“Literary and artistic contributions to the journal are the beauty crafted in a hateful and violent world,” is how Founder and Editor in Chief Keiraj M. Gillis describes 7th-Circle Pyrite, an online bi-monthly of spirituality/religion, occult, horror, gothic, paranormal, mythology/folklore, and fantasy in all genres of writing and artwork. “My goal in starting the journal was – and always will be – to provide safety for writers and artists,” Gillis says, and “to be a refuge from the prevailing values in the literary world that have the potential to dismantle creatives’ confidence.”
A published author in gothic and spiritual poetry as well as a teacher, trainer, and IT grad, Gillis explains, “The themes supported by 7th-Circle Pyrite are very close to me. I have explored horror in its many forms as both a reader and writer, and have consistently been a student of religion, with involvement in everything from Christianity to Satanism. I’m an astrologer as well, and very much enjoy connecting with those who aren’t afraid to acknowledge that there may be ‘worlds beyond’ what we see.”
Creating a ‘world beyond’ also motivated Gillis to start 7th-Circle Pyrite, as he comments, “I believe there is a nauseating pretentiousness that is pervasive among various creative spaces in the literary community. There are journals whose goal is to garner prestige and aim to achieve that goal by priding themselves on an impossibly high rejection rate. But, what about those whose work we don’t accept? How can we still make them feel safe and confident? After all, reaching out to a journal to submit work requires moxie.
“Every submission in a journal’s inbox is the result of someone developing enough confidence to put themselves out there and have their work—the products of their heart—evaluated. Few things in life are scarier than the potential of having the encapsulations of your passion, hard work, and life experience trampled on. This can be a weighty concern for writers of niche genres especially. I feel it’s vital to assume that the tone of the response a contributor receives from a publication might be the difference between that contributor continuing their publishing journey or giving up entirely. 7th-Circle Pyrite exists as a means to ensure creatives don’t give up.”
The name itself was derived from a poem Gillis had written called, “7th-Circle Frat Party.” In the poem, Gillis explains, “The speaker—a demon—is describing the Dante-inspired seventh circle of Hell in much the same way a college student might describe a frat house. The poem is tongue-in-cheek, but after I wrote it, I thought the concept was more intriguing than I had initially given it credit for: the idea that, even in Hell, there’s fun to be had. I believe our world isn’t dissimilar to that Hell, with the seventh circle of Dante’s Inferno—known for housing perpetrators of violence—being analogous to the conditions in which we live. Violence everywhere. So, then, since we can’t escape, the least we can do is try to make something worthwhile from what we have. And what we have—what Hell has, classically—is a ton of sulfur. Pyrite is, in my opinion, the most visually striking mineral for which sulfur serves as a building block. And with that, 7th-Circle Pyrite was named.
For contributors looking to take the plunge into the 7th-Circle, Gillis details their process. “All submissions are directed to the journal’s email inbox and are read and responded to by me. Feedback is generally provided for both accepted and rejected submissions.
“Submissions usually receive a response within two weeks. Submissions that are accepted receive feedback 100% of the time and may also be accompanied by a request for the contributor to review a pre-publication edit form if any edits are needed to their work prior to publication. Rejected submissions receive feedback most often in cases where I believe some well-crafted constructive thoughts can truly help improve the submitted piece(s) for submission elsewhere, or if a rejection has a higher potential to strike the contributor as confusing if the issues inhibiting their work are less obvious.
“There are also cases wherein a contributor whose work has been rejected is invited to resubmit the same piece(s) if they are willing to make the changes to their work outlined in the feedback I’ve provided. In all cases of rejection, however, there is a statement in the rejection letter with a reminder that the decision not to pursue publication was made using subjective criteria as a benchmark.
“It is extremely important to me that contributors not leave an interaction with 7th-Circle Pyrite under a misapprehension that their work cannot find success elsewhere. And there is also no benefit, in my view, to my journal—or any other publication, for that matter—being coy about the fact that subjectivity plays a large role in the acceptance process.”
For visitors to the publication, Gillis promises, “A successful issue of our journal will take readers to another ‘world.’ That can be a world of paranormality, fantasy, magic, or horror. It could be a journey to the afterlife or another planet, a reimagining of our own world, or even an exploration of the mind. A reader should, ultimately, be transported somewhere that elevates them above the mundane.
“Our issues contain a mixture of all of our desired genres and topics, so there is generally no issue-level thematic undercurrent. A short fiction piece about death may be juxtaposed with a poetic piece about a cryptid; when they dive into our content, readers should have a view toward, quite simply, having fun.”
For would-be readers who consider themselves skeptics or critics of many of 7th-Circle Pyrite’s genres/topics, Gillis responds, “I implore those individuals to avoid letting their skepticism deter them from exploring a new world. Readers are under no obligation to actually believe in the themes highlighted in the content being published. In fact, those with a skeptical eye are invited to view the journal’s content from that critical vantage point. But the key is a willingness to explore and see what can be found. Their views may not change, but they may develop a greater appreciation for those of us who choose to seek out and flourish in new worlds.”
Among recent contributors providing readers with new worlds to envision are Warren Benedetto, Helen N. Hill, DC Diamondopolous, Robert Pope, Ken Goodman, Allister Nelson, Emma Burnett, Nels Hanson, Edilson Afonso Ferreira, and Lisa Rodriguez.
The publication start-up experience for Gillis has offered some insight. “A publication has nothing if it doesn’t have the trust of potential readers and contributors. The existence and continual success of a journal hinges on support from the creative community. We as editors are in service to that community, not the other way around. These are ideas I knew to be true before starting the journal, but they have since been reinforced as unyieldingly true.”
And, looking to the future, Gillis says, “I eventually would like for the journal to accommodate author interviews. This could be in the form of a ‘featured contributor’ sort of platform whereupon an author or artist shares more about their creative process, values, and style with readers. I want contributors to feel pedestaled, even if only for a moment. They deserve to be proud of their work and their accomplishment in being selected for publication, so an interview-based platform would be an opportunity to celebrate them further.”