So the genesis of this post was a conversation with Alisa Krasnostein, on twitter, where she asked me if I knew how many Ditmars I had won. I admitted I didn’t, and, furthermore, had no idea what stories I had published.
I had been meaning to get such a list together for some time, more to assist my memories than because it’s particularly impressive (although there are a huge number of stories on there I’m proud to have published).
And then I thought I might as well use them as a springboard to test my memory of the last ten years. Some of these posts will be longer, some very very short, depending on my memory 🙂
The year 2001 I published my first ever publication, Issue 1 of Potato Monkey.
Here is what was in it:
In the Mist… Robert N Stephenson
Psychology… Robbie Matthews
Calapaya… Trent Jamieson
The Snail Street Sweeper… Carlton Mellick III
The Lawn Citizens… Carlton Mellick III
Sleight of Hand… Simon Haynes
Generation Next, the Real Thing… Shane Griffin
Akira and the Dolphin Children… Alison Venugoban
I remember, around 1997 or 1998, seeing a copy of Geoffrey Dale’s magazine “Futurist” (not to be confused with other magazines of the same name) in a newsagent in Toowoomba. I don’t remember any of the stories but I remember it was a big A4 size mag, with colour ink on some pages. I had read Asimovs and F&SF before that, but found myself entranced by this Australian product. All of a sudden I was entranced by this idea of publishing my own Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine.
My own understanding of such an undertaking was, looking back, embarassingly poor. I had no knowledge of distribution channels or markups. I imagined it would probably be as simple as providing copies to newsagents and asking them to keep it on the shelves, and then popping in once a month to collect the money from any that had sold.
Armed with this depth of understanding of the publishing field, I brazenly launched a call for submissions on the Eidolist, I believe. One of the things I remember clearly is how supportive most of the current publishers and editors were of my ill-conceived venture. Sarah Endicott, Jeremy Byrne, Erika Lacey, Robert Stephenson and soon-to-be editor Cat Sparks all offered support and advice.
The first issue was run off in the Uni postgrad room, I think. I could not print booklets whole; and so I had to lay out the magazine to print one page at a time. This meant laying out the whole thing, then cut and pasting pages as they needed to be assembled, for example one page might have pages 1 and 80, the next would have pages 2 and 79. Except the latter would have to be reversed so that they printed on the right sides of the paper (pick up a magazine and imagine it taken apart and you will see what I mean).
This was a very lengthy task. I had more than a couple of runs where I realised I had forgotten to reverse the pages and had to start again. What’s more, MS word did not cope well with the cut and pasting, and the justification of the last line of each page was lost as soon as the text after it was cut. I spent a lot of time spacing these out manually.
Once each page and its reverse was printed, I then took them all home and lay them all out on the floor. I then spent an afternoon folding each page and putting them in the right order. Then I discovered that the guillotine I had access to could not chop an eighty page booklet. So I hastily rang around local printers, and arranged for one to fold and staple the magazines for me at a reasonable fee.
I didn’t have a car, back then (still don’t), and so I remember walking across to the printer and picking up the box of completed Potato Monkeys in a big stripey bag. I knew they were not glossy or impressive to look at. But just at that moment, they felt like the very most amazing and special things that had ever been printed. I had that feeling that, perhaps, keeps publishers going. That feeling, after all the pain and work, of looking at an issue and thinking “I made this”.
I don’t remember how many issues of PM1 I sold. I imagine the numbers wouldn’t get any publisher out of bed these days. But back then, it was enough, to know people were reading it. Simon Haynes’ story even got an Aurealis award!
I was 26, then.
It was an adventure, of sorts.