When we first published Zoetrope: All-Story a year ago, a lot of people took the time to tell me how wrong most of our ideas were. I was told that newsprint was too pedestrian, that a story journal should be a little bound book (otherwise people won't save it), that it needed staples, that we shouldn't consider commissioning fiction, and that perhaps we should just stay out of fiction altogether, rather than doing anything innovative.
Yet, here we are with a full year of issues behind us, and I couldn't be more proud. I guess we haven't played by the rules. My philosophy is that the more perishable an item is, the more people treasure it. For those who advocated for the little book, I bet more people put them on the shelves than read them. For those who wanted staples, we tried it. I like the magazine better without. The pages come alive in my hands this way. In the future we will continue to change. Perhaps the name, the size, the format with each issue--we'll see. Starting with this issue, we will have a different guest artist for each one and those decisions will remain with that person.
With the release of the first Zoetrope: All-Story, people told me they liked the look and, more important, that they thought the stories were great. But inevitably they asked me why I was trying to save money on films by putting out a literary magazine. I flinched. I hadn't noticed that I was saving money--this magazine is an extremely expensive proposition, after all.
The Francis of ten years ago would have said, "The hell with it. Why should I absorb six-digit deficits to have my motives impugned, my feelings hurt, and the effectiveness of my idea blunted." But I am not the Francis of ten years ago. I passionately love this magazine. I love the stories we print and the tradition we are furthering. I also love the cinema--that poor shackled prisoner of Wall Street, that enslaved Prometheus who feeds all the parasites with its liver. If our magazine is able to nudge up the quality of writing that becomes the basis of the current parade of clichés and formulas, which break open each Friday like horseraces and list "scores" each Monday, I would leap in the air with glee. So to all those cynical naysayers who hoped Zoetrope: All-Story would fail, I quote the immortal Brendan Behan: "Fuck the begrudgers."
We pay our writers competitively, and if any story should ever become a film, the author of that story would be paid further, as well as receive a piece of the profits. We now have four issues out. I put it to you: Do our stories seem like movie scripts? Aren't we trying to bring the best new short-story writers to a newly stimulated readership? Don't we enjoy the largest circulation of any literary journal in the country? Isn't our publication alive and pleasant to handle and look at? Aren't we daring and innovative? Isn't it exciting to look forward to our new tradition of a guest artist who changes the magazine entirely with each issue?
We promise that soon we will offer even more in terms of great writing and publishing progress on our Web site--www.zoetrope-stories.com--so look for an exciting new procedure for submissions and evaluation. We remain committed to the storytelling tradition and will continue to bring you the most vibrant stories we can find by today's most talented new writers. The sky is the limit, and the sky is blue.