The actual theme for the collection came about during 2011 … I won’t give too much away, as I’d like readers to see for themselves, and I don’t want Russell to tear up the contract before the book is published! What I can say is that there are stories about discovering who we are in the face of life-threatening technology and aliens; or working out how we fit into a society increasingly driven by collective thinking; or saving the people we care about in post-singularity settings. I think the theme is particularly important for us men. We seem to have a habit of tumbling along life’s avenues, stuffing things up, and expecting our loved ones – parents, siblings, children, friends and work mates alike – to put up with our BS along the way!
As a natural introvert – yes, really! – I also deeply appreciate the social interaction that seems to go hand in hand with podcasting. Both the feedback from our listeners and the ongoing banter that happens between various podcasters both here in Australia and internationally. I love the spec fic community and it feels great to be able to contribute to and help build that community. Ever since I stumbled upon my first fanzine a couple of decades ago, I’ve toyed off and on with the idea of publishing one of my own. Problem is, I really don’t have the time, patience or spare words to successfully do that on a regular basis – it’s been hard enough maintaining an online blog and so on while still finding time to write my fiction. Podcasting is definitely a quicker and easier medium for me, production wise, and I’m very glad that Ian was finally able to talk me into it.
That’s a really difficult question, because it’s not something I tend to reflect upon. What I have seen over the past couple of years is a rise – or perhaps the resurgence – of a DIY mentality in the scene. Podcasts and new fanzines are launching, small presses are ramping up their ambition and output, and a lot of authors – both emerging writers and those more established – are experimenting with digital publishing, self-publishing and new media. There seems to be a real confidence in the scene right now, a lot of optimism for future opportunities, or at least that’s what I feel among the people with whom I find myself interacting these days. And it seems to be working, because a lot of Australians are popping up on international awards ballots and in year’s best collections, being widely published outside of Australia, and generally garnering favourable notice beyond our shores. The internet has made the world smaller, but it’s also a much noisier place now, and it’s great to see Australian voices rising above the madding crowd. More importantly, I think, it’s great to see them remaining Australian voices, telling our stories in our words. I love that.
Interestingly, that tweet came out of both my day job as a teacher librarian and my editor/publisher thoughts. Curation (and its cousin, gate-keeping) is an essential part of both arenas, and a role which I think is often underestimated. Without curators, the work of talented creators can go un-noticed, or worse, unseen (as in, never published) – our job as curators is to bring together and put forth creative work in such a way that people who will enjoy it will find it. Whether that is as an editor who puts out an anthology, a publisher which produces great books, a librarian or bookseller who buys and displays the work, a judge who shortlists pieces for wider recognition or a reviewer who examines the book critically for a public audience, each role is essential to the ability of readers to discover the work of creators. I think curation is especially important in the currently publishing climate, where e- and self-publishing are such growth areas, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to find quality work even as the number of publications soar.
It’s both similar and quite different. Obviously with a theme anthology you need to solicit stories within quite a narrow range. They have to address the theme, but not be repetitive, and while you have scope to control the feel of the book the direction is pretty much set. With an unthemed project like Eclipse you have almost total freedom, at least at the outset. You’re only limited by what you and the publisher have agreed, and by the stories you can find. I revelled in that freedom, and really tried to reach out to a broad range of writers whose work I loved.
When I started to think on this my initial reaction was to back away from the question a little. I think a lot has been happening in Australian SF, but initially I wasn’t sure how transformative it was. On reflection, though, I think there have been changes. The most obvious one, from a personal perspective, is the rise of podcasting. Before Aussiecon 4 it was a side event, but now it’s an important central part of Australian SF and we contribute significantly at an international level, with two of them (he notes immodestly) currently up for the Hugo Award. I think the small press has also been invigorated. Perth’s Twelfth Planet Press has been undertaking a series of really ambitious projects and publishing some very fine books, and Ticonderoga Press has really emerged from a long quiet period with some terrific books. That change has to be good for the field. I also think there is some potentially important change with our major publishers. I’m not sure if a publisher like Voyager would have published Westwood’s The Courier’s New Bicycle five years ago. They seem, perhaps, willing to take more artistic chances, and that can only be a great thing.
I fell in love with the local specfic scene. I spent a lot of time watching behind the scenes at ASIM and learned a lot. By 2005/2006 I was very keen to have a go on my own and see if I could make small press work. I had a lot of ideas about the kind of press I wanted to create and I really wanted to see if you could make small press work, financially.
TPP has well exceeded my expectations. The jury is still out on whether you can make a small press work financially (though certainly there are more than a few American presses that do). A start up can take 5 years to get on its feet and this is about year 5 for TPP. There have been more successful projects than others. And both the successes and the failures have taught me a lot about publishing, editing and business. The recognition TPP has received and the work we have published has been far more than I could have ever dreamed possible this early on.
It feels like more authors are gaining international recognition but I’m not sure if that’s just my perception in that authors *I* am friends with are progressing and growing in their careers. It also feels like a lot of authors have left short stories to work on novels. Certainly a lot of the authors I came into the scene reading in the short form have sold novels in that time and have tended to be quiet, working at the long length.
Novellas have kind of grown too. I remember a time when the Ditmar ballot could field a shortlist for novellas/novelettes and now this has become one of the most competitive categories. Again, I think this relates to the maturing of a lot of our authors as they play with form and length towards the elusive novel.
Podcasts – Australians really are punching above our weight class in the podcast department and I think that’s brought the world closer to us in ways that have really previously been hard to overcome. We have a greater voice in the international scene and with that comes the ability to get the word out about what we’re doing here. Exciting, when I think about it. Where will be next time the Snapshot comes round to take a picture?