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On writing for print

A painting of an eye-in-the-sky, looking over a city, by artist Jose Luis Olivares

I am about to try something really new. I’ve said that before, but this time I definitely totally mean it.

Lately, I have been getting messages from friends (Allan) about an essay of mine that appeared in Kill Screen Magazine, Issue 3: Intimacy. People, this thing was published in April. Come on.

Obviously I think you should buy the US$15 magazine, which is still available. I know a lot of people get irritated at the idea of spending that kind of money on printed media, which baffles me, but some people believe everything should be online for free. They’ve gotten used to a certain type of accessibility, and I guess that’s OK.

There are a lot of reasons you should buy the magazine, though. For one, it isn’t that old, and it’s a really good issue, and $15 isn’t that much money, and you will have this magazine forever, unless you lose it. For two, we need to support print media right now. (This is very much like a plea I meant to post back in April.) For my own part, I was already paid for my contribution to the magazine, so just buy the magazine, already. For another, we owe the person who ably and singlehandedly edited the piece, writer Chris Dahlen, because he really did do most of the work. Without a good editor, I A) would have given up, or B) would have written something much longer/shorter/worse, but probably just option A.

I wrote this essay, “All the Spaces Between Us,” very specifically for Kill Screen Magazine. It had occurred to me to pitch it to Chris one night in the car, I think in October 2010, when I was going down the highway. (This is how the magic happens, you guys.)

I realized I had some things I wanted to talk about, but if I wanted to go all the way, all-in, I’d have to write for print. That’s because the printed word affords you a freedom you don’t really get with Internet writing. Everyone can see Internet writing and then pass it around, so you have to watch what you say. Plus you don’t want to experiment with putting your whole soul on the line for strangers, and then here comes Joe Dickhead in the comments, picking it apart. Listen, Dickhead! That’s what college was for! OK!

With print, though, people have to pay for the privilege of taking your writing seriously, and because your writing isn’t very muscular anyway, a lot of people are going to flip past your essay. That’s a very freeing feeling, to know that a lot of people won’t stop to read, or else they will get exhausted and stop reading before you ever start making your Very Important Points.

What this all means is, if you can put a humiliatingly personal essay behind the wall of a garden—that is, if the reader has to pay for it, wait for it to arrive in the mail, flip to it, and then stick with it, which, these are an awful lot of hoops—then you are free to say what you like, because all the readers you never even wanted to read your essay already got weeded out. See?

For awhile I’ve thought about just posting the first two sections of the essay right here on this website. The parts about Second Life, sex, and avatars might be interesting to a lot of people who play in virtual worlds, I reasoned, but I chickened out anyway. Or maybe I think the sections about neurology are more important, and I worried that just putting up a chunk would somehow undermine everything.

But I haven’t yet convinced you to spend $15, and that’s fine. And that’s why I’m going for it!!

For a nominal fee, I will let you have a copy of my essay! I know, what a jerk! And I know that not everyone will want to pay a tiny fee, and that is why I feel so liberated!

For 99 cents—that’s the cost of one measly MP3!—here’s what you will get:

  • ~15 real-life pages of the overwrought written word
  • which comes to about 8,500 written words, actually
  • in .pdf form
  • set in Garamond!

And that’s all I can promise.

Once you have it, maybe you can print it out and pretend like you are having the Full Magazine Experience. Maybe you will even decide that you would like to read it in Kill Screen instead, with the glossy pages and all the strange and wonderful paintings that José-Luis Olivares made for it, and then you would like to go spend those 15 hard-earned dollars I was talking about before. Or, possibly, none of those things will happen, you’ll get bored with the essay, and then you will have 750 KB of dead weight on your computer.

And there you have it! That’s my idea of a sales pitch!

So here it is. You may download it for 99 American pennies. (Don’t worry: payment processing eats up 56 of those pennies, I have discovered.) I’ve never done this before, but it is pretty easy to get ahold of me if there are any problems.

7 responses to “On writing for print” »

  1. Evan says:

    I’ve always been a fan of your work Jenn – first time I heard you was actually on some of the older Retronauts episodes. For what it’s worth, here’s my take: I love print, but I don’t like dead trees. I have no issues whatsoever paying for content but I need to be able to read it on my multitude of devices.

    There’s a variety of reasons for this. I’m in Australia, and shipping physical goods is prohibitive – I can subscribe to the New Yorker on the iPad for around $60. Or, I can get a print subscription for around $250. I can get F&SF magazine on the Kindle store for around $20 a year. Or, I can get the print edition for $60. An electronic subscription to the Economist costs around $120 for the year. The print subscription would set me back around $500.

