Going Down Swinging is one of those special things. It was founded in 1979 by two young punks, Kevin Brophy and Myron Lysenko, who had between them no money, a typewriter, a broken collarbone, a stapler, a bike with a milk-crate basket, and a handful of clever friends.
Their oft misinterpreted title referenced openness and experimental thinking. It was also a gesture of defiance – critical writing needed a shake-up, they thought, and the cover of Going Down Swinging #1 featured Ned Kelly in his boxing stance, the ultimate shaker-upper, and one who went down swinging to the very last.
In the years since, GDS has shifted with the changing of its editors, their tastes, and the different guards of writers and artists who have submitted. It has taken all manner of shapes and forms, and we have published well over one thousand artists, having worked in mediums from flash fiction to comic art to animated film. Steady throughout has been a commitment to the unexpected, a hunger for interesting artwork, and an ongoing love of spoken word. Its impressive contributor list includes Neil Gaiman, The Dirty Three, Cate Kennedy, Anna Krien, Pat Grant, Angie Hart, Oslo Davis, Nicki Greenberg, The Bedroom Philosopher, Mila Faranov, Joelistics, Felix Nobis, Tom Cho, Ula Majewska, Leanne Hall, Mantra, Ania Walwicz, Mandy Ord, Ken Arkind, and PiO.
Kevin and Myron held the helm for fourteen issues, with the later assistance of writers like Grant Caldwell and Lauren Williams. GDS #13 was the first to jump from the home-bound early aesthetic to a full book form, and also contained the first GDS audio CD, a special issue tribute to the recently departed Jas H. Duke.
Lyn Boughton then carried GDS to #17, emphasising a different artistic direction, before the brash new generation of Steve Grimwade, Alicia Sometimes, and Adam Ford took over, bringing a colourful pop-art aesthetic, and instituting the spoken word CD as a regular feature of the journal.
Of course not every experiment was a success, and not everything published was genius. Plenty of it was, though, and it is fascinating to look over GDS’s back catalogue and chart the evolution. Grimwade stayed for nine issues, as Anna Hedigan joined his early set, then Lisa Greenaway came on board from #23. Greenaway, first with Grimwade, then with her later off-sider Klare Lanson, took GDS away from its louder incarnation, and began making a reputation for the books as objects of genuine beauty. An aesthetic consistency ties issues #25 to #30 together in pleasing fashion. They also emphasised the GDS commission program, where brand new, long-form works are produced for GDS by writers, performers, and visual artists.
From #31, the game changed again, as new editors Geoff Lemon and Jessica Friedmann released an all-multimedia digital edition – crafted for tablets, and featuring short films, animation, embedded audio and interactive text along with the traditional stories and poems. It was the kind of issue that could never be put on paper, and was the first of its kind by an Australian journal.
Issue #32 was a real-world book and CD, but with a made-over look. New format, new cover, new masthead, new direction. Issue #33, nicknamed the ‘Jesus Edition’, celebrates the miraculous survival of GDS and the publication of its 1000th contributor, while #34 took the anthology in an entirely new direction as a purely digital edition, under the helm of digital editor Vanessa Hughes. The sophisticated GDS #35 featured a radical new look and feel courtesy of design studio Work by Holiday.
The release of Longbox, the thirty-sixth publication by GDS, signalled a step away from the traditional anthology by publishing six extended works by eleven artists, arranged as five separate books in an impeccably designed box set.
Going Down Swinging 38 is an obnoxiously shaped tome edited by Megan Anderson and Matt Harnett. With secret codes, digital diversions, a bit of binary, bees and spoken word this edition features the fierce talent of thirty incredible writers and design by More Studio.
Issue 39 is Pigeonholed, a special themed edition that celebrates genre writing of all sorts, from bird poetry to sci-fi to fanfiction. This edition is a scrappy paperback meant to be dog-eared, battered and well-read, with design by More Studio and illustrations throughout by Bren Luke.
Now heading towards its fortieth birthday, Going Down Swinging has remained true to its first guiding principles while evolving with its editorship and community. Each year we aim to produce a print publication built from a national open submission call. These print editions focus on new work, with a selected number of written and visual art pieces commissioned and closely developed for each edition.
Our digital productions feature art with a literary basis that we can’t publish in print – interactive comics, short film, HTML psych-out poetry – curated and developed by our editorial and digital team. We’re always working on new cross-artform projects that focus on new ways of viewing literature in the digital world. A large part of this is looking at new and experimental ways of reaching new audiences that are accessible, reliable and innovative.
Our website is an active space with an emphasis on the large community of Going Down Swinging writers. Our online features are sourced from pitches, submissions, commissions, and collaborations with other publications around the world.
All of our work is supported by our general manager and our close-knit team of staff, volunteers and interns.