In Pittsburgh, technology and industry shape the way we live, from the (fresh?) air we breathe to the topics of our conversations. A working-class town on the one hand, Pittsburgh is also a city with a booming arts culture. With their new online literary magazine, Steel City Review, founders Julia LaSalle and Stefani Nellen attempt to marry these two aspects. The quarterly will showcase the short fiction of writers working with these themes, mostly with the Steel City itself in mind.
"We wanted to counteract the anonymity of the Internet by tying our magazine to a specific place," says LaSalle.
LaSalle, 31, knows the region well: She grew up in Beaver County and earned degrees at Carnegie Mellon and Duquesne. Nellen, 29, is from Heidelberg, Germany. She came to Pittsburgh a few years ago with her husband, a visiting professor at CMU.
LaSalle and Nellen, both writers, met through connections at CMU, and a magazine was born. While they have been careful to select stories which express an aspect of life in Pittsburgh, they intend Steel City Review to appeal to everyone. "We want to become a known quantity in the literary world, a market not only for writers, but also for readers," says LaSalle. Besides the online magazine, they plan to engage the community by publishing an annual print edition and holding public readings.
Steel City Review (www.steelcityreview.com) officially launches Sat., Jan. 27. It features short fiction by writers who either live in, or have some connection to, Pittsburgh. Colorado-based writer Maggie Shearon, who lived in the area for years, contributes "Eddie's Glasses," a funny and somewhat disturbing story about a Pittsburgh man who steals and wears his stepsister's cat-eye frames. "Job Hazard, 1956," by Donna D. Vitucci, explores the lives of uranium-plant employees in Ohio. Marc Lowe's story "Immaterial" also looks at blue-collar workers, but from a more futuristic angle.
"We wanted to establish a mag that is quirky, distinct and entertaining," says LaSalle. She says Pittsburgh-based literary magazines that inspired Steel City Review include the now-defunct Millhunk Herald (which featured writing by mill workers) as well as such contemporaries as Cake Train, The New Yinzer and Murdaland -- Crime Fiction for the 21st Century.
In most people's minds, issues of work and technology have little to do with literature. But in the Steel City Review, as in Pittsburgh itself, the practical and fine arts intertwine. "This has always been an area where reflection and literary pursuits are not constrained to a remote class," says LaSalle. "It's a region of thoughtfulness that strives for everyday/workaday enlightenment."