Patrick McGraw, Heavy Traffic
The second issue of fiction magazine Heavy Traffic takes a unique approach to its content, treating the words almost as concrete poetry—the first story starts on the front cover and flows on from there.
Editor Patrick McGraw tells us about working with designer Richard Turley to achieve this unique design, as he shares his week and influences.
What are you up to this Monday morning?
Writing and coffee.
Where are you?
I’m in New York, about to head to the print shop to pick up a new order of Heavy Traffic issue two. I’ll have them restocked at a few stores here, then I’ll head to the studio.
Which magazine do you first remember?
Whatever indie music magazines my brother Evan was reading. He was and is much more obsessed and knowledgeable about magazines than me, to the point that he was banned from a number of stores as a teen because he stole magazines so constantly when he couldn’t afford them.
But really I didn’t get into magazines until later. They weren’t much of a consideration for me until I started writing for them.
Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
2600: The Hacker Quarterly and The Whole Earth Review, because both had an almost obsessive focus with their topic—something I like to think that Heavy Traffic also has. They both also have some fantastic covers from the early 90s.
Describe the magazine in three words.
Neurodivergent, intense, Irish.
We love the name of the magazine—tell us about that.
I guess it’s true that I’ve liked the name Heavy Traffic since I saw the Ralph Bakshi movie in 2016, but it would be a mischaracterization to say that the title was directly influenced by the movie or a reference to it.
Ever since I started having an idea to launch a magazine in about 2017, it had been my idea for a title. Funnily everybody that was around when I was really starting Heavy Traffic in 2020 hated the name initially, but after a couple of months of working on it they came around. When I first met novelist Lynne Tillman she specifically hated the title and has reminded me of it at every opportunity.
Richard Turley (left) works on the layout of the magazine.
You brought Richard Turley in to design issue two. What did he add to the project?
It would be a stretch to say that the first issue was actually ‘designed’ as opposed to just ended up looking that way (I ‘designed’ it myself). We had to print that issue quite quickly so I basically went with a bunch of default choices that I copied from an old English fiction magazine called Expectations, (I think?), though I do like the way it ended up looking. So in that sense, Richard added design to the magazine in the first place.
He really is the best designer around, and I thought that before I started working with him. Seeing him translate the ideas I’ve had for the magazine into design has just strengthened that opinion. The design is the perfect translation of the magazine's intensity and quickness. It's been a great pleasure working with him.
The magazine is admirably opaque—no theme, no explanations. Why be so obtuse?
Honestly I’m just not good with themes, even when I worked at glossy magazines I was terrible at coming up with themes because I just don’t believe in them. I think they’re kind of corny and ultimately if the content is right then the theme just is and doesn't need to be put so bluntly.
As for explanations, I believe things are much better left unexplained, and people can just come up with opinions themselves. To explain Heavy Traffic would be to kill it in a way. And even then there will come a time where it just explains itself and it will die then anyway. We’re still in this honeymoon period where it doesn't need to be explained and I’m really enjoying it. Maybe I’ll feel compelled to explain it much further into the future.
How do you source the stories?
Most of the print stories are commissioned, though we do have an open submission email that I check daily, even if I’m bad at replying to them. It’s always especially rewarding to publish a random submission because the tone were going for is so specific.
What are you most looking forward to this coming week?
Working on issue three.