Watkins: What was the impetus for setting up Scarlet Imprint? Did you feel there was a vacuum, or was it in response to a growing demand? Or simply did the muse carry you?
Alkistis Dimech: We created Scarlet Imprint solely to publish Peter’s book on Babalon, The Red Goddess. We had no plans to become publishers nor to continue publishing. But the muse who seized us does not relinquish her grip! There was no-one at the time producing work that we, as independent practitioners, could relate to. As ever, need drives magic.
W: It’s coming up to nearly ten years since your first publication (how time flies!) What would you attribute your longevity to? Is there a master-plan?
AD: We have an unfolding vision: of a magical renaissance in a time of both unprecedented crisis and radical opportunity. We are fortunate to work with those writers who are at the vanguard of the modern occult, and our combined efforts describe a living and evolving tradition. Our endurance is the result of our living work and the response that it has found in a new generation of readers. We have only just begun.
W: We’re always pleasantly surprised to see what you are going to put out next. How do you garner such diversity? Do you actively seek different topics and authors to work with, or do they come to you?
AD: Peter and I are both restless, questioning individuals, we both attract and seek out like minds. In deciding what to publish our approach is intuitive and strategic, and influenced by own eclectic interests. Each title is very labour intensive, as we produce 3 editions (fine bound, standard hardback and paperback), thus we publish only between 2 and 5 books each year. As a result we are careful to select works that contribute to the evolution of the esoteric arts.
W: Every new Scarlet Imprint publication is an event in itself, not least due to the design, typography and materials. What informs your aesthetic?
AD: We have many sources of inspiration, but it was Alfred Jarry who first opened my eyes to the possibilities of the book, particularly the talismanic and magical quality they possess, but also of the page as a space for playfulness and innovation. I approach typography as I do the other creative disciplines I practise (choreography, art): how to mark and shape the empty space. We create books that subvert the idea of the word as the dominant transmitter of knowledge; in an age of mass production, we think it essential that the book is a sensual experience bonded to the reality of being human: its tactility, smell, appearance etc. should engage and stimulate whilst one is reading. My aesthetic tends towards formal restraint, to use the least elements necessary to allow the author’s voice to come through. Finally, the book itself plays a part in its own creation. It inspires, it imposes restrictions, its spirit attends the entire process.
W: There is a level of political engagement with your output. Has this arisen in response to your work, or did you decide to take a particular stance from the very beginning? How has this dictated the course of the business?
AD: I would say that political engagement is a natural consequence of being in the world, humans are political animals and the occult is no exception; but we don’t have a specific political ideology or agenda. Being practising occultists we are implicitly at odds with the materialist paradigm that smothers the vibrant living mystery of the world. Practically, we try to limit our environmental impact in our choice of materials, where we print and so on. And we create books of abiding value and beauty.
W: What do you most enjoy about being a talismanic publisher?
AD: We embrace all aspects of bringing a work into the world – it is a creatively and intellectually engaged endeavour, and the challenges bring discoveries and rewards. Then, being able to contribute to the current and culture of Western esotericism, the conversations taking place now, the connections being made, the ideas emerging – it’s exciting to be at the cutting edge.