Remembering Scream Magazine
I first became involved with Scream Magazine (1985-1989) as a fresh-faced punk not long out of high school. By then Russell Boone as editor and his wife Katie as business manager were 4 issues down the road with Scream Magazine and at a real peak with diversity of submissions. As a literary arts magazine that featured comix (with an x) and a decidedly political edge, it seemed like an really raw-edged concept had landed on to the lap of the regions more traditionally creative landscape. But like most things that are authentically underground, they worked way in front of what is now considered to be more of cultural norm in the urban south of the USA.
Unmistakably Scream’s unique offering is partially due to Russell’s approach to choosing content, but the DNA that made up the magazine was also a strong reflection of the period it existed. The full bearing of the Reagan/Bush/Thatcher period was now weighing down heavily on the consciousness of creative and free thinking folk, and there was a strong sense that your voice was not being heard by major media outlets. Sound familiar? I believe this is one of the things that led to the original DIY and small press movement that was finally flourishing after having it’s origins in the late sixties. The youthful era of Russell and a number of his original contributors. There were strong DIY indicators reverberating even then and print was the primary medium of self expression. It was by far the cheapest medium to get your voice out if you were thrifty. But distribution was thread bare and primarily through word of mouth. So the payoff rarely came from financial rewards as much as personal satisfaction. Fortunately being creative is one of those things where the reward must first come from within by just doing the work. And when you look at the work that was achieved in Scream you can believe that was indeed the case.
Content was everything.
It’s clear from the start that much of the hard work that Russell put into the magazine came from the solicitation and editing of the fiction and poetry found it copious amounts throughout Scream. He had a few favorites like David Weaver, Jim Shell and David Wilson that would appear periodically throughout the run of fiction, but otherwise the authors were often unique to a specific issue. The same selective habit can be said for the impressive range of poetry. While the 10 Women Poets section found in issue 4 was a really standout, it is the poetry of Charles Bukowski found in issues 5 and 6 that defined the success Russell was beginning to have on a national level.
Let’s not short change the strength and impact the comix section the “Rollywood Funny Papers” set for the whole magazine. The scratchy and expressive storytelling of David Larson’s “Mr. Creative,” the elegant sci-fi tainted “The Vacation” by Lillian Jones, the humorous and unapologetic “Gutter Man” by Tim Kearny and Rick Koobs, and the short but wonderful wanderings of Matt Feazell’s various mini comics set an underground tone that would continue to evolve for much of the run. But issues also featured more hardcore punk attitude stories by Errol Engelbrecht and the Michael Moorcock Jerry Cornelius-based stories by myself, Daniel Gallant. But the art didn’t stop there. Outside of some great illustrations accompanying many articles, classic quotes and short stories, each issue sported great cover contributions by many of the same stalwart artists, and also included unique contributions by artists like Rob (Zombie) Straker.
Knowing Russell’s political leanings, I’d say he was personally proud of its range of articles, from “Censorship for Dirty Minds” to running excerpts of Ernest Hemingway’s FBI files. It was obvious Russell was mining a culmination of information and frustration that began long before Reagan. He even dug out controversial text like the Gemstone Files and the POW accounts of Lieutenant Charles Frederic Klusman in “The K Files”. And in later issues you could even find political satirists William Nealy and Dennis Draughon adding a humorous tone to the magazine’s edge.
Looking back at the strange and broad eclectic mix that was Scream Magazine, I find myself thinking of it as surprisingly classy and literary for the rough hewn content with which much of it was identified. Part of that response may be viewing it through today’s unending shock culture lens, not unlike comparing Universal’s monster movies to the slasher flicks of the 80s. But another may be that consciously or unconsciously Russell and his contributors saw their own personal screams as being more than crude ramblings of the disenfranchised, but folks seeking to understand their own creative conditions and in turn helping elevate and entertain us all.
Find out more by visiting http://alternatingcrimes.com/scream-magazine/.