Popshot Quarterly is a literary magazine. In the beginning, it only included poems with the mission to rescue poetry from its dead end. Now it has developed into a collection of short stories, flash fiction and poetry. The other big feature is the illustrations. Most articles are given specific illustrations. As the sub-title says, it’s “the illustrated magazine of new writing”.
I have two of them. The recent one is Popshot Quarterly issue 20, the Truth issue, for summer 2018. The older one is Popshot Magazine issue 18, the Light issue, for Autumn/Winter 2017. Straightaway, you can tell that the name has changed slightly, as well as the season. It has actually doubled its publication frequency from biannual to quarterly! For an independent magazine, and especially a literary one, to have the capacity to do that is pretty amazing. Especially when many indie magazines are closing down or reducing their frequency.
About the Design
Because it’s a literary magazine, I’ll study the design in terms of how well it serves the purpose of long-form reading.
A. 24cm x 17cm or 9.5inch x 6.5 inch. 80 pages. – Pretty small in size. Easy to hold, to carry around and to read. It has an informal and friendly feeling.
B. Matt paper stock for the cover and inside. – Matt is far better for long-form reading.
C. The ‘feature’ text like titles is a san serif font. – The first impression is young and modern.
D. The body text is a serif font. – Better for reading in print. A very simple and non-distracting font, which serves its purpose well: To present the stories neatly and clearly.
E. The average number of words per line: about 15. – A bit too long in my opinion.
F. Layout: Simple one column most of the time. – Easy to follow.
G. Pull quotes in bright colour and in the san serif font. – As usual, I don’t like pull quotes. It might work for newspapers or news magazines as an attention-grabber, but I don’t think fictional articles need that. The authors have to do the job themselves.
H. I don’t know much about illustration. There is a big variety of illustration styles. They might not all be to my taste but the artworks are all bold and very interesting! (My favourite one in issue 20 is the illustration for Resting on page 54. My standard is, would I want to stick it in my diary or put it on my wall?)
Last but not least, Popshot is very reasonably priced (£6) as an independent magazine and it has, very impressively, no adverts!
I don’t understand them most of the time. Not just difficult vocabulary or grammar. There are poems where I understand every word individually, but not put together. In addition, they look like people just formatted a normal essay into shorter lines. For example, one poem called The Island. The first section goes:
Before you died
you told me
I don’t want you
to ever be lonely.
Another one called Turning Point:
In a scene
abstract with time
I see myself
in lace up boots
the jacket with the stripes
hurrying for the train.
I wonder what I have missed. Surely poems are not just normal sentences broken into multiple lines minus punctuation? Sorry if it sounds rude or ignorant, I never learnt English poetry. But I’d like to. If there are any good poets for beginners, please let me know!
My Three Favourite Stories
No poems you might have guessed.
All the ones below are from issue 18. I don’t like the stories in issue 20 as much.
The Unbearable Lightness of Janet Clark left an intangibly surreal but left a deep impression on me. It’s not a thrilling adventure, it’s ordinary people’s everyday lives. It’s not a child gone missing or bloody murder, it’s conversations between husband and wife, doctor and patient. There are not even many twists and turns to it. It’s about Janet Clark losing weight. She lost so much weight unnaturally that in the end, she became transparent and disappeared altogether, leaving some warmth in her husband arms and some tears on the pillow. I have to come to the conclusion that it’s very good writing. (I searched the author C S Mee online and found that she lives just next door in Durham!)
Last Light is about a fake scientist who captured light and sold it at a high price. His deceitful life was changed when he was hired to capture the soul of a dying man.
In the Place of Our Parents is about a town where all the adults went missing and the children got left behind. I like the writing. I like the setting and the beginning of the story. But the ending could be clearer. I’m left at the end not sure what the story is trying to say.
Interesting overall, but I won’t subscribe or buy every issue for now.