If you’re looking for value for your money, there is one purchase that is far and away the best deal in magic today. And that is a digital subscription to Genii magazine for $35.
I know your first thought is: Ah, I never thought I’d see it. Andy sold out. Branded content on the Jerx Blog. Sad.
No, this is a genuine recommendation, not an ad. Richard Kaufman doesn’t even like me. He once talked about suing me when I had my old blog because I repurposed some of his old disco-daddy illustrations of himself from the first year of Apocalypse to make a comic strip about how to seduce women. (“Scrub your dong with an anti-microbial soap to make it palatable to even the pickiest of ladies.” “Be generous when portioning out cocaine for your partner.” “Offer her a choice of cock-rings so the lovemaking experience feels personalized to her.” “If none of that works, smack a bitch upside the head.”)
You might say: Well, $35 for 12 issues of a magazine seems like a good deal, but not quite “the best deal in magic.”
But here’s the thing, you don’t just get the next 12 issues, you get all the back issues too. All 80+ years of them. And you get all the 300 back issues of MAGIC magazine as well. It’s a goldmine. Or, at the very least, a mine with some gold in it.
Do the math. Just looking at the tricks alone. Let’s say we have 1200 issues here. We’ll underestimate it at 5 tricks per issue. That’s 6000 tricks. Even if we say half are garbage. 30% are okay. 15% are good. And only 5% are great. That’s 300 great tricks for $35.00. That’s 12 cents a trick!
Of course, it’s only a good deal if you enjoy the process of digging through those 1200 back issues. Obviously if that doesn’t appeal to you then it’s not a good deal at any price.
You might wonder why I’m telling you about Genii. Surely everyone already knows about it. Well, no. My audience is about 60% hardcore magic guys, and probably 40% younger people, or people who’ve always had an interest in magic but didn’t get into the more traditional style. These people, oftentimes, are too young or removed from the magic scene to have gone to a magic store and come across a magic magazine. And it’s for them I’m trying to highlight what a good deal this is.
My friend gets me a subscription every year for my birthday and it’s truly almost overwhelming how much content there is. At one point I had this brief notion that I would start-up a small sister-site where we’d go through the entire run of Genii magazine, looking at a different issue each week and discussing it, like a mini-book club. Then I realized it would take 20 years to do that. (And another 4 years after that to do the issues that had come out during those 20 years.)
So where do you start with all this if you’re new to it? I don’t know. Next year, my plan is to start with issue one and work my way through. It will take a few years even if I go through one issue a day. That’s probably a little too much if you’re not really interested in this sort of thing.
I’m not suggesting anyone go in and read every word. A lot of it doesn’t hold up and, in fact, wasn’t very interesting at the time. Recaps of magic conventions are only worth it when there’s some controversy that accompanies them. A lot of the profiles on magicians are kind of dull. My favorite parts are essentially everything outside of the main articles. I like the ads, the letters to the editor, the reviews, and the trick sections.
The columnists can be hit and miss, but finding the ones that speak to you is part of the fun. I remember enjoying the Gary Ouellet column that used to be on the last page in Genii. I was a big fan of the Harkey For A Year column (and, frankly, any of Harkey’s ideas that were put into print I found interesting to think about, even if I didn’t perform a ton of them). Michael Close’s reviews in MAGIC set the standard for reviews in a magic magazine. Bob Farmer’s columns in both MAGIC and Genii were always worthwhile. And Max Maven’s column in MAGIC was another favorite of mine. (I still fondly remember when he openly questioned why professionals are expected to hang out with amateurs at magic conventions, or just in magic in general. Oh, sweet, beautiful, stupid, Max… what was the response you thought you’d get with this column? Actually he probably got the exact response he was expecting: a bunch of angry magic nerds. You can follow that whole ordeal here. As an amateur myself, and someone who would generally prefer to spend time with an assistant manager at Long John Silvers than a professional magician, I have zero issue with the point Max was making. The only disagreement I have with his column is the notion that, “this is how things are done in the circus” is a compelling argument for anything. Ah, yes… what could be more vibrant and thriving than circus culture! Let’s emulate that.)
Now, younger guys will undoubtedly find a lot of what they read in the magazine confusing. “Why does it look like some of Genii was being written on a typewriter well into the late 80s?” “Why was a single magic VHS $90?” “Are these people genuinely pissed off because Genii had a cartoon image of the devil on the 666th issue?” Spoiler: They were.
One of the fun things about going back and reading the magazines is to watch the trends come and go, both the trends within magic and general societal trends (of which magicians are consistently about 10 years behind).
“Wow, sweet! Totally 80s, my man! Looks like we got ourselves a Motley Crue fan here! Take that, Reagan!”
No, no. This is an ad from 1992.
For me, peek-magic-magazine time was the early to mid 90s. That’s when MAGIC Magazine had arrived on the scene, so Genii had to step up their game. They were like, “Huh? We actually have to create a cover for each issue? We can’t just use that same depressing graphic in a different color with a black and white promo shot slotted in there?”
The quality of MAGIC Magazine was immediately so much better and it took a long time for Genii to catch up. They didn’t really even get close until Kaufman took over in the late 90s.
If you’re under 35 it will probably be hard to wrap your head around the importance of a magic magazine in the early-mid 90s. If you wanted to know what the current goings-on were in magic, that was really your only option. Email and the Internet were still in their nascent stages. So you would just sit with that magazine for four full weeks, digesting every page multiple times (at least, that was true for me). What was your other option? Go to the library and check out that one Bill Tarr book for the 40th time? It was a different world. We jacked off to aerobics shows. We were starved for content.
And yet, I definitely have a warm feeling for those days. The effects I write about here are often about slowing down the pace of an interaction. And part of me likes the slow pace of those days with just a monthly magazine to connect you to the modern magic world. I suspect something that will seem ridiculous to the younger generation is that an article would come out and a reader would have something to say about it, and he’d write a fucking letter on paper and send it into the magazine. They’d run that letter 2-3 months after the original article had come out. Then someone would respond to that letter and that would run another 2 months later. An interaction that would have happened in 8 minutes over twitter took half a year.
Now, I understand a lot of people won’t find reading 20 years of Hank Lee ads all that compelling. For them it will all come down to the tricks. And, as I said earlier, there is enough value in the tricks alone to make this worth your while. You’ll have to do some digging for them, but you can find tricks that are just as good as an instant download you’d pay $15 for on its own. In fact, a lot of the tricks that were originally printed in Genii and MAGIC did go on to be proper releases on their own. Again, for the younger guys, keep this in mind: It’s 1992 and you’ve come up with this great trick. What are you going to do with it? Wait 30 years until you have enough material to write a book? You can’t film a video of it on your phone and send it to Penguin to market it for you. Putting an ad in the magazines and selling it yourself is a gigantic pain in the ass. So you send it off to one of the magazines to publish and you get your 15 minutes of fame. Ok, it’s more like 4 minutes of mild notoriety, but still, it’s something. So don’t feel like you’re getting the dregs, there’s a lot of great stuff in there. (My favorite trick “section” is Joshua Jay’s 12-year run in MAGIC Magazine, which is, admittedly, a pretty basic bitch opinion to have, but there really is a lot of good stuff there.)
I would say, “Tell them Andy at The Jerx sent you,” but that’s probably a bad idea. I don’t want Kaufman to get all bugged out that I misappropriated his illustrations again. So let’s just keep it between us.