The ten-year, ten-issue ad-free magazine is setting a new precedent for publishing. Here, its co-founder Dan Crowe shares the story behind INQUE, which will feature Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Tilda Swinton, David Lynch, and more
What could – and indeed, should – a magazine look like in 2020? That was the question British publishing veterans Dan Crowe and Matt Willey asked themselves when their latest collaboration, INQUE – a large-format literary magazine launched last month – was in its nascent stages. As the founders of Avaunt and Port magazines (at the latter, Crowe is editor and publisher) they were all too familiar with the traditional magazine model; the reliance of advertisers to fund the printing and distribution of a magazine, and the way that such partnerships impact the content inside the pages.
“We wanted to know what a magazine would look like if you could remove all the increasing distractions and financial commitments,” Crowe tells AnOther via email. “Because almost everything is branded now, even content, we wanted to create a space where extraordinary creativity could take place without any restrictions ... We also wondered: what else was possible with magazine storytelling?”
So, this July – which marked a particularly tumultuous month for the publishing industry – they propositioned INQUE, a ten-year, ten-issue and ad-free magazine (“ten issues only, with a limited print run: then we stop”), funded for the rest of the decade via a Kickstarter campaign. Seeking to raise £150,000, the sum will go towards the printing and distribution of the magazine, but also the raft of writers, social commentators and photographers which will feature within its pages – each of which, Crowe says, will “respond to this extraordinary decade” with their contributions. At the end of the project, they hope to be left with a unique document of our time.
Those voices include the author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who will collate new African fiction for the magazine; Jonathan Lethem, whose new novel will be serialised over the ten issues; and Tom Waits, whose project is yet to be decided. There will also be commentary from Wesley Morris of The New York Times and Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff of gal-dem (“INQUE will be very opinionated – there is so much to be angry about,” says Crowe), as well as other names from across the cultural spectrum, from David Lynch, Tilda Swinton and Werner Herzog, to Max Porter, Ben Lerner, and Ocean Vuong, among others. “What we can expect is innovation, new work and strong opinions from great minds,” Crowe says.
As the Kickstarter for the project ends this week – the numerous “rewards” ranging from a ten-year subscription to one-of-a-kind art prints, dependent on the donation amount – Crowe introduces INQUE, in his own words.
“We wanted to know what a magazine would look like if you could remove all the increasing distractions and financial commitments, and had a proper budget to pay writers and photographers. Because almost everything is branded now, even content, we wanted to create a space where extraordinary creativity could take place without any restrictions – apart from editing and quality control! We also wondered: what else was possible with magazine storytelling?
“INQUE will have a very strong focus on documenting and commissioning new work – how writers, thinkers and artists respond to this extraordinary decade. We have some incredible social commentators such as Wesley Morris from The New York Times and Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff from gal-dem; INQUE will be very opinionated – there is so much to be angry about. We will also be including exclusive art prints with special issues and it will differ in that it’s a huge magazine: 28 centimetres x 35 centimetres. I hope it will come across as being passionate, brilliant, kind and somewhat confused by the world it’s found itself in.
“It’s a work in progress but we have a lot of amazing people signed up already. New African fiction is being chosen by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; Jonathan Lethem is writing a new novel across the ten issues; Tom Waits is writing something new, although I don’t know what exactly yet – this is the fun bit; David Lynch, Hanif Kureishi, Brian Eno, Tilda Swinton, Kae Tempest, Wesley Morris, Joyce Carol Oates, David Lammy, Ben Lerner, the list goes on … But we will be publishing new voices alongside this, sometimes in translation: this is as important as anything else in INQUE. What we can expect is innovation, new work and strong opinions from great minds. Some were friends or people I have worked with previously, most I just wrote to and asked if they wanted to be part of a weird ten-year literary experiment. Who could say no to that?
“I think [collaboration] is the nature of the game right now. We need to work together and share, be kind, understand one another more. It isn’t just posturing: our late capitalist system is collapsing, getting anything done now is only going to be possible if we do it for some sort of greater good, in groups, small or large. This can be done easily with a magazine, which is nothing if not a series of collaborations. It’s also more fun.
“What makes a print magazine special? The relationship between words, images, design, paper and format is bewitching, mesmerising, it has some special power and can’t be deleted or re-uploaded, but also, when commissioning new fiction from great writers, there is a very real sense of history taking place on the page in front of you, in real time ... That’s what I want as a reader.”
To find out more, and to back INQUE, visit their Kickstarter.