A big thanks to Laura Garrison, Online Editor of Jersey Devil Press for taking the time to be interviewed about the interesting speculative/horror fiction (and more) literary magazine that, like Oscilloscope Lit, is forged in the “Garden State.” So, grab your flashlight, don’t get separated from your group of friends, and let’s go for a hypothetical walk through the woods with Laura Garrison.
Q. Before we get to the technical questions, let’s start with location. Clearly, Jersey Devil Press is named after the mythical (or is it?) creature of the pine barrens. I went hiking through the Pine Barrens a few summers ago, and did not see the Jersey Devil, but did encounter thousands of swarming ticks. Was that an anomalous experience, or just another day in the Pine Barrens? It was over 100 degrees that day, so I wonder if the weather had anything to do with it?
A. Yikes. That sounds awful. While erstwhile editors Eirik, Monica, and Mike have all resided in the Garden State, I have only experienced the Pine Barrens vicariously through the hoof-written correspondence of my esteemed cryptozoological colleague. I will inquire about this tick problem in my next letter.
Q. How has location inspired or altered Jersey Devil Press?
A. The magazine was born in a Jersey diner, and our heart remains Jersey Strong. Our editors are now spread out across several time zones, and we have published stories and poems from writers all over the world. We love to run pieces set in Asbury Park alongside works that take place in Kathmandu or on the moon. Basically, we appreciate anything that conveys a deeply felt sense of place.
Q. You’re now working on your 109th issue of Jersey Devil Press. What’s the secret to that type of longevity?
A. Just plain old dedication and hard work. Definitely no swamp witches or magic potions of any kind involved.
Q. Besides your literary magazine, what are some other projects you or Jersey Devil Press are involved in?
A. We’re mainly focusing on the literary magazine at the moment, but we hope to put together another print anthology sometime in the future.
Q. Jersey Devil Press is able to fuse comedy and horror, what’s the key to editing that type of work? It seems really hard to find the right balance.
A. The creative credit really goes to our talented writers; anything that makes us scream-laugh has a very good chance of getting accepted.
Q. What does it say about us as a culture that we are so drawn to a mixture of horror and comedy?
A. Northrop Frye would probably tell us we’re in a winter age of irony, and he may be right, but I think it reflects the universal human experience as well as this particular point in historical time. Being alive is mysterious and terrifying, but also frequently ridiculous. In one lifetime—sometimes in one day—there can be so much suffering and stress, but also brilliant moments of wonder and pure joy.
Q. Your next issue will be out this July (2020), given the current world events (pandemic, social unrest, fundamental unfairness and prejudice in the world), how do you decide on work for this issue? Do you avoid work that addresses the present realities or do you seek out work that amplifies the current environment?
A. We have run a small number of topical pieces in the past, but those tend to deal with issues we feel have been overlooked. There are so many thoughtful conversations already happening about the topics you mentioned, which is great! We probably won’t jump in unless we come across a piece that says something new and necessary on one or more of those things.
Q. How do you define speculative fiction?
A. Anything that takes place, in whole or in part, in an otherworld—a world we perceive as distinct from the one in which we live. Fantasy, science fiction, magic realism, supernatural horror, alternate history, and many other sub- and hybrid genres qualify.
Q. What are some of your personal creative projects that you’re working on outside of Jersey Devil Press?
A. We’ve lately been experimenting with predictive text poems, vegetarian cooking, and whimsical, toddler-friendly craft projects.
Q. What should readers know about Jersey Devil Press?
A. We love pieces that combine a strong atmosphere, a memorable voice, and a meaningful sense of purpose. Not didactic or moralistic, but existing for some worthwhile reason. Make sure you know why you wrote something and what you hope a reader will take away from it before you send it to us. Additional insights into our peculiar tastes can be found on our “Behind the Curtain” page, which also conveys the tone of our magazine quite well. (Our founding editors wrote this back in 2009, but it still applies.)
So, there you have it, we made it to the end of the interview intact, with nobody left behind in a remote shed or otherwise missing! Thanks again to Laura Garrison for her time on this. Go check out Jersey Devil Press to learn more about their work and to search their strong archives of excellent and unique fiction.