There's a new magazine in town and it is purporting to be quite unlike any of the others in town. If you run in certain circles in Istanbul, chances are that you may have seen That Magazine in various bookshops and cafes around the Beyoğlu area.
The new publication doesn't list the coolest, hippest places to be seen in Taksim, like many English-language, expat-oriented publications; instead it's really going for more of a contemplative angle on life in Istanbul.
In talking to Simon Johnson, That Magazine's editor, via email recently about his decision to start the publication, I was thrilled to discover that he was familiar with an English-language publication that made the rounds in Istanbul in the late 1990s called Istanbullshit. The magazine, as you might guess by its name, was weird, alternative and generally amazing for the expat community here. It didn't last, unfortunately, but I think Simon's got something else going here that just might.
TM: First, a bit about yourself: Where are you from originally and how long have you been in Istanbul/Turkey? What do you do for a living?
Simon: I am from Stratford On Avon, which you may or may not consider to be the cultural epicentre of the Literary Universe, given that it is Shakespeare's birthplace. So my cultural heritage is mighty, be warned! I have been living in Istanbul for 15 or so years (the memory fades in the autumn of my life...) I am attempting to earn a living via That Magazine which I have recently set up and now edit and seek sponsorship for!
TM: What gave you the idea to start That Magazine?
Simon: First off, since my university days, I have always wanted to be an editor. Then years ago in my third year or so here in Istanbul in the late 1990s there appeared a zine in English called Istanbullshit, which was basically the only magazine of its kind and was therefore compulsive reading. It was both enraging and highly amusing, amateuristic yet full of underground vitality. I am not sure how long it lasted but suffice to say it didn't last. Then I was left with Time Out in English (or it started up a little after Istanbullshit went down). Time Out just didn't and still doesn't seem to do it for me, wasn't aimed at people like me, (I was a teacher at the time). It lacked the interactive feel and honesty of Istanbullshit (which although I have the utmost respect for, I didn't really like but read avidly). Then I discovered Yin Yoga (in Star Wars terms, the FORCE). This, amongst innumerable other positive things, unleashed a new wave of creativity and drive in me that is more in tune with the general flow of this wonderful city and got me off my arse to try and produce something new again.
TM: What do you hope to achieve with the magazine?
Simon: I hope to collaboratively build a magazine that reflects and shares the expressive desires, experiences, ideas and knowledge of those readers, writers, artists and scientists that are attracted to it. I hope that it becomes a tool for people to connect, create, expore and live good in this wonderful city.
TM: Who is the magazine for?
Simon: It is broadly for the English-speaking community of Istanbul. However, it does not aim to serve the expat community in particular.
TM: How often do you plan to publish it?
Simon: At the moment seasonally, once every threemonths. The next issue will be for the months of March, April and May.
TM: How would you like to see the magazine grow over time?
Simon: The first thing I want to see is that it get fatter through attracting huge amounts of content from all you good people out there! Ultimately I want it to become a renowned part of at least a small section of the cultural consciousness and life of Istanbul.
TM: Where can people find the magazine?
Simon: The fantastic English branch of Pandora Bookshop on Büyükparmakkapı Sok. in Istanbul are distributing it for free and cafes, galleries and clothes shops around the usual parts of town like Tunel, Cihangir, Taksim Square, Bilgi University Campus, Bosphorous University Campus Orta Kantin, Kadikoy. If anyone would like it distributed at their workplace or favourite hang out I would love it if they contacted me (info below).
TM: For people interested in sending submissions, what kinds of contributions are you looking for?
Simon: All contributions of any type (visual art, literary fiction, poetry, science articles) are considered about any topic. The only thing I don't want is adverts disguised as articles, though I am looking for people who want to give adverts and sponsorship.
Interested in contributing to That Magazine, being a sponsor, or distributing copies in your shop or cafe? Contact Simon Johnson by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.