Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Best New Weekly Feature

A while ago, when many of you weren't even into Steady Mobbin', I had a post announcing that it had been discovered that the website to The Firearm, the independent student publication with which I was involved during my last year at BYU, was still online. Ever since then, I've been meaning to force the Firearm down your throats a little bit more, and now I'm finally getting around to doing it.

What I intend to be setting out to do is provide a weekly "director's cut" behind the scenes story on two issues of the Firearm every week for the next eight weeks. As I mean to burden you with substantial Firearm background details right now, I'll only be discussing one issue (Issue One of Volume One, actually), but just wait until next week when I lay the tales of Issues Two and Three on you.

Anyway, way back in the summer of 2001 I was preparing to return to BYU for my last year of studies. I was to be living in a new apartment with new roommates, one of which was my buddy Andrew whom I had met the summer previous in London. Andrew told me that he wanted to start a newspaper with me that year. I said OK, but only if the newspaper could be called "The Firearm." Why The Firearm? You'll have to read the final issue of the paper to find that out. (Don't worry, you can download it from the Firearm site right now, if you want.) I'll later detail The Firearm's eventual rise to Provo infamy, but now let me focus on the humble beginnings of the paper.

On a single drive up to Logan shortly before the first day of school Andrew and I discussed our project at great length and came up with a grand plan of attack. We realized that it would be no simple task to produce something clever with much regularity, so we gave ourselves a very narrow set of "rules" to follow. We figured that the key to our success, if we were to find any, would be a lack of ambition. We would produce an edition of the Firearm every 7 days, the Firearm would be printed on one side of one piece of paper and, no matter how popular we got, we wouldn't go any longer than that. We would have no advertising. We would charge no money. We would xerox copies and give them to our friends to give to their friends. We would solicit content contributions, but not try very hard at that. And then there were two very important factors: 1) Our first issue would come out on the first day of school to show the world (or Provo, at least) that we were really going to make this thing happen and that it wouldn't just be something that Brigham and Andrew talked about on their way to Logan and 2) Our final issue would come out at the end of the school year and then the Firearm would be done forever and we wouldn't seek successors or entertain notions of keeping the paper going post-graduation. Having a certain end in sight, a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, is probably what kept us going when it seemed all too easy to quit. Also, we needed jobs. Andrew would be the Editor-in-Chief because it was his idea to start the paper in the first place. Also, as Editor-in-Chief, he would pay to make all the copies. I would be Head Writer. This means I was to make sure the Firearm actually had something in it every issue.

Now let me boast. At the same time that the Firearm was coming together right before school started Andrew and I received word that another fellow in our apartment complex, a real go-getter, was planning an independent student publication of his own. When he heard about our little project he invited Andrew up to his apartment for a little meeting where he invited Andrew to set aside his little project and write for the other paper (I believe it was to be called "The Iceberg" because the guy loved salad) since dude's paper was going to be 8 pages on newsprint and he had investors and advertisers and all sorts of brilliant folk lined up to make the thing happen. Andrew politely declined. We went to work. At the end of the year, there had been 16 issues (I'll explain why that happened next week) of the Firearm and we were distributing 300 hardcopies of each issue of the Firearm and our website was getting 1000 hits a day. Not a single issue of the Iceberg was ever printed. Go us.

And now, Issue One.

First off, Andrew designed the Firearm layout. At first he was thinking about having a graphic designer friend do it for him, but this looked good enough. It was decided that each issue was to contain a "Letter from the Editor" mostly because that would be a good way to establish some sort of direction for each issue and would take up some space.

The layout of the Firearm, with the article categories and article titles, was inspired by those articles in the front of the New Yorker (if I had an issue around the apartment right now I could tell you what section I was referring to.) While we were constantly being compared to the Onion, it was always my ambition (back in 2001) that The Firearm would be something more like the New Yorker (originally a humor magazine, after all) and the smart parts of Vice Magazine . . . but with a lot more stuff written by me.

"Married People!" was actually a toast I wrote from my friend Brandon to read at his sister's wedding that summer. We kind of spent a lot of time getting the skeleton of the Firearm put together for that first week, so I was a little short on ideas for new content . . . figuring that only a few hundred people in Texas had ever heard this bit of brilliance (that's what I was told it was by the bride and bride's brother) I rewrote it a tiny bit and there it was, my first article.

Andrew's first article, "Mochas", was a story I had heard him tell before that I wish was a story that had happened to me. It's a great example of the sort of absurdist realism the Editor-in-Chief would be providing for every issue. It's also an example of an article that Andrew sat down and wrote without me cornering him in the kitchen and chewing him out for not having an article for the paper yet.

As we originally expected the Firearm to be full of contributions by other people, we had our roommate Dan write a step by step explanation of how to rip a phonebook in half (as Dan was/undoubtedly still is very good at ripping phonebooks in half.) Dan's original explanation was much more detailed, but, instead of removing a single word from Andrew's or my articles, I cut Dan's article down to almost nothing, but he was a good sport about it. As Dan was very good at doing lots of different stuff, we figured we'd have him write a "How To . . ." column for each issue. This was the only "How To . . ." article ever published in the Firearm.

Ah yes! The Funniest Joke Ever. I used to ingratiate myself with others by telling this joke. Approximately three people heard the joke and nearly dropped dead with laughter. About 300 (not counting readers of the Firearm) looked at me like I was an idiot. Myself? I first read this joke in a magazine at a library and had to leave because I was laughing so hard. I guess it just touches certain people in a certain way.

And there, at the bottom of the page, is our first solicitation for contributions. Over the lifetime of the Firearm, we probably (no, we definitely) received four contributions to the paper that we didn't commission others to write. Of those four, we almost published one. It didn't take long for Andrew and I to realize that we didn't want to share the Firearm.

And that, my friends, is the first of eight overly-long remembrances of things four years passed that you can look forward to on every Tuesday, as Tuesday was Firearm day way back in the day.

1 comment:

Sara said...

Hey! What happened to your Firearm links? I can't view them now for some reason.

I remember thinking they were hilarious and wanted to show a friend. Please get them back up on your blog! Or make permanent links to them!

Thanks. :)