Let’s face the facts: there are a lot of literary magazines out there. This isn’t a bad thing, of course. As a reader, having so many different perspectives to choose from is actually pretty cool. It can be significantly less cool, however, when you’re starting out with your own magazine. After all, when you’re in the same category (kind of) as longstanding powerhouses like The New Yorker, Granta, and the Paris Review, how are you supposed to compete? Well, if you’re part of the crew responsible for Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, the answer to that question would be: keep them guessing.
Based in San Francisco and first published in 1998 (after editor Dave Eggers left an editing position at Esquire), McSweeney’s has long been known for changing the game. Past issues have come to the magazine’s readers in various formats, including DVDs, newspapers, bundles of mail, and even a deck of cards. They’ve published regional issues featuring Icelandic tabloids and issues where modern writers re-write or ‘cover’ classic short stories. Basically, if you can think it, McSweeney’s has probably done it – or, at the very least, something like it.
Aside from its constantly shifting format, McSweeney’s is also notable for its growth. Over the past twenty years, it has gone from a small-time journal that published authors other publications rejected to a powerhouse all its own, described by NPR as the “flagship literary quarterly” of a “literary empire based in San Francisco”. At times, McSweeney’s has been a stepping stone for now-notable authors such as Philipp Meyer (American Rust and The Son), Wells Tower (Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned), and Rebecca Curtis (Twenty Grand and Other Tales of Love & Money). Other times, it has featured the works of already-famous writers, such as Stephen King. As a publishing company, McSweeney’s has gone from a single quarterly literary journal to – in addition to that journal – maintaining a daily humor website and publishing roughly thirty books a year and, in an industry that is constantly growing and changing, it has clearly cemented its place as one of the greats.