (sometimes literally) revolutionary. But it is not without danger: our voices and channels of communication may be censored and manipulated, our private data mined in ‘digital factories’, and even the integrity of our electoral systems compromised.


We want to support the good things, and obstruct the bad ones. We want to build something positive, empowering, and democratic in this little corner of the internet. And crucially, for that to happen, we need you.


One of the practices accelerated by the internet is what sociologists call 'atomisation': the hollowing of local and traditional communities, where identity and place become increasingly abstracted, bound to an ever more universal monoculture. At its extreme, there's little between the overarching society and the individual, who interfaces with others from a certain kind of distance in a uniform, standardised way — much like indivisible, individual atoms detached from the bonds which make them stronger. The result is that people define themselves and their lives more and more on their own individual terms, licensed by a social ethic which is totally general and nonspecific. In many ways, this degrades the idiosyncratic, local communities which have always been at the core of human existence. Far from defending a cantankerous traditionalism, we think it is essential that each of us belongs, that we find place in something larger than ourselves but crucially immediate, personal, and genuinely fulfilling; something where we can contribute and recognise each other. 


That's because meaning, the definitional limit of our experience that makes life worth living, is inherently and inseparably built with other people. The value that we ascribe to and find in the most cherished moments does not originate solely within our individual selves; rather, it is discovered in our collaborative exploration of the relational space that locates and defines what matters. The world we find ourselves in is the very one we construct together, navigable only insofar as it presents itself to us and with us. So to discover who we are and what life is, we may counterintuitively have to look outside ourselves, to speak with others, to listen to what they have to say and learn from it. And hopefully, if the time is right, that encounter will give birth to new forms of thinking that grow and add something lasting to the world.


Now, the time is right. A new publication should not be an institution of prestige and exclusivity. Rather, it should be an independent and accessible platform, a forum where upcoming writers and artists can be seen, heard, and influenced. The Year After is already accomplishing exactly that: when we opened this brand-new magazine for submissions, we received well over 300 submissions in one month. Dozens of people declared that short fiction is their favorite genre and they can’t wait to read the first volume.


Short fiction is one genre that's supposed to be dead as Ray Bradbury — but then why does it persist, and does it have a future? The short story persists because readers and writers want it to survive. If it didn’t have a place in the world, then publishers wouldn’t pay for them, writers would stop writing them, and readers would stop reading them. Historically, short stories have been the lifeblood of the speculative fiction genre, and in some ways, that’s no less true today than it was sixty years ago. We would argue that not only is it alive and well, but that it has a real place in the future of fiction. As people increasingly consume their content in more compressed formats, we think the short story can truly shine: in a half hour or less, a reader can land on a distant planet, travel to a dystopian future, or share a touching moment with a father and daughter. Many short stories take less time to read than one episode on Netflix, but the possibilities are endless, and readers can experience ten times as many stories in the space it takes to read a longer work.


Then what about nonfiction? Admittedly, the reference of that term is vast, thus so too is the scope of our magazine. But intentionally so: while remaining mindful of the constraints demanded by quality, The Year After should be an open forum for ideas to be explored and readers to be challenged, and limiting our selection too narrowly would damage that ambition. Of course, this doesn't mean the pieces we feature will always be esoteric or intellectual, since a reader can be equally challenged by an entertaining and seductive essay on a topic they had previously paid no attention. Rather, it means that our editorial policy will provide a platform for topics, styles, and ideas that find no quarter in other more popular publications, which by the necessity of their market present an often monotonous and abridged depiction of what people think and care about. We believe those things are equally broad in both their diversity and generality, and a magazine which succeeds in exposing that breadth to readers has a very real and urgent niche. This will be that magazine.

The Year After is simply a place to feature new and exciting voices, a place for the stories only they can tell. It is where we will collaborate, encounter each other, and build something meaningful. We invite you to explore this publication, to view it as yours as much as ours, and to return to the thriving world of short form writing.

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