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H Bomb Suffers Money Woes

With leadership in transition, magazine places hopes in book idea with sex blogger

It hit the campus media scene like an H-bomb, but it has now become an H-dud.

H Bomb—the student-produced, Harvard sex magazine—made national headlines when it debuted in the spring of 2004, but after nearly three years and only two issues, the magazine is now struggling with financial difficulties.

H Bomb last published an issue in the spring of 2005, and according to H Bomb’s former business manager, Vladimir P. Djuric ’06, the magazine was scheduled to publish a third issue last spring but simply did not have the financial resources to put the issue into print.

“One issue was put together last year, but it was never printed,” Djuric, a former Crimson executive editor, said. “We didn’t have enough money at the end of last year to print another issue.”

According to Djuric, an issue costs between $9,000 and $12,000 to print, and H Bomb currently has “not that much” money. Djuric said the first issue was printed using a $2,000 grant from the Undergraduate Council—an unusually large grant for a student group—and other donations. Djuric added that the first issue generated enough advertising revenue to print the second one, but that the magazine did not sell as many ads for the second issue.

“It lost a lot of steam,” Djuric said. “One of the big problems was that almost the whole business staff graduated last year.”

Eight of the 11 officers listed on H Bomb’s website have either graduated or are graduating next month. The current president of H Bomb, Ming Emily Vandenberg ’08, did not respond to repeated phone calls and e-mails for comment.

Katharina P. Cieplak-Von Baldegg ’06-’07, who co-founded H Bomb in 2004, said that the magazine is in a “state of transition.”

“I think it’s normal for new student organizations to go through cycles,” Baldegg said. “I think [Vandenberg] and the other kids working on it will figure out a new infrastructure.”

Both Djuric and Baldegg said that there were discussions about simply moving the magazine to an entirely online format, but that no work has been done on the website since last spring.

The magazine now appears to be placing much of its hopes for a revival on the shoulders of campus sex blogger Lena Chen ’09. Djuric said he met with Chen—the author of SexAndTheIvy.com—to discuss a potential book deal in conjunction with the magazine.

“We’ve spent the semester talking about logistics and what we want the book to look like,” Chen, a Crimson magazine editor, said.

Djuric said that one idea that has been tossed around for the book proposal is a collection of autobiographical stories about how different Harvard students lost their virginities.

While Chen said the idea is still in its nascent stages, she envisions it being a sort of guide to sex at Ivy League schools.

“A guide to everything there is about sex,” Chen said. “Not on how to have sex per se, but a manual with a certain Ivy League legitimacy.”

Chen said her schedule next semester will allow her more flexibility to work on the book idea.

“There is not really a precedent for a sex guide written by a Harvard college student, so whatever I come out with will certainly be original material,” she said.

The last Harvard student to publish a book while a fulltime undergraduate was Kaavya Viswanathan ’08. Viswanathan’s book, “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life,” was pulled from shelves by the publisher after plagiarism concerns were raised—initially reported by The Crimson.

Regardless of whether the book comes to fruition, both Djuric and Baldegg expressed a strong desire to see an H-Bomb revival.

“I would like to see it make a comeback, but I don’t know if it will,” Djuric said. “The problem is no one ever built an institution where it would continue well beyond the founders.”

According to Assistant Dean of the College Paul J. McLoughlin II, H Bomb is still registered as an official Harvard student group and updated some of their information in November. But he wrote in an e-mail that the College is still waiting to see the group’s budget.

“I do not know the current status of H Bomb’s work because one of the documents we are missing is their budget for the upcoming year,” Mcloughlin wrote.

But McLoughlin added that simply failing to publish for an academic year would not be sufficient grounds for a student group to lose recognition.  

“I can confirm that the College will continue to recognize a publication even if they fail to publish an issue for a year,” McLoughlin wrote.

—Staff Writer Evan M. Vittor can be reached at evittor@fas.harvard.edu.
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