Dark Sky magazine illuminates online writing 

Bright Future

Meshing literary magazines and the web is no easy feat.

While impatient internet surfers are unlikely to slog through a 3,000-word short story, subscribers to venerable literary journals like, say, the Antioch Review (all 5,000 of them), are just as unlikely to take an e-mag seriously.

Nevertheless, local writer Kevin Murphy aims to ride the razor's edge between hip website and highbrow discourse with his online literary journal, Dark Sky. Re-launched on Oct. 1 in a new weekly format, it features one new story, poem, photograph, work of art, and comic each Monday.

Aware of having only seconds to grab a reader's attention, Murphy (who keeps bar at Carolina's restaurant) has invested money and time in a bright, sharp new look. He has no grant funding, paying advertisers, contests with entry fees, or any other immediate plans for remuneration.

"Readers immediately determine if the site's easy to use," Murphy says. "I don't want it to be this big site that takes two weeks to read."

Dark Sky initially launched last March as a bi-monthly. The home page's prominent image was a dark-yellow sky. Murphy received a lot of submissions in the horror genre. "I'd been thinking about a site like this for some time, kind of a blog structure with categories and archiving," says Josh Nissenboim of Fuzzco, Murphy's web designer. "As for the previous design, we were able to break away by not thinking about the name at all."

A shy and intense Boston native, Murphy handles all poetry and fiction submissions. With an English degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MFA from Boston's Emerson College, he brings literary gravitas to people who keep the publication lively and colorful. Photo editor Boo Gilder and art editor Adrienne Antonson both have a "magnetic" flair, Murphy says, for finding artistic talent. (Antonson is Murphy's girlfriend; Gilder and Antonson are best known for their work with Spinster Clothing.)

The magazine is already receiving around 60 stories and 100 poems a month. Being online allows Murphy to respond personally to each, for now.

"I've had hundreds of rejections myself," Murphy says. "The few times I got something encouraging meant a lot to me."

Artists and writers from the Netherlands, San Francisco, South Korea, and Cleveland have contributed to the first four issues, but Murphy would like to see Dark Sky court a local audience as well. Charleston novelist Charlie Geer's story "John B Strength Training" ran in the Oct. 15 issue. It features the same Ignatius J. Reilly-esque professor from Geer's recent South Carolina Fiction Project piece.

To keep things lively, each issue includes a crudely-drawn, often crass "Talking Pancake" comic. A sample caption: "The left part of Nebraska is easy to draw. The right part can go fuck itself." And Murphy's own weekly contribution is a film essay with an accompanying YouTube clip. Recent subjects include the Coen Brothers' Miller's Crossing and Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt.

The magazine's name came from Murphy's struggle to get published. He and Antonson used to live in one of the giant brick houses on Archdale Street, home to many young artists over the years. Murphy would find himself awake in the wee hours, looking out at the dark night sky.

"I often would be up late — I don't know, I guess I drink too much coffee, whatever — looking out of this great window we had, out over the city. I'd be moody, thinking about submissions."

Find Dark Sky at www.darkskymagazine.com.


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