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Archive for August, 2010

Sean Wallace is founder and editor of the World Fantasy Award-winning Prime Books, he is co-editor of Clarkesworld (a Hugo and World Fantasy nominee), and Fantasy Magazine. He’s also edited a variety of anthologies, including: Best New Fantasy, Fantasy, Horror: The Best of the Year, and Jabberwocky.

He takes some time out to answer my questions. He is a nice man.

1. I didn’t choose editing, editing chose me: discuss.
I’ve always wanted to be a publisher, more so than an editor, but as with doing a lot of what goes on behind a small press, you find yourself with many hats. Editing is really an extension of that, and I enjoy it, particularly with the stories that I bring to CLARKESWORLD, and FANTASY MAGAZINE. I like bringing to readers something exciting and new that I saw first 😛

2. When I started Prime, my main motivation was …
… to publish projects that didn’t quite fit in with what I was doing with Cosmos Books, which was a bit more traditionally-focused than what I wanted to do with Prime Books.

3. The worst mistake made by newbie authors is …
… undervaluing their talent or themselves to the extent that they don’t give themselves a chance to get published.

4. Batman -v- Dr Manhattan: comments?
Batman. He’s a total badass. Who wouldn’t want to be him?

5. Donuts or danishes?
Usually danishes, unless it’s Krispy Kreme donuts, at which point I can seemingly snarf down a dozen in under a minute 😛

He blogs here.

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It’s the day before I fly to Melbourne for WorldCon. Between me and the plane are several hours of work-related work, packing, writing-related work, reading practise, and general trying-not-to-forget-anythingness. So, this is me:

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Ben Payne does stuff … lots of stuff. He writes, he edits, reads huge amounts of readable material, he critiques, he holds down a day job. Clearly, he has not enough to do.

He has been responsible for Dog versus Sandwich and Midnight Tuber, he has partaken in Twelfth Planet Press projects and he believes, controversially, that Frankenstein would defeat Wonder Woman. Oh, and Shiny, don’t forget Shiny.

1. Frankenstein -v- Wonder Woman: discuss.
Frankenstein is a laugh-out-loud funny novel. I am sure it all made perfect sense at the time. I have never read a Wonder Woman comic and cannot conceive of any way I could purchase one without looking like a strange old man, so I’m resigned to the fact that whatever artistic merit it contains will be denied to me until somebody draws her some pants. So Frankenstein. Although to me Frankenstein will always at least partly be the big green kind of Frankenstein from Groovy Ghoulies.

2. You can only choose editing or writing: which one wins?
Writing. Editing is merely the public service through which I try to make good for the sins of my dubious scrawl.

3. What should be added to every story?
A talking animal which explains the moral. Some stories are very difficult to understand and I don’t know why more authors don’t make use of this simple, convenient and endlessly applicable device. No amount of metaphor or allusion can replace a concise diatribe from a grouse.

4. You get to be invisible for one day. What do you do?
Become firstly manically puffed up by my new powers, then dramatically paranoid as to how many people have already been invisible before me, and freeze into a panic of immobility, wasting most of my day of invisibility. Then I would scare a donkey.

5. Donuts or danishes?
Danish donuts!!

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Alisa Krasnostein is the unsleeping powerhouse that is the engine of Twelfth Planet Press. Really, she doesn’t sleep – email her at any hour of the day or night and she’ll reply. Go ahead. Try it. See? Told ya.

TPP has produced some of the finestworks in Australian spec-fic recently: Deb Biancotti’s A Book of Endings, Peter M Ball’s Horn, Marianne De Pierres’ Glitter Rose are but a few. Upcoming efforts include the anthology Sprawl, Ball’s Aster follow-up Bleed, and next year’s one-per-month mini-collection of single author short stories. “Alisa is busy” wins the award for understatement of the year.

Here, she takes some time out to answer random questions and refuse both donuts and danishes *gasp*. 

1. Are there days when you think “Argh! What was I thinking going into small publishing?”
No, not really. Though right at this moment in time, I’m working pretty hard to get my books to the printer to have them in time for Aussiecon 4 and I have wondered what it would be like not to have to work weekends as well! But I love indie publishing. I might get frustrated with the progress of a project but I never regret getting into indie press.

2. What kills a story deader than dead for you?
I could list the cliches or tropes or subgenres that don’t do it for me but the truth is, any story done well just works, no matter the cliche or trope.

Bad writing kills a story deader than dead for me. The most unhelpful thing is this … a story either has IT or it doesn’t and you can pretty much tell if it’s one or the other by the first paragraph, first sentence even. Writing that turns a phrase just so, sentences that run away so that you forget you’re reading and smooth comfortable, confident writing, that’s not too showy. Anything else, and I’ve already moved onto the next story. Also a story that has nothing to say or no story to tell or nothing new to add or contribute.

3. What do you hate most about editing?
Working with writers who are unable to pull back and view their own work with perspective and dispassionately. I hate working with writers who won’t let you touch a word of their work, or reply to feedback with long explanations of backstory that support why that sentence says what it does (I don’t care, if it’s not clear to the reader, it’s not clear to the reader) or writers who argue with house style by quoting a reference (that’s cool ‘n all but your story will be styled differently to the other 17 stories in the book that I already signed off and sent to layout … and I’ll be the one who looks sloppy).

