Behind the scenes: Funhouse magazine

by Stine Fantoft Berg in October 2015
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Tucked beneath a wrestling club and behind a Volvo garage is the home of Funhouse – the new literary magazine that features writing, illustrations and comics, all united by bodies. Sweating, twisted, humping, grasping, and … castrated bodies.

But this isn’t just the bodies issue – this is what the entire magazine is going to be. Intrigued, I caught up with founder Oliver Zarandi ahead of tomorrow’s launch event in Dalston to find out what it’s all about.

How did Funhouse magazine come about?
I’ve had the idea for years and initially started out with four friends. We all ended up trying to make our own magazines, so in the end we went our separate ways.

I always wanted to write. One day I picked up The Alarmist, which had a call for submissions – they were the first ones to publish me, and they’re the only reason I started writing again, and then started Funhouse. They’ve really helped a lot.

It’s been difficult, and at times I’ve wanted to give it all up. But then a friend told me about a designer he knew, Fran Marchesi, so I got in touch. I showed her the mess of a magazine I had at that point, and she said: “It’s shit, hire me and I’ll fix it”. She took it and shaped it into something amazing. It truly wouldn’t be the magazine it is now without her.


How was this first issue funded?
Funhouse is funded completely out of my own pocket. I thought about doing a Kickstarter or applying for funding, but it just seemed like a pain in the ass. So I just told myself to work harder and make the money for it myself. It’s been tough, but I think it’s worth it. And what else would I have spent my money on? Beers probably. I’ve become a lot healthier!


The design is quite traditional and book-like, but the contents are quite non-traditional and often rude. What’s the overall theme of the magazine, and what are are your influences?
The magazine itself has bodily theme, and each issue will explore different angles of that; this first issue is quite gunky and American-inspired. Like with the design, I always want the content of the magazine to go in two directions: one that’s respectful, and another that’s quite naughty and bodily.

Personally, I’m quite influenced by American literature, and I’m a huge fan of publishers such as CCM (Civil Coping Mechanisms), Tyrant Books, and The Alarmist. They’re just really ballsy and down-to-earth people. There’s none of that elitist attitude that you sometimes find in the literary scene.

I want Funhouse to be friendly and accessible, not taking itself too seriously. Ideally I’d love for a lot of younger people, and people who don’t write themselves, to pick it up and find it interesting and funny.


Why the name?
It’s inspired by a story called ‘Lost in the Funhouse’ by an American writer called John Barth. It’s about the loss of innocence, and a boy going into a funhouse. It really captures that ambiguity that I want for the magazine.

Among the contributors you have Richard Barnett, author of The Sick Rose. How do you go about sourcing the content?
The magazine is mainly curated and we’re actively looking for interesting writers. There’s definitely a lot of sifting through the internet, but most are people I’ve been following online for years, like Patty Cottrell. She doesn’t have the biggest following yet, but I love her work, and I’m sure she’ll be big some day.

In our next issue we’ll be featuring some amazing writers, like internet poet Daphne Cheyenne. Her work may seem pretty unusual, but I really think she’s part of this new generation of writers.

What characterises them?
Every generation has their inputs that make them completely different to what came before – for this new generation, lots of them haven’t read the classics, because they don’t give a shit. They’ve been reading blogs and all kinds of stuff online, and writing poems about blurry images in Google picture search. I think it’s really interesting!


What can we expect from Funhouse in the future?
It will be quarterly, and each issue will feature a variation of the bodily theme. We’ll adapt the colour scheme from the cover illustration and use that throughout the magazine. We’ll also be including some more comics for the next issue, from Bridget M and George Heaven among others, so we may decide to increase the size a bit.

Eventually, I would love to go into publishing books, so hopefully that’s something to look out for in the future.

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