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An Interview with Alice K. Turner / Bob Shacochis Alice K. Turner is Fiction Editor at Playboy. Interviewer: What distinguishes the fiction in Playboy from other magazines? Turner: Well, we're much more conventional or, if you prefer, traditional. We're not intellectual, though we are sometimes literary. Which reminds me of one of my very favorite Hefner stories, where at the 25th Anniversary of Playboy Magazine—they had an enormous party where— it's almost a fairy tale—scouts went out far and wide all over the land and they rounded up twenty-five year's worth of Playmate centerfolds and brought them to this enormous bash at the Mansion in Los Angeles. And there these women were laughing and crying—by the way, there was a big photograph taken of them and they all looked sensational, including the way-back ones—and it was really a very splendid event. At one point Hefner got up with tears in his eyes, sucking on his pipe, wearing his very best pajamas, drank a toast in Pepsi Cola, and said, "Ladies, it's been a wonderful twenty-five years and I want you to know that I owe it all to you. Without you, I would have had nothing but a (pause, gulp) literary magazine." [laughs] Anyway, onward. Playboy is a kind of heir to the old-fashioned middle-brow magazines of yore. Of the Saturday Evening Post. Of Colliers. Of the middle of the road story magazines. Which are probably the very first place that many people ever read a short story, ever read fiction at all. Playboy stories have beginnings, middles, and ends. They have a kind of general appeal. They are not experimental. They are not terribly modern or forward-reaching but they have real quality, or so I hope. When you consider how very formularized the women's magazines tend to be, Playboy looks like the last resort of the solid well crafted "story" story that isn't written to order. And many of the other magazines have gone a bit off track. Interviewer: Which magazines? Turner: The one you think of right away is The New Yorker, a wonderful magazine for what it is, but it seems to me a shame that it's so 66 · The Missouri Review influential. That magazine should be exploring new boundaries, but because of the way things have worked out it has too much effect on fiction in general, so that now all the quarterlies are filled with New Yorker rejects. Right now we're in a rather curious period in American short fiction where there is no middle. There should be, in a healthy situation, a high, a middle, and a low. There's a high. There is The New Yorker, there is The Atlantic. There are numerous literary magazines who are all doing a kind of fiction which is much read and emulated by people who are truly interested in writing, sometimes from an academic point of view. But it does not necessarily interest the average reader. Then there is a very healthy and thriving low-brow fiction market. Science fiction is doing fabulously well. There are a couple of mystery magazines that go on. Romances. But since there's so little market for the middle, our pool of writers is not so great as it was back when Playboy started, back in the Fifties. Say you're a writer and you're aiming for that market, and we don't buy your story, what do you do then? That's what I mean by saying there's no market. Interviewer: What do you do? Do you go to what—Penthouse? Turner: Penthouse seems more interested in novel excerpts than in short stories. They also seem to be seeking explicitly sexual material which we do not, and they publish a lot less fiction than we do. Interviewer: What about Esquire? Turner: In general the kind of fiction they publish is more literary, in quotes, than ours. Their audience is somewhat older, and much smaller. More select, they would say. Also, they did only ten stories last year. Very select. Interviewer: Who is your audience? Turner: Young men. And for...


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