Last July, Olivia Dolphin and her team celebrated the launch of the first issue of their new literary magazine, Wizards in Space.
Created "by nerdy writers, for nerdy writers," the magazine was dedicated to celebrating original works, offbeat writing, and marginalized voices. Initially, Dolphin and her team intended to create a space for original work within the loving arms of the fandom community. And they've achieved that goal, but they've also managed to branch out into wider audiences, all while staying true to their core mission.
The first issue was such a success that the creators had no choice but to gear up for round two. So they set up a second Kickstarter campaign (both issues have been entirely crowdfunded) and got to work.
Issue 02 comes out this month, and I was lucky enough to convince Olivia to take a few minutes out of her day to chat with me about her experience with the magazine, and her hopes for its role in today's crazy world.
Q&A with Wizards in Space Founder, Olivia Dolphin
Q. Wizards in Space gives a platform to voices that are often suppressed. In your first issue, 87 percent of featured writers identify as female, nonbinary, genderqueer, or questioning; 20 percent identify as writers of color; and 63 percent identify as queer or LGBTQ. What steps are you taking to foster this amazing inclusivity?
A. We reach out directly to marginalized groups and organizations and encourage their members to submit. We also aim to make it clear that we are a safe publishing space, specifically including voices of marginalized groups. While work is submitted and judged with no names or cover letters, we pay close attention to the content of the stories and make sure each one is unique, unheard, or unappreciated.
We want to tell the stories that should be told in 2017.
Q. You've said before that art is one of the best ways we have to fight hate and process pain. What role do you hope Wizards in Space will take on in our current political climate?
A. There’s a Carrie Fischer quote that comes to mind here, that's become a bit of a rallying cry for the resistance as well:
“Take your broken heart and turn it into art.”
Art activism is an incredible tool, and stories are an incredible way to make differing points of view relatable and important. Giving voices to the often unheard is our goal. Providing a safe space is our goal.
While the stories aren’t necessarily politically charged or pointed, they are empowering. They are about strong characters, and strong women. They are about creating art through pain. They are about love, and loving everyone. They are about acceptance. They are about what matters. If we can add voices to the chorus of positivity and light and hope, then we can make a difference.
Q. I love that you pay your authors. Some of the most established, renowned lit mags don't do that. What are your thoughts on the value of art?
After earning my masters in Publishing and Writing from Emerson College, and learning extensively about the freelance process, and how little authors can be paid, I knew if I did a project like this, it would be important to pay writers.
My first foray into being creative was as a musician. Constantly, I would be expected to perform or play for free, or even worse, “for exposure.” Writing is no different. I never want to treat another writer the way I’ve been mistreated as a musician, writer, or intern.
Q. What do you look for in a submission? What makes a story or drawing or poem perfect for Wizards in Space?
A. We want authentic voices about lived experiences. We want a submission that successfully tells a story to anyone who reads it, not just those in our immediate community. We want writing that makes a point. A lot of nice words strung together can be beautiful, but we really strive for meaning.
Q. What are some of the most useful (exciting? terrifying?) lessons you learned while creating the first issue, that have helped you shape Issue 02?
A. Most importantly, stick to your mission. Trust your gut, and know your audience.
And never do something alone if you don’t have to.
My editorial team (who also gets paid) has a profound understanding of our mission, our brand, and our voice. Without having a team, I’m not sure I could pull this off. On Issue 02, they have really stepped up, understanding and owning the process, being strong literary critics, and making sure we accept the pieces that deserve to be accepted.
(Also, printing always comes out way darker than you think it’s going to be. Shipping will ALWAYS be more expensive than you think it’s going to be. And always put aside more money than you think you’ll need for hidden expenses and taxes.)
Q. What are you most excited about in this issue?
A. There is a satirical piece that we’ve chosen to publish that I can’t wait to see or hear people’s reactions to. We also decided to not separate out genres like we did for the first issue. This opened us up to even more storytelling and thematic opportunities in the way we ordered the pieces. Each story tells a story, but the issue as a whole is an incredible journey as well.
Q. What's next? Any big plans for your third issue?
A. None yet! I always promise myself that I don’t start thinking about the next issue until every single Kickstarter perk is fulfilled. I think it’s only fair to our backers that they have everything we owe them.
However, we do think about the brand as a whole constantly. How can we get more eyes on our mag? What organizations can we partner with? We sponsored an open mic at the Granger Leadership Academy, hosted by the Harry Potter Alliance, a 501c3 nonprofit that turns fans into heroes using the morals of Harry Potter. We also host an open mic at a local Wizard Rock house show in Woonsocket, RI, and we just completed a convention in Boston called NerdCon.
Q. Finally, any words of advice for artists who are struggling to make their voices heard?
A. The void is not as deep as you think if you pick the right void. Everything you’ve learned about being an artist, understanding your audience, and finding the right platform is TRUE. Don’t write for yourself. Write to talk to others, write to join a conversation, write to start a conversation. Find a place where those conversations are happening and post there. If your piece fits a collection on Medium.com, then use it. If a popular tag fits your writing, then use tumblr.
Find an audience, find what they are reading and doing and where they are hanging out, and be there too. Follow people on twitter or other social sites that your favorite author follows. Join the conversation. Don’t expect the conversation to come to you. You have to find your audience when you’re starting out, or else they might not know where to look for you.
Printing out the proof copy of Wizards in Space issue 02. This is real. It's really happening.
— Olivia Dolphin (@LiviDol) February 20, 2017