[7RQ] People, Not Places / Orwellian Fraud / More Pants


A recent online conversation reminded me of a lesson learned the hard way during my time in magazine publishing.

I grew up as a voracious reader of magazines. Music, videogames, RPGs, tech, you name it; if I was into it, I’d read mags about it. Then I became a graphic designer, and over time focused on designing newsletters for studio clients, the closest I could get to laying out magazines. I then worked for a specialist education magazine publisher, further confirming it was my preferred area.

And then I went to work at my favourite publication, one I’d been reading since its launch: .net magazine at Future Publishing.

Brits of a certain age and inclination will understand the significance. In the mid-’90s Future was the premier “niche nerd” magazine publisher, spanning videogames, computers, film, audio tech, gadgets, and more. It was without question the coolest place to work in the business.

And .net was my dream job.

The reality was no letdown; my first two years were truly living the dream. I was doing exactly what I wanted, on a highly successful magazine of which I was already a fan, working as part of an industry-leading team.

It didn’t last, of course. But not because of the job.

The publishing environment changed significantly after Future underwent its IPO. As part of this continuing fallout key staff members, including .net’s editor and art director, got out sharpish.

On the bright side, this left an art director position to fill, and after seeing off several applicants I bagged it. Once again, a dream come true.

On the less-bright side, our brilliant features ed was overlooked for the editor’s chair. Unsurprisingly, she quit. Replacements were drafted in from elsewhere.

And I began to realise that it wasn’t the job. It had never been the job. It was the people.

Technically, I was in the best position I’d ever been. Senior staff member, well paid, still working for that same magazine. But I soon came to understand that those things weren’t what had made the job fun. It was the people I’d worked with.

Their replacements were… not so much fun. Months of tension ended in a public shouting match with the new editor, and I swiftly left to work on a different magazine — one with lower prestige and sales, but a staff of dedicated, smart, fun people.

Of course, that was almost twenty years ago. But ever since, as a freelance writer, I’ve sought to choose with whom I collaborate. It’s why so much of my comics work involves the same people again and again. I also have the option of not working with people I want to throttle all day long, an under-appreciated perk of freelance life…!

I’m not really one for moral lessons, but if there’s any advice here it’s to place your trust in people, and choose wisely. No matter how good everything else may be, the people you rely on are the ones who make a real difference.


THE EXPHORIA CODE is currently Read of the Month at the Crime Readers’ Association. "A page-turner to lose yourself in, so be ready for a satisfying reading session." How lovely.
(The next Brigitte Sharp book, THE TEMPUS PROJECT, is due in March. More details, and a cover, when I have them.)


You may recall a New York Times story earlier this year by David Streitfeld, in which he lamented how easy Amazon has made it for fraudsters to sell counterfeit (and downright fake) editions of popular books. Well, his latest is even more excoriating: he bought multiple copies of books by George Orwell, and every one of them was either an obvious poor reproduction or, in many case, had literally changed the text. Amazon meanwhile continues to opine that policing this stuff is really hard, man, and conveniently ignores that the problem is almost entirely one of its own making.



Did you enjoy the CHERNOBYL miniseries by Craig Mazin? Then you should check out this amazing photo essay at Lens Culture by Robyn von Swank, of the people and communities still living in its shadow.

Finally, a nice bit of tech nostalgia; the Version Museum catalogues the evolution of dozens of selected software apps, websites, operating systems, and even videogames. The mid-’90s Word screenshots somehow simultaneously fill me with longing, but also terror…


Finally finally, a reminder that PANTS IN THE BOOT is a rather hilarious (and blessedly short) show in which people from America and Britain attempt to explain the English language to each other. We just published episode #8, so catch up now: