When do you know that an idea or a project is so much more then you could have ever imagined? When starting out you feel like you are doing something that you would enjoy, but only hope that others may feel the same. Regardless of quantity of viewers you move forward with only quality in mind and the hope that you might be reaching someone. One day you turn around and realize that not only you have been successful, but you have created a recognizable brand. The question then becomes, what do you do next? How far can this creative space reach?
Brian Fugett, editor/publisher of Zygote in My Coffee, was faced with these questions several years ago and his answers have been quite successful. Taking Zygote from just another on-line lit journal to an edgy journal, a quality small press, and much more has been a noble mission. However, Brian is always looking ahead, amazed of where he has been, but confident of his place in the future.
Recently, Brian was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.
Orange Alert (OA): I've heard the history of Zygote, what are your thoughts on the current state of the zine? Where would you like to see it go next?
Brian Fugett (BF): To be honest, I am truly astonished by the success of Zygote in my Coffee. When I first started publishing the online-mag back on New Years Eve 2003, I never imagined it would evolve into the beast it is today. I initially felt that interest from the general public would peter-out after about a year or so and that Zygote would fold like so many other small press lit-zines had in the past. But it didn’t happen that way. Interest, readership and submissions kept growing exponentially since day one. After the first 2 years, it occurred to me that I might be on to something really unique with Zygote, so I felt obligated to keep this sucker alive and growing. I am proud to say we have managed to publish 106 online issues as well as a total of ‘9’ print books under our Tainted Coffee Press label in the span of just a little over 4 years. And you know, I gotta give a lot of credit to my co-editors Karl Koweski and Aleathia Drehmer as well as my wife Allison Wentland (the very 1st co-editor I ever had), as Zygote in my Coffee wouldn’t be where it is today without their help. Naturally, I’d like to see Zygote thrive both online and in print for at least another 5-10 years! Hell, who am I kidding, I’d like to see Zygote become the 21st Century’s equivalent of Black Sparrow Press. I know those are some big shoes to fill, but you gotta aim high, right? Otherwise, what’s the point?
OA: I've heard you are looking to produce a video project. Given your knowledge and experience in film it does seem like a logical next step. Is there anything brewing on that front, maybe Tainted Films?
BF: HAHA! You’ve been doing your homework on me, haven’t you? Tainted Films? That sounds awesome! Maybe if subscriptions to Zygote in my Coffee increase by like 150% and I receive backing from Harvey Weinstein then I might have the budget to start a full-fledged movie production company. But in the meantime, yes I am looking to produce some short, very LOW-budget video projects to be featured on Zygote in my Coffee. I definitely intend to feature a special VIDEO-COLUMN where I showcase my trials and tribulations as a small press editor/publisher. I intend to present folks with a candid view of what it takes to keep a small press mag such as Zygote afloat. One of the earliest episodes will take readers/viewers step-by-step through the production process of a PRINT PUBLICATION here at Zygote. Think ‘reality-TV’ meets the small press! It promises to be fun & entertaining whether you give a shit about poetry & publishing or not, especially since I intend to show how being an editor affects my personal life as both a husband & father. This video series will make its debut sometime in late 2008/early 2009. So watch for it!
OA: Tainted Coffee Press recently released a beautiful chapbook (honestly, one on the best looking chaps I've seen in a long time) by Justin Hyde and I've heard you are working on a collection for Chicago's Jason Fisk. How important to you, as the publisher, is the appearance and presentation of these chaps?
BF: Yeah, I agree, Justin Hyde’s book, Down Where the Hummingbird Goes to Die, turned out to be one of the best looking books we have published to date. I have to give a lot of credit to the cover artist, Andrew Lander. In my opinion, he is by far one of the BEST artists currently involved in the small press scene. His art style never disappoints and he has the quickest turn-around time of any other artist we have ever commissioned here at Tainted Coffee Press. And you know, it helps that Justin Hyde’s brand of poesy is pretty much some of the BEST you’re gonna read in the small press or beyond. I shit you not! This homeboy from Iowa has it going on. Not only is his poetry phenomenal, but he is one of the most prolific poets I have read in years. Quantity + quality are a winning combination in my opinion. And it amazes me that Justin still finds the time to be a father, husband & poetry editor over at Thieves Jargon. I both admire & envy that bastard. He’s got something special going on.
