Tag Archives: Australian small press

Retro Review: Kaleidoscope (2014)

Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories

ISBN: 978-1-922101-11-2

August 2014, Twelfth Planet Press

Alisa Krasnostein & Julia Rios (eds.)

Kaleidoscope is one of the best anthologies I have read for a very long time. It’s not just the concept, which is both necessary and overdue; it’s not just the stories, which are engaging and beautiful and thoughtful and brilliant; it’s not just the way the authors explore science fiction and fantasy from perspectives all too frequently unseen in fiction; it’s all of these things, and that it seems so natural. In this anthology, every story takes a character (or two or three) who is often “othered” in fiction (and life), and makes their differences a part of the story. Readers will see themselves, they will see their friends, they will see their families, their cultures, their religious beliefs, their sexuality, their physical and mental states and they will see them as normal, as okay, as special. Not othered. Important and relevant and very very good, Kaleidoscope offers a powerful message to our society about difference, and about what we, as readers, want (and need) to see in our stories.

Some pieces, such as Tansy Rayner Roberts’ “Cookie Cutter Superhero”, offer a biting commentary on popular culture, couched in humour and teen spirit; others, such as “Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon” by Ken Liu, take a gentler approach, examining first love with a fantasical twist. Some stories shade darker, as with “The Legend Trap” by Sean Williams (set in his Twinmaker universe, an added bonus for fans) and “Kiss and Kiss and Kiss and Tell” by E.C. Myers; still others take a familiar trope and turn it sideways, like Faith Mudge’s “Signature” and “The Lovely Duckling” by Tim Susman. Some of my favourite works in the book were those that embedded the story in the protagonist’s nature, like the magic of Jim C. Hines’ “Chupacabra’s Song” and Karen Healey’s astonishingly good “Careful Magic”. There are so many wonderful stories in the pages of Kaleidoscope that every reader will find a favourite (or two or three), and every reader, teen or adult, will find at least one that speaks to them in deeper ways.

This review was first published at FableCroft on June 18, 2014.

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Indie publishing, for the love of it.

I was very pleased to be invited to speak at a meeting for the WA Society of Editors. They asked me to talk about my experience in niche publishing, so this is (basically) what I said 🙂

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In some ways, I’ve been editing since I was in high school, when I was on the editorial team that produced our school yearbook. Having said that, I suppose I’d been writing for longer than that, but in the past decade, editing has certainly become my priority – possibly one day I’ll go back to fiction writing (I still do a lot of non-fiction writing), and I’m sure that my editing experience will stand me in good stead when I do!

My ventures into the Australian speculative fiction scene came out of my love of reading. When I was about 19, after a few years of dedication to Stephen King, Dean Koontz and historical romance novels (don’t laugh), a friend handed me Magician by Raymond Feist, which I devoured in two days. He then told me I might enjoy David Eddings (which I did) and I was hooked. It didn’t take me long to make my way though the backlist of those authors and move on through Anne McCaffrey (introduced to me by the owner of my corner shop at the time) and start to investigate Australian authors of spec fic.

I discovered Sara Douglass, Kate Forsyth, Traci Harding and Simon Brown – and I lay the blame for my embroilment in speculative fiction in Australia squarely at the feet of the latter. In his biography in Inheritance, Brown mentioned the Eidolist, which was a well-populated listserv operating at the time. So I joined, and lurked for a while. Not long after, the long-running small press magazine Aurealis was put up for sale by Chimaera Publications. This started a flurry of talk on the Eidolist, about whether interested parties should form a group to take on the magazine, among other things. Then someone suggested that it might be a better idea to start fresh, and form a group to create a NEW magazine, to take on the Australian scene. This struck a chord with many, and we splintered off to undertake further discussion. This led to the formation of the Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Co-operative, a group I somehow found myself immersed in from the very outset, and which saw me firmly entrenched in Australian spec fic from that point on.

My time at ASIM was pretty much my internship in publishing – I did every role involved in creating a publication that you could do, I’m sure! I slushread, commissioned stories and art, edited, did layout, proofread, organised contracts and payments, marketing, promotions, sales, e-publications and every little thing in between that gets an issue of a magazine from being just an idea, to being in the reader’s hands. The structure of ASIM was both its beauty and its curse – organising anything by committee can be difficult, but for the most part, the support provided by the ever-varying ASIM team meant that you had people to rely on, and also that someone in the group would usually know how to solve a problem. As a learning experience, it was a very good one and has, I think, stood me in good stead in my own publishing ventures. It’s even led me to paying jobs in academic editing, which is a nice sideline!

