visualizAsian.com interview 3/16 with Eric Nakamura of Giant Robot magazine

Giant Robot features the works of cutting-edge Asian and Asian American artistsHow cool is this? The March 16 visualizAsian.com show is going to be a conversation with Eric Nakamura, the owner, publisher and co-editor of Giant Robot magazine. Our call with Eric will be at 6 pm PT on Tuesday, March 16!

From movie stars, musicians, and skate-boarders to toys, technology, and history, Giant Robot magazine covers cool aspects of Asian and Asian-American pop culture. Paving the way for less knowledgeable media outlets, Eric put the spotlight on Chow Yun Fat, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li years before they were in mainstream America’s vocabulary.

Although Giant Robot has an Asian pop culture focus, it has earned a loyal readership of all colors. The readers are about half-Asian and half-not.

Under Eric’s leadership the magazine consistently has featured superior editorial content, innovative design, and a no-holds-barred attitude, garnering Giant Robot notoriety across a diverse crowd ranging from high schoolers to senior citizens. The magazine’s graphic sensibility has featured a slew of artists who have gone on to fame in the art world.

The magazine’s popularity even led to the opening of Giant Robot retail stores, selling the kinds of cool products that the magazine writes about.

Eric Nakamura graduated from UCLA with a degree in East Asian Studies. He got his start in magazine making through a stint at the Palisadian Post newspaper and Larry Flynt Publications (yes, that Larry Flynt — register for the call to ask him about it), but worked on numerous punk rock zines in the early ’90s.

In addition to founding and publishing issues of Giant Robot magazine since 1994, curating art exhibits, and picking products for the shops, located in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City, Nakamura found the time to make an independent movie called “Sunsets” in 1997.

He consults companies on Asian popular culture and designs t-shirts for the Giant Robot brand. Recently, Nakamura curated a museum show, “Giant Robot Biennale” at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, and works on projects outside of Giant Robot for different communities and entities.

Giant Robot continues to be a leading source of Asian popular culture and is often considered a lifestyle magazine and store for the fans of animation, art, and design.

Recently, Giant Robot has asked for help from its many fans around the world:

While diversification allowed Giant Robot to escape the fate suffered by many of our indie publishing peers in the second half of the ‘00s, 2009 was brutal. In addition to several distributors cutting out small press or folding altogether, paper has become more expensive and postage has skyrocketed exponentially. And while there has also been the support of loyal advertisers, the middle class of supporters has dropped, creating peaks and valleys in income that force us to live issue to issue. Complicating matters, store revenues and art show sales have suffered along with the economy, depriving the magazine of resources that allowed it to operate freely and thrive without the benefit or constraints of being part of a large publishing house.

Reducing pages, going from bimonthly to quarterly, or becoming an online entity are not options, and our editorial and production staff of two full-timers and two part-timers (intact since issue 18) is already as lean as can be.

And so, we are taking a series of actions with the intention of not only outlasting the economic downturn but becoming an even tighter operation with an improved publication. These steps include improving the content, explore printing and distribution options, and evolving with technology. We are also seeking help from friends.

THE MESSAGE
Although the idea of a Giant Robot Foundation is not new (a non-tax-deductible donation form has been included with subscription renewal notices for years now), this particular online campaign is. We believe that there are multiple generations artists, designers, bands, filmmakers, and travelers, as well as fans, students, and supporters of interesting culture who believe in what we do and want Giant Robot magazine to continue on its path without sacrificing quality, quantity, or independence.

We have done the math, and an infusion of $60,000 (hopefully more) will ensure another year of full, unfettered operation with no strings attached to a shifting media paradigm, advertising climate, sketchy distributors, and the economy—each of which we are not ignoring but addressing straight-on. In concert with the other measures (not to mention the realignment and recovery of our shops), we feel that Giant Robot’s future and its continuing impact of society will be secure.

If you have been affected or inspired by Giant Robot—perhaps even featured in the pages of the magazine—please help however you can. All support, both through finances and spreading the word, will be appreciated and make a difference.

The magazine’s not immune to the economic downturn’s effects on publishing, and media in general. The past year saw mainstream magazine shrink or disappear, and some Asian American newspapers and magazines from Hokubei Mainichi newspaper in San Francisco to East-West magazine call it quits, at least in print form.

We’ll talk with Eric about Giant Robot’s future as well as its stellar, and groundbreaking, past and hopefully spark some support. These are indeed tough times for Asian American publications, so join us and support for Eric’s great work!


SIGN UP FOR OUR CONVERSATION WITH ERIC NAKAMURA AT 6 PM PT (9 PM ET) TUESDAY, MARCH 16! You can listen to the live interview over the phone (long distance charges may apply) or FREE via a webcast. You can also submit questions for Eric before and during the interview. If you miss the live event, you can listen to the archived MP3 file of the interview for a limited time online.

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