Yes, you have heard right, I am working on a collection of poetry by Chicago’s Jason Fisk. His manuscript “Deflated” is slated to be a part of the Zygote ‘69’ FLIPBOOK CHAP SERIES. The Zygote ‘69’ FLIPBOOK CHAP SERIES is a unique combination of 2 chapbooks by two different poets packaged together in which one side will feature the poetry of ONE poet & then you flip it over & it will feature a whole DIFFERENT poet! And each side will have its VERY own cover art! It’s kinda in the same vein as those flipbook style of comic books from back in the late 70’s – early 80’s! Matter of fact, the very 1st book in this series made its debut on May 4th; it features the poetry of S.A. Griffin and C. Allen Rearick and is available here.
I tell you what, as the publisher of these chaps and many other print publications, I do take a lot of pride in the appearance and presentation of each and every book we publish (and that includes the ONLINE edition of Zygote). Personally, I strive to publish perfect bound books that poets, authors and readers are going to be proud to display on their bookshelves alongside their copies of Bukowski, Kerouac, Vonnegut, Acker, Burroughs, and Hunter S. Thompson or whoever else they might idolize. I think it’s extremely important that publishers in the small press strive to publish & release some of the absolute best and aesthetically pleasing stuff they possibly can. Why, you ask? Well, I have heard countless small press publishers and poets rail against the corporate/academic sponsored mainstream scene for years now. They rant about how much SHIT is published. Yet I have seen very few small press publishers (with the exception of Sunny Outside, Main Street Rag, Bottle of Smoke Press, Thieves Jargon, Poesy and Centennial Press) deliver anything that might remotely compete with the mainstream. I have received & read numerous chapbooks and mags that have been printed on one side of typing paper or marbled resume paper, with a couple staples holding it together. I regret to say it looks like something my 2 year old daughter could slap together. And that really disappoints me. I think these small press poets/writers should be better represented than that. If small press publishers are serious about uniting and providing any sort of competition for the mainstream, then they need to quit bitching & start producing a product that is worthy. The talent is definitely there, but the commitment and means to present it are not. It is our goal at Zygote to print & publish books that provide small press poets, writers and cartoonists with the opportunity to get their work READ, NOTICED, and RESPECTED.
OA: Do you feel there is a sense of competition between the various on-line and print journals or is there more of a sense of community?
BF: Wow! Great question! Ideally, I’d like to say there is more of a sense of community between the various online and print journals in the small press—as there should be. But unfortunately, beyond a few reciprocated LINKS, that really hasn’t been the case. During my 5 years as a publisher, I have found a lot of small press publishers (both online & in print) tend to flock together in there own little selective groups. That’s sad but true. And if the small press doesn’t rise above this adolescent shit, it’s gonna remain this way forever while the boring-ass , mainstream/academic presses continue to poison future poets & readers with their sub-par poesy and unrealistic expectations. It’s kinda like high school all over again, eh?
OA: I'm sure a lot of your time is spent on Zygote projects, are you working on any personal projects?
BF: Glad you asked. Yes, numerous Zygote projects do dominate & dictate nearly every spare minute of my time, but I am excited to announce that I will eventually be publishing a COMIC BOOK with fellow cartoonist Dan Scannell. It will be titled ‘ZYGOTE IN MY COMICS’. It’s slated to come out in late 2008!
OA: What is next for Brian Fugett?
BF: Geez! Given the full-plate of projects currently in the works, I think it’s a bit premature for me to speculate as to what exactly might be next for me. But if I ever find the right artist, I’d love to publish a comic book version of my one act play “Zygote in my Coffee”! This play is very precious to me. Not many folks know this, but its title became the basis for ZYGOTE IN MY COFFEE. If I don’t find an artist for this book, then I might illustrate it myself. And if I don’t have the time to do this myself, then I might just publish it as the very 1st TAINTED COFFEE PRESS PLAY! Only time will tell.
OA: Coffee (sans zygote)? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
BF: My favorite type of coffee is anything that might give me a stronger buzz than a 5th of vodka mixed with diet coke! But if copious amounts of booze aren’t available, then I tend to settle for a GRANDE MOCHA from the coffee shop at the local Borders Bookstore.
OA: What type of music do you enjoy? Who are a few of your favorites?
BF: Sheeeeit! This is the hardest question yet! I dig all kinds of musical genres. Some of my personal favorite musicians and bands are: Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Giant Sand, Calexico, Wilco, Ween, They Might be Giants, and Radiohead.
For more information on Brian Fugett and Zygote in My Coffee go check it out!