Being an indie publisher is not an easy road. For every indie press that makes a book that breaks even or, even more rarely, makes a profit, there are dozens, even hundreds, that see money vanish into big boxes of books stacked up in spare rooms and sheds, until the erstwhile owner (or their long-suffering spouse) finally says, “Enough.” It’s fascinating to chart to progress of these publishers, to see them rise and fall, to see the authors who put their faith in them get a start, and read the projects they produce. They continue to emerge, perhaps in even greater numbers in recent years with the advent of E and POD publishing options that make it more cost-effective to produce books, and easier to reach a wider audience. Well, I say “easier”, but what I mean is “possible”, because as the numbers of indie publishers rise, so do the number of self- and vanity publishers, which means the role of the publisher – that of gatekeeper and quality control – is being lost under the white noise. And sometimes it’s very difficult for readers (and authors) to distinguish between an indie press and a vanity one, which has a negative impact on the perception of all independents.

I think this brings us to the part of indie publishing which is the most difficult – it’s not finding the right project, or having the skill to help authors polish their work to the best it can be, or the design skills to produce a quality book, or the money to do a decent print run, and then the tenacity to sell them (although all of those things help). No, I believe that the most important part of being a successful indie publisher is marketing and promotion – getting your books out there in places they can be found and will be purchased. And this is so very, VERY difficult to do.

Not only are our local bookstores closing in droves, not only are the online bookstores being flooded by self-published books that clog up the filters of search engines, not only are the big publishers closing ranks on DRM and ebooks and pricing, all of which makes the indie publisher’s life more difficult, but of course, we try to compete on a shoestring budget. The best way to get into bookstores is to have a distributor. To get a distributor, you need a print run of at least 1000, often more. You also have to sign agreements that almost guarantee you will lose money on the books you send to that distributor, with discounts of up to 70% of RRP necessary for them to take you on. You also run the risk of losses in transit, in the warehouse, and in the end, to pulping, as the contract may give them the right to dump your stock with no returns.

But on the plus side, you suddenly have more exposure than you could ever garner on your own – and if some of the bookshops that use your distributor pick up your book, you are now on shelves you absolutely cannot reach independently, no matter how hard or how long you work at it. And let’s face it – most indie publishers have neither the time (most work at least part-time in a “real world” job!) nor the money to invest in targeting every bookstore in Australia individually. But that often means we don’t have the money to invest in big print runs that may or may not find distribution, and may or may not sell, even if they do. Rock, meet hard place.

But we keep on coming – niche publishers continue to erupt in the market, finding new talent, sometimes finding acclaim and sometimes even finding that very special book that creates a zeitgeist for itself and breaks even, or makes a profit, or even that rarest of beasts, forms the basis of a platform which propels the publisher into the next strata of publishing, with both the time and the money to invest in bigger and better projects.

It so infrequently happens though – not often enough to give the rest of us hope. Yet still new publishers emerge, with new ideas, or new takes on old ideas, and more projects every day. What keeps them coming? It certainly isn’t the money, or the promise of fame. And it’s by no means a relaxing hobby – rather, you tend to spend all your free time (and some of that not free!) working on projects, from slushing to sales. So what else is there?

I guess it has to come down to love – editors and publishers in indie press have to love what they do. The thrill that comes with being the first person to read a new story, discover a new author, to make a new book! It costs money to publish – money that comes out of the indie publisher’s own pocket for the most part, although there have been some very successful crowd-funded projects in the very recent past (it’s all about the signal boosting!). Even if you decide to only run your manuscript through the Smashwords meatgrinder and hope to sell that way, there’s still an investment of time that has to go into a quality product, the money to pay the authors, artists, designers (if you use them), and the money it costs to market – because there are ALWAYS costs.

So we have to do it because we love the process. Some of us may hope to use our experience to step up to another level in publishing, but even that is becoming a distant hope, with the way publishing is teetering on a financial knife edge at the moment, and particularly in Australia, where jobs in the industry have never been prolific. So indie publishing is perhaps our way of expressing our love for books, for writing, and supporting the industry that gives us much joy.

And some indie presses do it so very well – in Western Australia alone you’ll find at least five actively producing small presses dedicated to speculative fiction in various forms. Within the pages of these publications are national and internationally awarded stories, from Ticonderoga’s recent Aurealis Award win for Best Collection to Twelfth Planet’s Washington Small Press Award last year, among many other accolades. I was delighted that FableCroft had two stories on the Aurealis Awards shortlists this year, which is wonderful recognition for a press in only its first year of operations. Alisa Krasnostein of Twelfth Planet Press is heading to World Fantasy Con later this year to be present at the World Fantasy Awards, for which she is shortlisted in the Special Awards – Non-Professional category. It’s a huge achievement for an indie press to be recognised internationally, and one Alisa has worked extraordinarily hard to achieve.

Which brings me to my final point – hard work. That’s what indie press is. We may do it for the love, but in the end, without a lot of hard work and dedication, on top of vision and high standards, niche publishers will stay small, and never be known outside their own little sphere. Put in the elbow grease though, and the sky is the limit.

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Open short story markets – revised!

