Arachne. No. 2
In the Publication of Arachne the editors have to meet the problem of the form of such a magazine as this. The purpose that has to be served is the progress of literature. This limits Arachne, unfortunately, to the stature of what is usually called a 'little magazine.'
In the field of fiction, English-speaking countries have both the literary fiction magazine and the little magazine. The former type—for instance Penguin New Writing—publishes a good proportion of the best: that is, if it has a plot. If a story has no plot it goes begging among the little magazines. Although most of the best prose written in English still has a plot, a very important part has not, and it is the role of the little magazine to foster this minority.
Arachne's task is to publish both types. In the absence of a New Zealand magazine concentrating upon better-class fiction (it would be impossible, in any case, to obtain enough material for such a magazine) a combination of traditional and experimental writing is the only possible course.
A similar position applies to the essay. Since Chesterton there has been a widespread horror at the subjective type of essay; the avant-garde magazine alone prints an essay in which the author's attitudes and the workings of his mind mean more than the thesis put forward. In many ways this type is still more fruitful than the objective essay, at present an over-formalised medium. Arachne, however, will feature both forms, recognising the danger of overspecialisation as well as the value of the subjective essay, especially when new fields are explored.
Poetry is the only literary form in which the little magazine publishes the mainstream of what is being produced. The larger magazines do not publish more than an occasional few verses; the only important media are the volumes and the little magazines, and these two supplement each other.
From these considerations it is possible to form a picture of the standard British little magazine. Its peak will be in the verse; the essays will be either personal or lyrical, or they will discuss a problem with which the readers of such publications are especially concerned; the stories will be lyrical or plotless, or intended to examine a peculiar state of consciousness, one not generally understood. For the rest, there will usually be notes of various sorts.
Now this definition allows a wide scope, the expression of a whole region of experience which would otherwise be not easily brought before a public. The core is a despair of being generally understood. This form has to be moulded to our conditions. The scope in New Zealand is wide; the variety of thought and experience published page 2 commercially is smaller than in Britain, so that we can collect a greater diversity of material. On the other hand the conventions within the community exclude a good deal of this thought and experience from the range of topics suitable for communication. It will be especially necessary to fight the belief that some things are too harmful or too corrupt for communication. Where the idea of communication fills the writer and his public with unusual horror, there it is likely that the essential secret lies concealed. The greatest danger is to be found in the merely decorative; we aim to print work that has a cathartic quality. It is immaterial whether or not this involves novelty and a disregard of conventions, though the editors regret that it often does, and are glad when it does not. But the conventions of decorative dissimulation are largely responsible for any emphasis upon innovation.
In all these matters, Arachne will provide a free forum; it will allow the unsuspected and the remote to be expressed, and expressed in public.