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Hackwriters Explained

“Tell me again why you do this thing for free?” Kate asked.
We had to pause a moment. We had to think of an answer.
About two years ago people didn’t ask you questions like that. It was obvious. You were running a web site to make a billion or two or glory. Now, well even the glory looks a bit slim in the wider context of the Internet.
‘It’s like this,’ Mathew Welford described, (on his way to do special effects for the new ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie in New Zealand, ‘ the Milky Way has less stars than there are web sites and no one actually knows how many stars there actually are.’
The state of the web now is a bit like reverseWarholism. ‘Everyone gets the chance to be a complete nonentity for fifteen minutes’.

And if we are the sum total of our websites, then we are a sorry confused lot indeed.
So which way to the front? Is it even cool to have a site anymore? And if so, shouldn’t it be minimal? Minimal generally means ‘we have no content’ but we look so cool. The Swedes started this way back in the sixties with spectacularly uncomfortable furniture.

So we sat on our uncomfortable used furniture - it’s plastic if you must know and ultra minimal - and we had a weekend think tank about Hacks. You know the thing. Who are we? Why are we? Do we even have an economic model - other than my salary. Should we go to print?

Immediately we could see walls. Print is about being something or other. Fiction or travel or comment. There seem to be rules about that. Everyone to their niche. Fiction magazines sort of get hidden at the back of a rack someplace in the few places that stock them. Travel magazines are everywhere now. We checked out Conde Nast Traveller (Truth in Travel). Great photographs, amazing prices, just where did I put my diamond shoes.... So a luxury designer/travel mag is out for us. Comment? Well lets see there’s Time, Newsweek, The Economist, Wired, it’s pretty well covered. We can’t afford to eat in the places where they pick up the stories about corruption in high places. Actually we can’t afford to eat in the places that would give us the low down on low places. But we can see the machine is slowing, we can watch it stop. We can talk about it because we are a cog. We know about cogs.

The beauty of a web magazine is that we can cover the world because our readers travel it. Our fiction is of a high standard because really good writers send it to us from all over and they know, like we all do, that no one is really buying short fiction unless you are a celebrity. So in the end, after many lattes and wine and something with aubergine in it, we came down to the idea that Hackwriters really should exist. It fills a need. It’s not some ego busting glossy conceit. It’s about polishing your craft, keeping the flame alive, starting out, rejoining the game. Everyone is equal. Sure it’s eccentric sometimes. We have people trying to persuade us that large women are beautiful and strange experimental fiction by young writers who can mix it with established ones because on the web no one knows your age and we aren’t telling, unless they want that.

Who gives a damn? If it’s good, it’s good. We have travellers all over sending back their experiences, writing about their journeys, good or bad. No one paid them. Conde Nast might say Truth in Travel but we pay our way. Sleep tight hope the bugs don’t bite is a reality in Hacktreks pages. Sure we’d love to slip between the sheets of a villa in Capri, but mostly we are just glad to slide off the conveyer belt that is Easyjet and tramp around a city until we find some overpriced lumpy mattress and a rusty shower. Our diaries are raw, because life is complex and stupid sometimes. We don’t edit that out. We don’t make it prettier.

If we expose the shallowness of our times, well, life is shallow and all you do is get deeper into shit anyway. What do you expect - fairytales? Well we have them too.

The wonderful thing about Hackwriters is that we have no idea of what each month is going to turn out like. Unlike most magazines which gives you everything at the beginning of the month, we are just getting good by the end of the month. It’s the nature of things. Better still, we have writers who come back to us and you can see what is happening, how they are developing and comment. We like comment. What has happened to Helen Gilchrist now she is back from New Zealand people ask? Well she’s back chasing dragons in Hacks this month.
We have people who get attached to our writers and we tend to think this is a good thing. Hell,even I get attached. So its a big welcome back to Kezia also with her story on young clubbers.

Our fiction pages have grown thanks to people like Joege Liesegang and Kelvin Mason and now Alexandra Coman. A German writing in English, an Englishman living in Denmark and a well a Romanian, add them to Australians, Americans, John Prohaska in Canada, Europeans, I kind of hope that an Asian and African voice will arrive soon as well. ** 16.07 No sooner said and Zia Zaman sends in some brilliant travel articles from Singapore. Great, thanks.

Well we can’t do print, not like magazines. You just don’t get a print magazine like Hacks and we don’t want to be at the back of the rack. We’re on the web and we’ll be there as long as you read us and write for us. Be sure to tell your friends and oh yes, if you’ve stayed this far, buy my book 'Diamonds'. You can actually order it now. It exists in some kind of electronic form anyway. But rumour is a paperback is due out soon at under $13 - so send it to a friend for their birthday. You know you want to. (USA only)

© Sam North 2001

The Great Diamond Rush of 1872 is on

And thanks to Holdthefrontpage for their continued support.

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