4. What do you love most about editing?
Working with all the other writers who aren’t the above 🙂  I love seeing an idea or theme turned into a story written just for me. I love being the person to see it first. And I love the back and forth of working with talented writers. I love the energy and creativity that comes from that experience. I love working with writers to take a good or great story to something even better.

And I love holding the finished product in my hand afterwards.

5. Donuts or danishes?
Sadly neither right now as I have sworn off the sugar for three months 😦

TPP lives here. Go, look, buy – there’s a more than excellent chance you’ll find something you’ll love.

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Alastair Jamieson breaks my heart over at Telegraph.co.uk:

Oxford English Dictionary ‘will not be printed again’

The next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, the world’s most definitive work on the language, will never be printed because of the impact of the internet on book sales.

Sales of the third edition of the vast tome have fallen due to the increasing popularity of online alternatives, according to its publisher.

A team of 80 lexicographers has been working on the third edition of the OED – known as OED3 – for the past 21 years.

Ze rest is here.

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Portrait by Gerard Wickham

In the dictionary under the word ‘prolific’ there is a picture of Jeffrey Ford. Under the word ‘ubiquitous’ it just says ‘see prolific’ … not coz they mean the same thing … but they both mean Jeffrey Ford. His awards include those of a World Fantasy persuasion, an Edgar Allan Poe, and a Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire – as well they might. He is also responsible for The Best Title Ever: The Empire of Ice Cream. But I mean, honestly, what do I need to tell you about the man?

He was kind enough to answer my questions, even though I (along with fellow conspirator and trickster goddess Lisa Hannett), messed about with his story in the upcoming Steampunk Reloaded (edited by Team VanderMeer). We have apologised and promised donuts … or danishes by way of votive offering.

1. If I wasn’t a writer, I’d be …
… a crooner, wowing the musical cognoscenti with my smoke laden stylings, belting out standards like I was the love child of Kate Smith and Mel Torme. I’d fuckin own “This Year’s Kisses.” Own it. Do you hear me? (This is to make you glad I’m a writer).

2. Which of your books was the hardest to write? Which the easiest?
The Shadow Year was the hardest, which should have been the easiest since it was largely autobiographical, and The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque was the easiest, which should have been the hardest since it took a ton of research. Go figure.

3. A couple of miscreants come along and mess with your story (let’s blame, oh, say Jeff VanderMeer for it): what do you do?
Realize it’s an inevitable symptom of the Steam Plague.

4. How the hell do you keep writing – and keeping it ‘new’ – after so many books and stories?
I keep writing because I like to. Keeping it ‘new’ is more a question for readers than for me. I just write what I see in my imagination and hope somebody enjoys reading it.

5. Donuts or Danishes?
This is the toughest question of all. I guess, surprise me. Each has winning attributes.

He blogs in a well-built city.

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… this book, which I really wanted to like.

I really wanted to like it because I have such wonderfully terrifying memories of the first time I read the original Dracula. I remember waking in a cold sweat from a dream where I was in a castle tower, looking over an icy valley filled with trees coloured silver by the moonlight, and paralysed by the sure and certain knowledge that something was coming for me. I remember putting the book away for several weeks, hiding it under a pile of sweaters in the back of the cupboard – because, as we all know, just as vampires cannot cross running water, they also cannot climb out from under knitwear.

I knew the authors had pulled together threads about Jack the Ripper, Elizabeth Bathory, and how the relationships between the original bunch of vampire hunters might play out over the years – the story is set 25 years after Dracula’s demise. I knew they used Stoker’s notes from the original manuscript – stuff that got left out. The problem with using the stuff the author left out originally is that sometimes, there are good reasons why it got left out in the first place. 

Umberto Eco’s Brother William of Baskerville says in The Name of the Rose – and I paraphrase here, for I cannot find the exact page number – “Sometimes wisdom lies in knowing what we can do and refraining from doing it.”

This applies to a lot of things in life: knowing that lycra can stretch very, very far, but wisdom lies in refraining from wearing it in public, for it is an unforgiving fabric. Similarly, only Liz Hurley and Elle McPherson are allowed to wear white skinny jeans.

But I digress. What Dracula The Un-Dead gives is a pastiche … we have lesbian vampire rape, a battle on a moving train that references Blade II, Speed and any number of other films, things that constantly feel borrowed from Coppola’s 1992 film version of Dracula, and bits and pieces that seem to have more than a passing acquaintance with the inimitable Mr Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula. And it just doesn’t stand up very well. The prose is so purple that my eyes have changed from green to lavender, and there are repetitions of things the reader already knows, which makes me venture to suggest that if your book isn’t remaining in a reader’s mind and you think you need to remind them about ‘stuff’, then there is a deeper problem. The constant use of the phrase ‘the brave band of heroes’ made me throw the book against the wall more than once.

Dracula is redeemed (he was just misunderstood); Van Helsing turns into a vampire (but not for very long); Bathory is, in fact, Jack the Ripper; everybody does indeed Love Lucy; Mina still harbours the hots for Prince Vlad; and Quincey Harker (Mina’s son) is one of the most unsympathetic, whiney characters to grace the page. Oh, and the Titanic turns up too.

In its favour, the book has an unrelenting pace and an inventiveness that will carry some readers through – I know myself to be a harsh judge. Become a writer and it will ruin you as a reader.

 And I am sad to be so negative about this book, but … it’s … annoying. It has potential and has not fulfilled it … it reads like a B-grade movie. Too much slash, not enough dash. 😦

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