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Short fiction is the king

Out of print is an online literary magazine, which boasts of the who's who of the writing world as contributors, even as original cover art is made available to readers; the good news is that all of this is absolutely free

Where could you possibly read original fiction and excerpts of upcoming books by authors including Chandrahas Choudhury, UR Ananthamurthy, Kuzhali Manickavel and Anjum Hasan packed together under one single online platform? Out of Print, an online literary magazine, makes this literary leap possible and allows you to read short stories and novellas complete with original cover art by artists such as Pushpamala N and photographer Clare Arni among others, online. This year-old free online magazine was started by Mumbai-based Indira Chandrasekhar together with daughter Mira Brunner and niece, author Samhita Arni.


Indira Chandrasekhar. Pic/ courtesy Mira Brunner

One year down the line, Out of Print, a quarterly publication celebrated its first anniversary in September. The magazine focuses on accepting not only noted writers but is also open to submissions from unknown ones.

Visual content plays a huge role with every issue having a theme and accompanying art, photographs or illustrations. While Indira is a published writer, she is also armed with a PhD in Biophysics and has studied and done research work in institutes in India and abroad. Daughter Mira also dabbles in writing and is at university in the US. Bangalore-based Samhita is an established author; Tara Books published her recent work Sita's Ramayana. The trio edit content and contribute to Out of Print.

In an email interview, Indira tells The Guide why Out of Print is obsessed with the short story format, how visual aesthetics plays a big role in the magazine and how the publication hopes to remain free and accessible to just about anyone. 
 
How was the Out of Print magazine conceived and when?
We are on a happy cloud, having just published our first anniversary issue of Out of Print. So, it's good to think back to our beginning when the magazine was the germ of an idea. The notion of publishing an online magazine emerged about the time I started placing my own fiction in literary journals. Although a number of informal writing platforms existed, a serious online journal with edited content appeared to be relatively under-explored.

I started talking to friends and family, which includes our two marvellous editors, Mira Brunner and Samhita Arni. We had crazily intense conversations about vision and content. When we brought our graphic designer, Yamuna Mukherjee of Kiri Design and web consultants, Resource Design into the picture, Out of Print came into being.
 
What was the idea behind starting Out of Print?
Our aim is to provide a platform for writing in English, or those that are translated into English, from or about the South Asian subcontinent. There are a number of people writing in the region, and there's so much interesting work. It seemed that there would be room for one more edition of contemporary fiction. We seek literary writing, which is a somewhat broad categorisation, but what that means is we aren't really
entertaining submissions in genre fiction.
 
Why did you choose to focus on short fiction format for the magazine?
I personally like the form -- succinct yet full of depth, short yet able to tell a story. Besides, I find short fiction is particularly well suited to the online form. It is difficult to stay concentrated beyond three to four thousand words -- but a good story of that length can be read anywhere in this web-crazy world.
 
What is the process of the selection? 
We are open to submissions all year round and welcome work from unknown writers. We do also solicit work from writers whose work we like. That way, we set ourselves certain standards of quality. In addition we provide new writers the opportunity to be published alongside well-acclaimed ones.
 
What kinds of themes do you work on?
We have had one issue themed around mythology in June this year. The issue was unusual in that we paired every story with an image, a tribute to the fact that the visual aesthetic is key to the theme. Artwork was by Pushpamala N, Jitish Kallat, Ratna Gupta, Naz Ikramulla, and Ram Rahman. A non-standard piece we carried was a photo essay documenting a performance piece by Pushpamala N and Mamta Sagar. Generally, however, our releases are un-themed, although we did have one issue where all the stories were by women.  
 
Tell us a bit about what goes into designing the cover every issue?
Ah, we are proud of our covers -- they are a strong part of our identity. The cover art for each issue is carefully chosen. Our very first issue had an image by Clare Arni. We've used works by Nibha Sikander, Samhita Arni and Jan Banning as well. The mythology issue featured works from Pushpamala N's Mother India series.
 
How is the magazine different from others?
Well, like in every magazine, I am sure our distinct editorial voice is felt. We really care about how the stories read and impose our editorial suggestions on all our authors, which often gives rise to interesting deliberations on spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Log on to: http://www.outofprintmagazine.co.in/

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