Bring back Zembla!

by Steve Watson in January 2009

I read the Flavorpill Q&A with novelist and political activitst Stephen Elliott this morning, and have ended up digging out my old copies of Zembla. Elliott has launched a website called The Rumpus.net, which he describes as “basically a literary magazine that plays by the rules of the Internet”.

It’s updated throughout the day with new Q&As, links, stories and pictures, and you can see how it’s living up to its strapline “waste time better”. It’s all in fairly bite-size pieces, ideal for dipping into when you should be doing something else. But then that’s really all it is, and browsing around the site I couldn’t help going and digging out Zembla to remind myself why I used to dash home from Magma to get stuck into every new issue.

Headlines so big they were unreadable; weird, flight of fancy Q&As with dead authors; big name writers criticising their own book jackets; and a free Zembla pencil for anyone who wrote into the magazine. I first saw it from issue three in 2004 and managed to get pretty much every erratically-published issue until it finally died a death a couple of years later.

Of course The Believer is very good, but it does have that unmistakable aftertaste of McSweeney’s to it – the voice of cool, modern American fiction that echos around everything Dave Eggers is involved with. I really like The Believer, but I loved the way that Zembla packed in such a broad range of influences and new material, all presented in a really innovative, engaging way.

Am I missing a trick? Is there an incredible literary magazine I should know about? Bad Idea touches on the literary but its remit is wider than that, and there are good literary zines around, but I want something that packages it all up in a big, beautiful magazine.  All suggestions very gratefully accepted.





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