    The US is big, but your audience is bigger. The fact that Kill Screen doesn’t have a digital option is pure insanity – developing an iPad app is cheap and people like PixelMags are happy to provide containers as long as they get a cut. Amazon allows self-publishing through the Kindle store. It disappoints me that I suggested the same thing to Jeremy Parish for GameSpite a few years ago but never even received a reply.

    This isn’t aimed at you, but it’s hypocritical to claim that it’s hard to make a living writing while simultaneously ignoring all the channels self-publishing channels available, most of which are extremely attractive to the international market. What makes it even more frustrating is that there’s a dearth of games-related content in the Kindle store. The long tail hasn’t kicked in yet and even so, everyone’s playing around with print.

    Print’s dead. Paid for print layout isn’t, it’s just that the medium’s shifted.

  2. allan says:

    For what it’s worth, I do intend to purchase and read my way through Kill Screen’s back catalogue. I agree that the cost is not particularly prohibitive, but as mentioned, once you factor in shipping (I’m an international border away you see), it edges a little closer to ‘can’t justify that on this month’s budget’ territory. Mind you, I might not end up having the oppurtunity to do that, since it seems like their back catalogue is selling out..?

    I understand what you’re saying about wanting to avoid the ire of children (of all ages) who for whatever reason decide to be Very Nasty in response to a personal bit of writing on the internet. One reason I feel you are among the best people writing about videogames is how you give the subject context within your own experiences, leaving a thread of personal narrative from your time at 1UP through to the occasional post on this blog. This Kill Screen article is candid as ever, and it’s a great read.

    On the issue of print, I’m feeling Evan pretty hard. I am kind of in love with my Kindle since I hate accumulating clutter. That’s not to knock paper and ink, I do hope that it remains a viable format for small publications. I understand that traditional formats allow for much more pleasing presentation; I’m a big fan of Matt Kumar’s excellent zine EXP. (http://www.expdot.com/), for example. Living in the same city I can just buy it from him directly, but in cases like Ray’s new baby Scroll (http://scroll.vg/), and your essay here, I really appreciate the digital option. Thanks!

    Evan, some suggestions for your Kindle: Nick Monfort and Ian Bogost’s Racing the Beam (http://www.amazon.com/Racing-B.....B0032N1UMY), and the late David Sudnow’s Pilgrim in the Microworld (freely distrubutable pdf: http://facstaff.uww.edu/fishbu.....gs/PMW.pdf)

  3. Kevin Bunch says:

    As a primarily print writer myself, I will say that there is something really intangible about doing it vs. writing on the web. There is the slight disconnect from your audience (though admittedly in the town I’m writing in currently, people already know me and don’t mind telling me their thoughts) but that aloofness does really free you up to write without concerning yourself as much about who is going to see your piece. The people that will are the people who are interested. Further, for me at least it makes me feel a bit like I am writing down something that may just survive in the historical record. How many webpages have gone down over the past 20 years? How many books, newspapers, magazines, parchments, scrolls, and tablets have survived over the centuries and millenia? Not all of them, to be sure, but quite a large amount.

    In a sense, it gives you, the author, the feeling that what you write may actually matter to people not just today, but far into the future. It’s not to take away anything from writing on the web, which is enjoyable and immediate. But there just seems to be more of a commitment needed to write in physical media, and that will always take on a certain mystique for me at the least.

    Now that I have a decent income I think I may pick up some of these. I mean, it’s either that or spending it all on cd-i shit…

  4. Connor says:

    I came across The Spaces Between when I borrowed my friends collection of Kill Screen issues. It’s the most personal and thought-provoking essay on anything I’ve read in a long time, and I’m definitely going to get my own Kill Screen subscription once I have a regular income again.

  5. Evan says:

    @allan: Thanks for the recommendations! Racing the Beam is fascinating – as a random note, that’s actually the book that triggered my bank to give me a fraud warning! I was listening to a podcast on the way to work where they mentioned it so when I pulled into the gas station to fill up, I bought it on my iPad. Apparently the combination of buying petrol on my credit card followed by a international web-based transaction triggers a fraud alert!

    Ready Player One is fiction, but entertaining. Another good nonfiction is Dungeons and Desktops – it’s a good primer on the history of PC RPGs. And, Commodork isn’t specifically game-related, but it’s good “comfort reading” for those of us who grew up with tape drives and BBSs. 🙂

  6. Stella says:

    I’ve been trying to download your essay from Dreamhost for the past ten minutes, but I keep getting a server error (The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request.) Would it be possible to Paypal you the money?


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