Female-founded literary magazine uses fantasy and science fiction to discuss real-world topics

Science fiction, fantasy, and pop culture all wrapped into one literary magazine — it’s COSGRRRL. The publication promises ‘to boldly go where no one has gone before,’ packaging itself as non-traditional, compared to its academic counterparts.

The five-part print series is part of a self-described ‘outsider literary publication,’ founded by Grand Rapids writer, educator, and journalist Marjorie Steele. The magazine, which started years ago in a solely digital format on Medium, is fundraising to launch into the world of print media.

Steele spoke about how the magazine uniquely comments on relevant topics: race, gender identity, trauma, mental and environmental health, spirituality and more. “Well, ‘to boldly go where no one has gone before’ is obviously a reference to Star Trek’s intro, which references the fact that COSGRRRL has packaged very non-traditional subject matter into what is traditionally seen as an academic form with the literary magazine,” Steele says.

By definition, the publication is, in fact, a literary magazine —with essays, poetry, fiction, and even illustrations, but Steele believes offering sci-fi, fantasy, and pop culture references are what makes the publication unique amongst its peers.

Marjorie Steele“Lit magazines focus on what are considered to be more ‘high’ art forms and respond to societal themes, but they don’t respond to what people actually spend their time consuming: pop media and culture. By bringing COSGRRRL’s subject matter down to earth at the pop-culture level, we make creative writing and critical analysis more accessible to those who wouldn’t otherwise consider themselves ‘literary,’” says Steele.

The self-proclaimed nerd saw firsthand how the commonality of sci-fi/fantasy and pop culture could bring together people of different cultural, socioeconomic, racial, and gendered backgrounds. Through an online Facebook group, strangers regularly and openly had conversations about real-world topics, by referencing fictional outer space worlds, or superhero movies. “While two people may be unlikely to agree on what presidential candidate to vote for, they can likely agree that Battlestar Galactica’s Starbuck is fantastic, or that Picard was a superior captain of the Enterprise to Kirk, or the list goes on and on,” Steele says.

Seeing how fictional futuristic spaceships and extraterrestrial creatures helped create a safe space for real-world conversations inspired Steele to create the digital magazine in 2017.

“I wanted to create a space for people to explore what they viewed as important underlying themes in the sci-fi/fantasy pop culture that they loved, as a strategic way of getting diverse opinions in the room together,” she says.

With a team of 21 contributors all over the world, COSGRRRL’s content does not shy away from heavy topics — addressing some directly head-on, and others, from a sideways angle. Some poems use humor and wit to lighten the mood, others are intense memoir-style essays. “There’s no topic too heavy for it to tackle; no social topic too hot; no political nerve too raw — and yet remains defiantly without a specific agenda, beyond that of bringing together divergent views,” Steele says.

Funded independently, COSGRRRL is not linked to any sponsoring press or supporting university, and is currently aiming to raise $25,000 from their Indiegogo Campaign to print the issues, which will then be available online and possibly in local stores.

Ultimately, it’s Steele’s vision to bring humanity closer together, through the pages of COSGRRRL. “In the end, I want audiences to be intellectually and emotionally challenged to reconsider the world around them, with both critical analysis and with human empathy so that we all feel simultaneously more free as individuals, and more connected as a community.”
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