Themed Issues —by Joshua Colvin

by · June 19, 2018


This might come as a surprise to some of you, but the selection of articles in each of our issues is more-or-less coincidental. Any apparent “theme” is mostly happenstance, as we typically run the articles in the order they were accepted. Whatever curating we do happens, for the most part, when we select and edit the original submissions.

Of course we’ll sometimes rush to print a time-sensitive article or rearrange the schedule of a few articles if we feel we need a little more regional diversity or more “how-to” or “adventure,” for example, but each magazine is mostly comprised simply of the next batch of articles in the queue.

I mention this only because we find it interesting that a lot of our magazines end up with an unmistakable theme anyway. Last issue (#110) was a good example. It so happened we had articles on human propulsion, a pedal-powered boat, a solar-powered boat, and a power-sailer—a sort of “Alternative Power”-themed edition was born. While it was a tinkerer’s dream, not everyone liked the esoteric content and shortage of sailboats. This helps explain why we avoid overt themed issues, as by their nature they please fewer readers. (Better, we think, that you occasionally skip a page or two you don’t find interesting, than receive a whole magazine focused on something you find uninspiring.)

Similarly, when we’re asked, “Why don’t you do more articles on (fill in the blank)?” our answer is usually, “Because we’re not getting any articles on (fill in the blank).” While we occasionally generate or solicit articles on a particular topic—like we did recently with Perfect Prams and Best Places to Sail—we’ve found the best material is generally whatever’s on the mind of those of you who contribute to this magazine. It certainly makes editorial direction simple: What topics do our readers want us to cover? The same ones covered in the articles they send us.

Speaking of themes, we’ve also noticed over the years that specific words or references sometimes appear multiple times in a single issue. Once it was Tinkerbelle—the boat and the book—that came up in a bunch of articles, then more recently it was Swallows and Amazons. For whatever reason “Huck Finn” made multiple appearances last issue. Maybe these repeat references aren’t so surprising—in fact they might do a better job explaining what our magazine is about than anything else we could come up with. Any fan of Tinkerbelle, Huck Finn or Swallows and Amazons will probably feel right at home with Small Craft Advisor. —Joshua Colvin

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