Monday, August 6, 2007

Playboy Shuts Out Authors

Somewhere between naked women and ... more naked women, Playboy is suddenly missing something.

I was recently readying a sexually-suggestive short story for submission and, upon a colleague's recommendation, prepared a mailing for Playboy. So it was with some disappointment that I learned that, as of November 2006, Playboy no longer accepts unsolicited manuscripts of any kind, including fiction, nonfiction or poetry.

Many people may find themselves suddenly asking, "Playboy published fiction?" Others yet, "Playboy actually has articles?"

Hugh Hefner once told a reunion of Playmates, "Without you, I'd be the publisher of a literary magazine." It's funny, but it's true. High-quality writing has always been part of the Playboy mix. For more than 50 years the magazine has presented its readers with new writers and modern masters, running the gamut from Woody Allen, Margaret Atwood, Arthur C. Clarke, Roald Dahl, Ian Fleming, Stephen King, Vladimir Nabokov, Chuck Palahniuk, Hunter S. Thompson, to Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

What is more, Playboy has been traditionally regarded as one of the best paying markets for serious contemporary stories, mystery, suspense, humor, science fiction and sports stories. With the highest monthly circulation of any men's interest magazine (est. 3,200,000 in 2006), the magazine also paid unusually large fees for approximately twenty fiction stories a year: $5000 for pieces up to 6,000 words in length – $2000 for short pieces. And almost any form of fiction could slide between the centerfold. The only exception, as their writer's guidelines once stated: "Fairy tales, extremely experimental fiction and out-right pornography all have their place, but it is not in Playboy."

Playboy even reminds readers of its esteemed place on the American literary landscape. A recent issue carried four classic pieces first published in Playboy magazine and penned by writers who are established as notable figures in popular culture:

Fast Times at Ridgemont High, by Cameron Crowe
The Purpose of the Moon, by Tom Robbins
Carny, by Harry Crews
The Dead Astronaut, J.G. Ballard

But the closure of this high-profile fiction outlet to unrepresented and unsolicited authors strikes the aspirant writer as a double whammy. First, it shuts out all but established writers from yet another of the dwindling supply of non-genre magazines that publish creative fiction. Second, it signals the end of Playboy as a career-making publication. At least Playboy's annual college fiction contest appears alive and well.

For my part, I knew Hef's magazine was a long shot. The mere act of applying to such a well-known and, in some circles, infamous publication is exciting. Like Stephen King, I imagine I would have treated my Playboy rejection letter as a trophy.

So while Playboy closes its doors, aspiring writers will have to point their literary searches elsewhere. And, one can imagine, they may swell the publishing reputation of some other men's magazine which, 20 or 30 years from now, will proudly publish collections of its own famous authors alongside Playboy's elite volumes.

Look out Esquire.

Friday, August 3, 2007


This past Sunday, Ann and I were lucky enough to catch Travis at the Tabernacle in downtown Atlanta. The Scottish quartet is touring in support of their new album, The Boy With No Name.

Ann and I reckoned that it had been six years since we'd seen Travis in concert (back in 2001, we were luck enough to see them twice in as many days, once as the opening act for Dido at Lakewood Amphitheater, once at a 99x LiveX performance for about a hundred people). But despite the passage of time, Ann made it readily apparent that her crush on Fran Healy is as healthy as ever. In fact, it was only tempered by her sudden interested in bassist Dougie Payne.

It was a fantastic show – a fact which we regularly communicated by text and picture message to our fellow Travis fan Will who, by a curse of timing and geography, was stuck in Virginia working. The show opened strong, with the band running in through the crowd while the Rocky theme thundered through the Tabernacle. Ann and I were close to the stage, in the sweaty press of people who both got to high-five the bad as they entered and then turn around and enjoy the show from a scant 10 feet away.

The show made me realize that Travis really needs a live album. Andy Dunlop's raging guitar is rarely heard on the band's polished studio albums. One has to turn to a Travis DVD to really get a good idea of how energetic the band is in person.

The show's highlights were easily their surprise covers of "Hit Me Baby One More Time" and "Back In Black." Fran Healy really channeled AC/DC raspy vocals on the latter. We were a little disappointed that "Blue Flashing Light" didn't make it into the encore, but the such is a monir criticism of an otherwise great performance.

The Sunday, July 29 show at the Tabernacle in Atlanta featured the following setlist:
Selfish Jean
Eyes Wide Open
Writing To Reach You
Love Will Come Through
As You Are
My Eyes
Pipe Dreams
Big Chair
Good Feeling
All I Want To Do Is Rock

Baby One More Time (acoustic Britney Spear's Cover)
Flowers In The Window (acoustic)
The Humpty Dumpty Love Song
Why Does It Always Rain On Me?
Back In Black (AC/DC Cover)

More pictures from the show can be found at