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Steve Weddle talks about the forthcoming Needle: A Magazine of Noir

Former newspaperman and teacher, current crime fiction author, blogger, and podcaster Steve Weddle chatted with me this afternoon about his ink-on-paper brainchild, Needle: A Magazine of Noir.

UPDATE -- The debut issue of Needle, discussed below, was released April 8, 2010. Order your copy here.

Gerald So: What are your goals with Needle?

Steve Weddle: I love the online crime fiction – Plots With Guns, Thuglit, Beat To A Pulp, Crime Factory, A Twist of Noir, and many, many, many others. I’ll read a story online, then check my email, then surf around, hit a couple of blogs. That’s the way I get most of the short crime fiction in my diet. Great quality a click away.

Then I’m reading a story in Crimespree Magazine and thinking, we need more of this. We need crime fiction that you can hold in your hands, ink-on-paper. I want to thumb through a magazine and read Hilary Davison, Jedidiah Ayres, Kent Gowran, Sandra Seamans, Keith Rawson, Patti Abbott, Kieran Shea, and so many others. Online is great and the unlimited space is so fantastic. But I read so many print magazines – The New Yorker, Esquire, Foreign Affairs, and so forth – and so many literary journals – Kenyon Review, Fiction, Southern Review, etc – that I just wanted to see some more crime fiction in ink-on-paper form. The kind of fiction you want to roll up into your jacket and take with you everywhere.

So I started going on about it on Twitter, saying I wanted a crime fiction magazine that was ink on paper. And many, many people jumped in and said that was a great idea. And John Hornor Jacobs, a fellow member of Team Decker, said that he’d love to handle the art part of it. So he started working on the graphic arts and I asked around for the graphic fiction.

The goal was to get the quality of fiction we’re seeing online into print. To create a magazine of some of the best crime fiction out there.

GS: Do you see any patterns in the first batch of stories you've accepted?

SW: Well, this seems to be a pretty violent world. Some folks really take out their aggressions on others.

I was surprised at the level of cannibalism in the stories. I don’t mean that as a cool metaphor. I mean, you know, flesh eating. Crops up in a couple of stories. And dogs eating people, too. And decent looking people who turn out to be nasty to the core. And nasty people who do good things. Ha. I’m kidding. Even the nasty people are nasty.

GS: Are you serious about the cannibalism in multiple Needle stories?

SW: Yes. People are insane.

GS: What is noir to you?

SW: At some level, it’s peeling back the shadows and shining a light on the darkness – like the stories we have from David Zeltserman and Eric Nusbaum. At another level, it’s like having an argument about whether golf is a sport. Some folks say it is, while some say no. Even if we end up with the answer, knowing that won’t help me find my number two Titleist under the leaves in the woods along the fourth fairway. Noir. It’s dark. Does it glorify violence? Not always. Does it focus on the anti-hero? Not always. Whatever rules you set up, you end up finding stuff that won’t fit. All I know is that the more time I spend arguing about what noir is, the less time I have to read it.

GS: What were your inspirations for Needle?

SW: Crimespree Magazine made me want to do ink on paper. The online zines I mentioned before made me want to work more with crime fiction. But, honestly, the inspiration for the magazine is every good piece of crime fiction I’ve read, from Nathan Singer to Paul Brazill. And a large part of the inspiration has been the discussions with John Hornor Jacobs as we were taking my vision of what I wanted and using his ideas and making something that people will want to read.

GS: How did you decide on the name "Needle" for your mag?

SW: Just sorta came to me one night at the methadone clinic. Actually, we needed something that said hard and sharp. A needle is painful, but also life-saving. Depends on the situation, you know. So it seemed to fit.

GS: Has the workload been about what you envisioned it would be? Has the experience been rewarding?

SW: John has worked exceptionally hard on the art. I say he’s worked hard, but I’m just judging that from the results. The magazine looks fantastic. Sleek, sharp, and with that feeling of darkness. Exactly the right look for this magazine.

The writers, of course, have written some fantastic stories. As a writer, I know how time-consuming, no, I mean how energy-consuming that can be. Jedidiah Ayres, for example, has a story in here that’s around 10,000 words. That’s perfect for what I wanted to do. A home for longer fiction, too big for the web. But, man, that takes a heck of a lot of work.

Shorter fiction, such as the kind we’ve got from Cormac Brown, Christopher Grant, Chad Rohrbacher, and the others I’ve mentioned, sometimes takes even more work than longer pieces.

Scott D. Parker and Naomi Johnson have read through many of the stories in the magazine, working as fiction editors. Daniel B. O’Shea gave a good proof-read that I appreciate so much.

But, you know, the thing is, we all do the work, but we get to see the stories before anyone else. There’s just something cool about that, a fantastic reward.

GS: How many issues do you plan to publish per year?

SW: The plan is to go quarterly.

GS: Will they each be about the same number of pages?

SW: This one is about 160 pages of nothing but fiction. No reviews. No poems. No cartoons. I’d guess most issues will be similar in scale and scope.

GS: What's Needle's cover price?

SW: John and I looked around at some options. One of the prime examples of what we wanted to do in terms of production and distribution is The Lineup, which you do on Lulu.

I wanted someone else to worry about the store and the shipping and the printing. So the first issue is coming from there and should be under $10, which includes shipping.

GS: Do you plan to market Needle to indie bookstores or any bookstores, libraries, etc.?

SW: Looking at that now. Since it's POD, we'd have to print up some or figure something else out but yeah, looking into it.

GS: This all sounds good, Steve. Good luck with it.

SW: Thanks, man.


Paul D. Brazill said…
Top interview. I'm super proud to be part of that gang !
David Cranmer said…
Great interview.

Thanks to Steve and his A-team for making this happen. Show me where to buy and I'm there.
Crybbe666 said…
What a marvellous idea...congrats on the magazine. I'm with David...point me in the right direction and I am there!!
Steve Weddle said…
Pleased to have such great stories in the mag.

Hilary Davidson said…
I'm amazed and impressed with how swiftly Steve, John, and others have worked to make NEEDLE a reality. Very glad to be part of it. Also, can't wait to see who the cannibals are...
Frank Bill said…
Good luck man, can't wait to read the first issue.
jedidiah ayres said…
Where the hell's my copy?@?@
Excited about it Steve.

Gerald- Some creepy ass poems in the new Lineup... Decomposing Women... whew
Jarrett said…
I am just getting to know who some of these writers are, by bouncing around some of the same fiction sites you mentioned. It seems like quite a collection.

This seems to be the perfect use of POD technology. Great job, guys.
chad rohrbacher said…
Nice interview! very impressive going from concept to magazine in such a short amount of time. I look forward to reading.
Great interview. I just ordered my copy today. Can't wait to get a hold of it! Congrats to Steve & John & everyone involved.

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