A couple of new markets added! Listed in order of closing date – some closing very soon…

1. Twelfth Planet Press is seeking original, unpublished fantasy stories of between 2,500 wds and 7,500 wds, set in the 1920s and fun, for Speakeasy. Details here. Closes September 30, 2010. Twelfth Planet Press also has open reading for the novella and novelette doubles series’.

2. FableCroft Publishing is calling for (Australian only) submissions to After the Rain, a speculative fiction anthology for stories between 2,000-10,000 words. Details here. Closes October 31, 2010.

3. Liz Gryzb is editing More Scary Kisses for Ticonderoga Publications. Paranormal romance stories of between 1,000 and 8,500 words are wanted. Details here. Closes November 1, 2010.

4. Submissions of 1,000 to 7,500 words from Australian and overseas contributors are encouraged to the Aussie vampire anthology Dead Red Heart from Ticonderoga Publications. Closes December 1, 2010. Details here.

5. Although the CSFG website hasn’t been updated to reflect this, submissions for the next CSFG Publishing anthology, Winds of Change, are welcome from 15 September 2010 and 31 January 2011.

Winds of Change will be edited by Elizabeth Fitzgerald. Stories may be any length up to 5,000 words. All approaches to the theme are welcome, as long as they are by nature speculative.

Payment will be contributors’ copies plus $10 for stories under 1,500 words and $25 for all others based on published word count.

Submissions are encouraged from Australian writers of all levels of experience, with special encouragement given to CSFG members.

Submissions should be sent (as .rtf attachments only) to windsofchange.csfg@gmail.com. Please make sure that the following information is in the email proper:

Name
Address
Email address
Name of Story
Word Count
Other contact information

If you wish to contribute to the interior artwork, please contact to windsofchange.csfg@gmail.com.

6. Editor Keith Stevenson is reading for the forthcoming Couer de Lion anthology, Anywhere But Earth. Original and unpublished science fiction stories of between 3,000 and 15,000 words on the theme are welcomed. Extensive details here. Closes February 28, 2011.

7. Midnight Echo 6 is now open for submissions and the editors are seeking science fictional horror stories (or "creepy alien fiction" as one editor puts it!) up to 5000 words – unsure of closing date as the website hasn’t yet been updated, but the guidelines for the issue are available here, and I’m sure closing dates will appear soon.

8. Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine is almost always open to global submissions of up to 10,000 words (20,000 for Aust & NZ writers). Comprehensive guidelines here.

9. Aurealis is also an open market for Australian speculative fiction between 2,000 and 8,000 words – submissions from overseas by query. Guidelines here.

ETA: Thanks to Ben for reminding me – there are also some online markets (paying and unpaid) open.

a) Moonlight Tuber edited by Ben Payne (surreal, absurdist or otherwise non-realist material).
b) AntipodeanSF edited by Ion Newcombe (flash fiction, unpaid).

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Open short story markets

It’s a good time to be writing spec fic short stories in Australia right now. And maybe even for our overseas friends, as many of our local markets are open to international submissions! Thought it might be a good time to do a little round up:

1. Twelfth Planet Press is seeking original, unpublished fantasy stories of between 2,500 wds and 7,500 wds, set in the 1920s and fun for Speakeasy. Details here. Closes September 30, 2010. Twelfth Planet Press also has open reading for the novella and novelette doubles series’.

2. FableCroft Publishing is calling for (Australian only) submissions to After the Rain, a speculative fiction anthology for stories between 2,000-10,000 words. Details here. Closes October 31, 2010.

3. Liz Gryzb is editing More Scary Kisses for Ticonderoga Publications. Paranormal romance stories of between 1,000 and 8,500 words are wanted. Details here. Closes November 1, 2010.

4. Submissions of 1,000 to 7,500 words from Australian and overseas contributors are encouraged to the Aussie vampire anthology Dead Red Heart from Ticonderoga Publications. Closes December 1, 2010. Details here.

5. Editor Keith Stevenson is reading for the forthcoming Couer de Lion anthology, Anywhere But Earth. Original and unpublished science fiction stories of between 3,000 and 15,000 words on the theme are welcomed. Extensive details here. Closes February 28, 2011.

6. Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine is almost always open to global submissions of up to 10,000 words (20,000 for Aust & NZ writers). Comprehensive guidelines here.

7. Aurealis is also an open market for Australian speculative fiction between 2,000 and 8,000 words – submissions from overseas by query. Guidelines here.

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LJ Syndication of Australian Small Press

The very clever callistra has set up an LJ Syndication of Australian Small Press – http://syndicated.livejournal.com/aus_small_press/

Thanks Calli!

Naturally, the feed doesn’t have the sidebars with all the other information for markets, publishers, retailers and so on, so you should still bookmark the site for occasional checking 🙂

http://australiansmallpress.blogspot.com/

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