This is my first editor's note originally published in Spring 2018 / Issue 1, for some background as to why I decided to start Malus. —Ellen
This project almost seems inevitable. Words and print have been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. I published my own newspaper when I was 10; I was editor of my high school yearbook; I’ve been a book and magazine editor for over 20 years. But I never thought I’d commit these skills to cider. Until three years ago, as my mom lay dying.
After she passed, I struggled to justify all the time, money, energy, and anxiety I have expended over our cider business. Should I be doing something more significant with my life? But this work has never been just about money. It is personal, political, philosophical. It is how I connect to nature, agriculture, culture, community, history. It is how I’ve learned a lot about myself, my values, my motives. But I wasn’t sure how to adequately express these lessons and experiences. Social media and blog posts weren’t the right formats. Everyone goes on to the next shiny thing online. TL;DR. Trade and consumer publications are more interested in marketing products and ad-driven content. Precisely what I was reacting against.
Not long afterward, my New York–based cider friends Sabine Hrechdakian and Joy Doumis and I hatched a plan to start up an different kind of cider magazine. Neither Sabine nor Joy were able to pursue it further, but the seed had been planted. Then late last year, while I was on a much-needed hiatus from social media, sick of the cheapening and bastardization of cider and apples—and everything, really—I felt the pull to go back to my zine roots, to print, to giving voice to those like me. And so began Malus.
Malus is the genus of apple species, but it also sounds like malice. To be clear, nothing in these pages is malevolent, yet there is definitely an edge. Malus may be provocative. It may touch a nerve. The tagline is “in search of cider’s soul,” after all, and one cannot go about the difficult work of self-discovery without asking tough questions, exposing hard truths, and ultimately revealing great beauty. My hope is that Malus helps deepen the conversation about cider in America.
Malus is a print zine. Even though print is expensive and self-limiting, this format allows readers to spend quality time with the work without all the distractions inherent to our social media–fueled and clickbait-driven lifestyle. It is lo-fi, text-heavy, and subscriber-driven. No product reviews or fluff. The contributors are cidermakers, orchardists, and evangelists.
Malus is a work in progress. Think of this inaugural issue as an op-ed page that merged with a chapbook that crashed into an antiquarian print shop. Subsequent issues may be more journalistic. It will shapeshift over time, just like cider, and I will let it evolve organically, as wild apples do.
Malus is inclusive. That does not mean that I believe that “all cider is good” or that I will publish every viewpoint. It does mean that I am committed to equal representation of female and male contributors. I need more geographic and ethnic diversity—cider is so white!—so please email me with leads on cider thinkers of color and from the middle of the country.
Special thanks to Sabine and Joy for the early motivation, and to my co–Sonoma Pomona, Darlene Hayes, for her support and for helping me to become less reactionary and more disciplined. I am infinitely grateful to my brilliant, brave contributors who share their talent and passion so honestly. Even if you don’t agree with them, I hope you will appreciate what they bring to the table, and honor them with respect and an open mind.
I hope you enjoy getting to know Malus. I welcome your thoughtful feedback, your letters, and your own stories. --Ellen Cavalli