Hugi Magazine 32: Say It With Flowers

hugi 32 header graphic

Does Editing Mags Require Talents? (Written By Adok/Hugi)

In the Closing Words to Pain #57, ps expressed his wish for "stronger competition" in the Diskmag Scene. He tried to encourage people to get active in the Diskmag Scene by claiming that no talent were required for becoming a good editor, but "good communicative skills, a decent text editor, and plenty of connections" were enough. I feel that I have to comment on this.

ps' article reminds me of an older article written by Ghandy in which Ghandy stated: "Everybody is a writer!" Both ps and Ghandy apparently want to lower inhibitions to get active in writing and making diskmags by claiming that it's not difficult anyway. I just wonder if that's the right way to go!

All kinds of Sceners - except diskmag editors, it seems - are proud of their releases because it's not easy to create such works and it does require special skills, or talents as some put it. Many Sceners ground their self-esteem on their releases. They feel special because they have abilities which more than 99 % of the population don't have. Remember that at, a well-known Scener (Dixan of MFX) has recently made the suggestion to call demos "EgoBoosters". People create demos, gfx and music because it's something not everybody else is able to do. So if virtually everybody were skilled enough to write articles or edit a diskmag, what would be the motivation for doing so?

As a matter of fact, to become a good editor or a good writer (it's not the same; I'll talk about the differences later), some talent is required - at least as much talent as to become a good coder, a good graphician, or a good musician.

A good coder must at least know his/her programming languages, know how to implement certain effects and routines (or at least where to find the necessary information), know how to arrange them to a demo, and at least in some cases, know how to optimize code and compress data. A good graphician must at least know how to handle his/her drawing program and how to translate the picture he/she is seeing in front of him/her or in his/her imagination into vectors and pixels. A good musician must at least know how to handle a tracker (or whatever type of music-editing tool he/she uses) and how to arrange samples, patterns and tracks to something that sounds good. Finally, a good writer/editor must master the language of the magazine very well. In addition, a writer must know how to write in such a style that the readers won't fall into a doze immediately. By contrast, for an editor it's more important that he/she is very careful at proofreading and formatting. Moreover, diskmag editors are usually also organizers. That means that they must have fairly good communication skills, at least good enough to express what they want and when they want to have it; and they must be pretty well organized themselves so that they won't forget when to remind people of deadlines and won't lose the stuff that has been submitted to their mag, etc.

In addition to these technical skills, in all these four/five disciplines imagination and good ideas are needed to create something really interesting.

All of these skills can and must be trained. (Un)fortunately, it's true, though, that some people will be more likely to develop one skill, while other will be more likely to develop another. On the one hand, we must not neglect that there are inborn tendencies and gifts. On the other, however, it also depends on your education and professional training what skills you'll develop. In the Western countries, everybody learns to read and write at primary school. That's why people like Ghandy feel it's justified to say that "Everybody is a writer". However, not everybody is a good writer; in order to become a really good writer, you must first of all have the desire to become so; second you must, read a lot in order to get a rich vocabulary and develop an elegant style; and third, you must write, write, write.

Coding, making graphics and composing music are skills that are usually neglected at our schools. I remember from my own school days that we had some painting lessons, but no programming lessons (well, except in grade 9, which was far too late; those who were interested in programming already knew far more than the teacher by then) or lessons at composing music (we were only studying music theory and sometimes performing music, but unfortunately, not too often). Most Sceners are amateurs and autodidacts; they taught themselves by means of trial & error, plus books. However, that does not apply to everybody: Some graphicians, for example, did attend special schools which supported the development of their graphical talents. An example is Bridgeclaw, who created one of the main pictures of this Hugi issue (as well as the opening picture of the previous issue). Many Scene musicians probably also had extra musical tuition apart from school (for instance, just read the interview with JCO in this issue of Hugi; JCO started playing musical instruments at the age of 4, i.e. well before he entered primary school). We must not forget, either, that some of the top demo coders of these days are working as professional software developers; e.g. Smash of Fairlight is a game developer for Sony UK, coding games for PlayStation Portable for a living. Most certainly he has gained some knowledge at work (and, before that, at university) which in his sparetime he applies to create fancy 64k intros such as 'Meet the family' or 'Che Guevara'. Let me please emphasize that many Sceners (especially the ones aged 20 or beyond) have expanded their skills by professional training, so sorry Bridgeclaw, JCO, Smash for choosing you as examples - but I'm sure you've realized my intention has just been to justify my reasoning, and not to attack anybody.

Apart from inborn gifts and education, prior hobbies play a role as well, of course. If you loved to draw as a child, while hardly ever switching on your radio, you'll most likely become a graphician on entering the Scene rather than a composer.

Basically my point is: If you want to develop some Scene-related skill and work really hard, you'll manage to do so, unless you're perhaps totally untalented. Some people will develop their skills faster, while others will need more time, but in the end, if they have the right attitude, all of them will succeed.

One of the question that remains is: Are diskmags EgoBoosters, too? Can you be proud of yourself if you have succeeded in making a diskmag? This is a question I'll leave for you to answer - as well as the question if it's justified to be proud of yourself if you have contributed to a diskmag and your contribution has been accepted.

Adok/Hugi (25-Jul-06)