Editorial: I NO WE CAN REIGN HERE
I think it’s an answer to “How does a community that doesn’t reproduce, reproduce itself?”––a question raised by one of the volunteer researcher/archivists at the San Francisco LGBT Archives where I was digging for reflections a few years ago.
This question regularly shines before me, warming; and reminds me that what I do is part of this explicitly queer archival continuum. What LTTR has done as a team for five years now, I can define as Archiving contemporary gay spirit and action. We make documents. And we set up situations for people to come together, whether physically to dance and witness a performance or as literally as two texts sitting side-by-side or back-to-back on the pages of a journal printed one thousand times.
LTTR was started in the same way I’ve done everything I do. If there’s a will, there’s a way. DIY. Steam, energy, sweat, many hands, many minds, and many bodies, and all the resources we share. In this sense, what we have done has ensured that LTTR is community-supported. LTTR is the submissions, artists, and support necessary to make each journal. The journal is borne out of all this commitment and love, not out of the studio/office/bank account of one and one interest, but rather a multitude of energies.
Each of us supports the economics of our collaboration with her labor. The ten dollars that are paid for each copy go toward production costs. The excess is set aside for future issues/project expenses. We have never paid ourselves. We pay for production and the project sustains itself from issue to issue. We work within our means and fantasies, amongst the resources available to us, and with the kindness, generosity, and belief of many.
I remember when we released the third issue of LTTR, Practice More Failure, a fellow artist acquaintance approached me at our film/video screening to congratulate us. He said something along the lines of, “You must be doing well…” and I had to explain that while we are doing well, we were actually in debt due to the printing of the journal (paid for mostly by credit card). And he said something that surprised and slightly offended me: that if something isn’t making money, then it isn’t successful; sweetly criticizing our model.
And yes of course we could sell ads or find a sponsor to pay our expenses, but we are trying to develop a sustainable alternative model. We struggle with it all the time, but I think it is working. Embed the economics of the project in the community––ask friends for help, buy/sell a copy of the journal, and participate in something that attempts a new strategy.
For this issue V, LTTR is working with Capricious for publishing and distribution. This new relationship has created a clearing where we can re-examine how we have been working. We want something more sustainable, to research and apply for grants, and to let LTTR into more bookstores internationally. LTTR can be better distributed.
While maintaining our love for creating something beautiful, thoughtful, and totally available, we have decided to raise the price of the journal. The value of ten dollars has changed over the past five years, and still, we’re trying to be both affordable and realistic about covering the expenses. We hope the reception of this decision is met with understanding.
Since the first issue and the journal’s first release, our scenery has changed: more independent journals abound, more excitement/desire for queer work in public settings, and offers and invitations instead of always hustling.
So where do we go from here? I think we’re with Helene Cixous,
“…a blessing is the undetermined path.”