Lullaby of Murdaland

Thanks to the mad skillz of Tribe, there’s a lengthy interview with Michael Langnas, the editor-in-chief of Murdaland Magazine. He talks about current crime fiction, the response to the magazine’s first issue (developing) and why it’s going to be David to the “Goliath” of EQMM & AHMM:

No one has a chance.  I want to be clear.  I’m not putting down Ellery Queen or Alfred Hitchcock magazine’s readers. I’m not putting down their writers. I’m not putting

down their editors. Everyone who’s so pissed off may want to read those

last three sentences a few times. But, hey, we are going to be snide

about a system where the only two drinks in the world are Coke and

Pepsi and they’re owned by the same company. Imagine if Microsoft and

Apple were both owned by the same company. We’d all be lucky to have

floppy discs and dial-up modems. And that’s what’s happened with the

mystery short story. It’s not healthy. The fact there’s no competition

is the reason you can pick up either magazine and feel like you’ve been

magically transported to a dentist’s waiting-room in 1971. They’re

anachronistic and genteel and totally out of touch. That’s what

absolute power does evidently. And it’s been a disaster for the crime

short story.

Of course, Langnas says this at a time when I don’t think there has been more crime short stories published (woe to those on the Edgar Award short story committee, who have a ton of reading still to do before the November 30 deadline) but there are a couple of things to tease out of here: Yes, competition is healthy, but EQMM & AHMM have their guidelines for a reason, and the trick is to get as dark or as light, as weighty or as frivolous as you wish while respecting the guidelines.

And so, Murdaland definitely fills a hole, and judging from the first issue, does so extremely well. But then, maybe it comes down to this: I’ve been in AHMM. I will be in EQMM sometime next year. And as long as I write a story that’s both good and fits their guidelines, no reason why I can’t get into Murdaland. Because it’s not about being anachronistic or out of touch, it’s about style. And the best writers know how to write in accordance to guidelines without sacrificing their own voice.