In tandem with a special message from Editor in Chief Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, a note from outgoing Executive Managing Editor Zach Mann.
In her preamble to Casey Rocheteau’s essay, “Literary Juneteenth,” which The Offing published in mid-May, Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein announced that she would be replacing Darcy Cosper as editor-in-chief of The Offing. She also hinted at the magazine’s forthcoming hiatus — and perhaps its greatest challenge yet. Indeed, this summer, The Offing will enter a new phase as an independent magazine no longer affiliated with the Los Angeles Review of Books. It will be a trying time financially, not to mention one tasked with “actively rebuilding The Offing into a more nourishing and sustaining ecosystem for every person involved in its creation.”
Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is also faced with filling Darcy Cosper’s accomplished and ever-aspirational shoes. Since its launch in March 2015, The Offing has published almost 400 writers and artists, and two theme issues: Uprising and Trans. As the founding managing editor of The Offing, my responsibility over the last year-and-a-half has been trying to keep the magazine in step with Darcy’s breakneck forward momentum — no easy task, and yet, an enviable one compared to that which faces Darcy’s successor, she who must set that pace anew.
Chanda certainly has the credentials to lead an organization as ambitious as this one. She holds degrees in physics and astronomy from Harvard College, University of California, Santa Cruz, and the University of Waterloo & Perimeter Institute in Canada. She is one of fewer than 100 Black American ciswomen to ever earn a Ph.D. in Physics, and now holds a research position in theoretical physics at the University of Washington. In addition to studying the origins of the cosmos, she is working on contributions to books about Black women mathematicians and Jewish solidarity activism with Palestine. As far as pacesetters go, it seems more likely The Offing will need to get into shape, not the other way around.
Chanda is also, as she identifies herself in the quoted preamble, “a Black Jewish queer agender/cissex female of working class and immigrant origin,” and a noted activist for intersectional feminism. In other words, she understands intimately that publishing, like the sciences, is an especially dangerous place for people marginalized along multiple identity axes. (You can read an example of her writing on intersectionality in the sciences at Women in Astronomy.) As Casey Rocheteau writes in her essay, “the need for The Offing has always been a need for the diversity of its masthead and its contributors”; and this need is never stronger than when it applies to the very top.
But perhaps what makes The Offing’s new editor-in-chief an especially intriguing navigator is her position at the intersection of both early universe cosmology and creative writing. In fact Chanda, like many of our readers, is passionate about experimenting with literary form and has submitted work to The Offing herself. She has published academically and in popular online magazines, in both Physics World and Gawker, and even recently in The Toast. Just as it is unhealthy for feminist and antiracist efforts to politicize their experiences in separate, exclusive arenas, perhaps it is unhealthy for a publication seeking equality in publishing across the board to do so only in genres found on English class syllabi.
It is no wonder, then, that when The Offing returns in the Fall, it will include a department with a scientific bent, literary pieces which gesture toward the impulse to explain, bridging the art of the written word from physics to poetics. The department is headed by two new editors at The Offing: Arianne Shahvisi, who teaches bioethics, feminist theory, and biopolitics at Brighton & Sussex Medical School; and Mark Zastrow, a science writer based in Seoul.
In the same spirit, The Offing will continue to develop its imprint on the visual side of publishing. New editor S. Zainab Williams, a writer and illustrator in Los Angeles, will join current editors Aricka Foreman and Katrina Mohn in the continued development of a still young Art department. Also growing in scope is the Wit’s End section, with more new faces: Nicole Chung, a previous editor at The Toast, Catapult, and Hyphen Magazine; and Sarah Hagi, an accomplished humor (and serious) writer in her own right.
Current flagship departments are also getting makeovers. Accomplished poets Nabila Lovelace and Paul Tran have the nigh impossible task of filling the shoes of emerita Morgan Parker, while essayist and fiction writer Hawa Allan and essayist and law professor Eddie Bruce-Jones step in for the equally formidable Paula Mendoza. Micro editor and publishing extraordinaire Mahogany L. Browne is now serving as Executive Editor on top of her departmental duties. And finally, writer and digital strategist Andrea García-Vargas will be taking over as The Offing’s executive managing editor, joining the current managing editor team of Casandra Hernández Ríos and Connie Ni Chiu. Now, as the magazine enters this great transition, it will be up to Andrea and staff to keep up with Chanda’s and Mahogany’s pace and trajectory.
Looking back on the launch of The Offing in March 2015 and ahead to September 2016, I am both proud of what we’ve accomplished already and excited at what the magazine will accomplish in the years to come. Indeed, there is more work to do. The definition of the “offing” after which the magazine is named, “the most distant part of the sea seen from the shore,” now seems to describe too few horizons. Tying in Chanda Prescod-Weinstein’s interest in cosmology — and intersectionality — perhaps we should expand our parameters beyond that horizon to include many others.