about Fathom

Fathom magazine was founded in 1981, by a small number of dedicated students, including Greg McSweeney, Margot Griffiths, Alexina Scott-Savage, Paul Tyndall, and Larry Gaudet. Since its inception, Fathom has enjoyed a rather informal and low-key status as a small print magazine.

Back when Fathom began, the entire layout had to be done by hand, with everything painstakingly typed. It would have been common to have submissions hand-written. A change from now, where submissions are emailed and the issue compiled on the computer. Despite these differences, the content has similar themes can be found throughout Fathom: love, being lost, strange encounters, things wanted and forgotten, why university sucks and is hard, and the occasional piece from the perspective of children, animals, or inanimate objects.

Poetry and prose are treated with respect and seriousness in Fathom, but they also have fun too. The tasteless haiku of July 1997 are a good laugh, providing great lines like this from A. Bell:

In Flander’s Fields where
junkies go, picking poppies
Hey! Get out of there!

Fathom has received many submissions, from serious and beginning writers alike. Many people have even gone on to publish their own work as collections and make a name for themselves as writers. They include Dan Walsh (Jul 97), Zach Wells (1999), and Urs Frei (1991, 1993-95). I recommend reading Frei’s short story “Desire” (1994).

Other stories worth a gander include Sonja Vreeland’s “My History of Umbrellas” (2005), and an excerpt from Michael Kohn’s “Still Life Beneath the Mandrakes” (1994). Also, some samples of poetry I recommend reading are “To Be so Foreign to the Skin,” by Johanna Bargman (2006), “the lavender gift of potential,” by Kari Gunderson (2005), a poem by Melodie Umanetz in Fathom’s 2002 issue, Mary Kate Arnold’s  “After Masayuki Suo’s Shall We Dance?” (1998), and Nicole Fernandez’s poem in the 1993 issue.


Forgotten Fathom...

Until now, Fathom essentially existed in a void, with little or no background. Somehow the magazine was published every year since forever, but where could one read old issues anyway? Fathom was an undefined silent force, left to mystery.

When I was transcribing, going back further and further in time, I got the distinct impression that the issues existed largely in isolation to one another. Of course leaving room for variations in the layout and changes of style of the magazine, I noticed specific holes from one issue to another. For example, the editor’s message in Fathom 1990 heralded the inclusion of prose because “in post years, Dalhousie’s creative writing journal has consisted exclusively of poetry.” Though this was true for the three years before 1990, Fathom 1981-85 all had short stories. Also, for a few years around 2000, the magazine gave out prizes of 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, or simply a “Fathom Award” for the best creative works in the issue. As well, Fathom had volume numbers right up until 2001, when they were suddenly left out, and never reappeared.

Things between different issues would appear and drop out as the years went by. In addition to poems and stories, Fathom has also contained artwork and photographs, and once or twice non-fiction, book reviews and academic essays. Issues January and July 1997 were probably the most wide-ranging in this regard. There were also promises (and a few successes) of multiple issues a year.

In the editorial for the first few issues of Fathom (but sometimes even in later issues) the editor expressed disappointment with the low number of submissions. Sometime years were hectic enough that Fathom didn’t get published at all, as in the case of 1986 and 1996.

Perhaps the most tragic loss of history was when, in 2006, Fathom had its 25th birthday, but because no one had been keeping track, the event went by unacknowledged. Next year, however, will be Fathom’s 25th Volume, so perhaps we can make it up still.

This website is a good opportunity to see Fathom as a spectrum of change. A great deal has happened in 26 years.


-Alana Paul
Webmaster and Fathom 2007 Publisher


last updated August 17, 2007 | © 2007 Fathom Publishing
poetry, prose, and artwork © individual authours | website created by Alana Paul