By Steve Redwood
It might not be appropriate for me, as a contributor, to comment too much on Adrian Fry's review (www.ookami.co.uk ) of Midnight Street here, so I will avoid any comment on individual stories, except to say I think that in general the standard was very high, and the magazine attractively presented (a great cover!).
Adrian's review, too, is very good. But perceptive and well-expressed comments on the fiction itself seem to me to be somewhat marred by questionable generalisations about the editor's aims.
For example, in the editorial, apparently, 'there's the usual subtext about convincing the non-genre world of the quality of genre writing, with all the sense of innate inferiority that entails.' Is there indeed? Well, it must be an unusually slippery subtext because I can't find it anywhere. Can you?
Adrian seems to have discovered this subtext from the editorial which promises 'more focus on some of the best writers around.' Erm... what magazine does not at least claim to offer the best writers around? And can one really equate 'best writers around' with 'established writers'. ???
And, at the end, after a fair and positive 'Overall, Midnight Street is a well-presented magazine with a healthily mixed bag of styles and stories', we are told that it 'is never going to be the window on the mainstream literary world its editor seems to yearn for. But those who can tolerate the vice of ambition better than I can are in for a good read'. I'll allow that the second sentence may be tongue-in-cheek. But the first one? Is Trevor Denyer really yearning to enter the mainstream? And is Adrian himself implying that this mainstream is necessarily 'better'?
Adrian isn't happy because Trevor 'showcased' Antony Mann and Andrew Humphrey. 'Showcasing', for Adrian, is 'misguided'. Why? What does 'showcase' mean here? Surely it means these writers have a well-earned niche in the independent press because they have consistently produced excellent stuff, and so they get a chance at two stories, and an interview. It's simply an attempt to raise their profile. As Andrew Hook is doing with deserving writers in 'Elastic Press'. As D has done with Adrian himself in a poetry (and very good poetry, too) D-press booklet. What's wrong with this? Has D therefore also got this yearning? Trevor always included a wide range of material, some of it 'mainstream' (and why not? Why this unnatural divide?) and was 'showcasing' people back in Roadworks, too. (Mind you, his astonishingly execrable taste is shown by the fact that, despite expensive Christmas, birthday, saint's day, Valentine's day, first-hair-on-chin day, last-hair-on-head day, etc. presents, the unspeakable bounder has never once suggested showcasing me!)
I think a false distinction is once again being applied. Scratch any good SF or fantasy or horror writer, and you will find they have read, and appreciate, just as much, or more, 'mainstream' as anyone else. Adam Roberts in a review (in Alien Online, I think) on 'Meditations on Middle Earth' points out what ought to be obvious - that it's quite possible to like both Lord of the Rings and Ulysses.
In short, I don't quite see what point Adrian is trying to make, and why.
(A point about Adrian's other comment, that 'The magazine is closed to submissions--never a good sign, especially in a debut magazine...'. This was indeed true at the time. And I too have noticed a new trick where new book anthologies invite 'submissions'--and you find it's already full bar maybe space for a short short.) Midnight Street is in fact open to submissions again from the first of March onwards, but this was not stated in the magazine: the editor, I think, had a backlog of acceptances for the previous 'Roadworks'.)
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