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Literary Bohemia Goes Digital

Theodore Gioia | March 17, 2014 | Lifestyle Story Culture

Last July, we ranked the second volume of Radio Silence as one of best local publications of 2013—and it might have gotten better since then. Last week, the journal launched a new monthly digital edition that includes a memoir by singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams, and work by Jon Mooallem and Pico Iyer. We interviewed Dan Stone, the founder and editor-in-chief of Radio Silence to learn more.

San Francisco: So tell us about the new online edition of Radio Silence?
Dan Stone: We're doing a new, monthly digital edition of Radio Silence for phones, tablets, and desktops. The first two volumes are already available, and we will release a new issue with five pieces on the first of every month. We've been working on the digital edition of the magazine for over a year. From the start, we planned to launch Radio Silence in four pieces: the print magazine, the series of live events and concerts, the nonprofit side, and finally the digital side. We've been working with 29th Street Publishing (the company started partly by the original online editor of The New Yorker that did the online versions of Harper's and Poetry magazine) to create the digital edition. We wanted a clean, crisp aesthetic with no advertisements and a format that would allow us to embed streaming videos, songs, and images.

What's the difference the print and online editions of the magazine?
Some of the pieces are exclusive to the Internet, but we wanted to adapt pieces from the print magazine specifically for the web with added media features. For example, the second volume includes a memoir by Lucinda Williams that incorporates streaming recordings we made on recent visit. We went down to her place several months ago and after many bottles of wine we started rolling tape around midnight. What followed was magic: memories of chasing Flannery O'Connor's peacocks and recitations of her father's poetry. While you're reading the memoir you can listen to her songs or her father's poems, the celebrated poet Miller Williams. That's what Radio Silence is all about—finding interesting ways that the arts of music and literature intersect.

How do you imagine the difference between print and digital formats?
We see the print magazine as our turntable-and-vinyl, a chance to sit down and spend time savoring a beautiful object and great writing. Online is more ephemeral. I think our culture is still trying to figure out how to create a digital magazine, and while we view our print magazine as a throwback to an earlier era we see the online edition as an opportunity to explore the possibilities that the new medium of digital publishing has to offer.

Why did you think San Francisco was the right city for Radio Silence, as opposed to somewhere on the East Coast?
Our goal was to pick a place where we could have a strong local presence but a national reach. I'm from the West Coast, and San Francisco seemed like it was just the right size with a curious, engaged, and intelligent population ready for another good magazine. And so far we couldn't be happier about the way we've been embraced by the city's magazine community.

Can you give us any teasers for upcoming issues?
I'll give you the exclusive scoop that the next issue will lead off with a conversation between Carrie Brownstein and Daniel Handler that we're very excited about. And in the future, we've put together a great piece between Tobias Wolff and his son, acclaimed jazz saxophonist Patrick Wolff.

Radio Silence has offered a complimentary look at the first online issue. You can also download their free app here.

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