Alisa Krasnostein is an engineer by day and an editor by night… and lunchtime and weekend. Having started the reviews website Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus (ASif!) she has moved on to indie publishing with Twelfth Planet Press. Through TPP Alisa has published anthologies and single-author collections, and will soon begin a novel line. TPP and Alisa were last year recipients of a World Fantasy Award. In her spare time, Alisa is also one third of the Hugo-nominated and Peter McNamara-winning podcast Galactic Suburbia.
You began an indie publishing house, Twelfth Planet Press, a number of years ago. You’ve been responsible for several anthologies, single-author collections and novella doubles, as well as the shared world of New Ceres and the e-mag Shiny. Why did you start TPP in the first place, and has it lived up to expectations?
I got involved in small press via ASIM [Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine] and starting up ASif! These both whet my appetite for what could be possible in local publishing. 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.
Your current project is the Twelve Planets series, wherein you are publishing twelve short, single-author collections by a range of Australian authors. What has it been like to edit the twelve planets, and what has been the reaction to those published so far?
This series has been so much fun to work on and so unlike any other project I’ve done so far. I’m finding it a very personal experience, each volume, I think because a 4 story collection is so intimate – you’ve got nowhere to hide with just 4 stories so each story has to hit out of the ballpark. There has been such a great synergy and creative vibe with each author I’ve work with so far. And added into that is the synergy with Amanda as she creates the look of the whole series book by book and with Helen as she pairs up an introducing author for each volume. So, intimate, but a bigger team working on each book than we’ve had before, especially when you add in proofers and a publicity and ebook team.
The reaction so far has been fantastic! We’ve had some outstanding reviews, and new subscribers are coming on board all the time (you can subscribe at any time and get the whole series). The ebooks are popular too – we’ve had a college class in Texas adopt Love and Romanpunk as a class text! I got to manage their textbook buying before the school started in January. Which went how you expect that to go.
It’s been such a great opportunity to show to a much wider audience the fantastic, strong and innovative writing Australians are producing right now. We’re starting to see works from the 2011 published works make it onto Years Bests reports and lists, they featured well in the Locus roundup for last year and of course had nods in the Tiptree Jnr Award and the Aurealis Awards. I’m so happy and also so excited for the 2012 books – Showtime came out in March and Through Splintered Walls, Cracklescape and Asymmetry are not far away now.
You recently opened TPP up to novel submissions, which strikes me as a bold move when it comes to considering the slush pile! Has slushing for novels been different from slushing for short stories, and do you still think it was a good idea?
Well, I in no way attempted to work through that slushpile on my own! I was lucky enough to have 7 generous readers who kindly volunteered their time and worked through most of them and offered their thoughts and noted what they thought I should read. I did do a bit of quality assurance testing and am really happy with how that process went in terms of what was forwarded to me to read.
Slushing the manuscripts really helped me cement exactly what it is that I’m looking for and what I see my novel line being. I think it’s been a really worthwhile exercise in that regard. Opening to novel submissions was also a really important step in coming out and stating a future direction for TPP. I have a really clear vision now for the novels I want to develop and publish and hope to clearly express that going forward. Of course, you still get submissions that are completely outside your guidelines no matter how you frame them.
I think I liked slushing for novels better than shorts in that we had a reading crew which meant I was able to discuss manuscripts with people and get a bit of an idea about how others saw the same piece of work. It was much less lonely. You tend to spend longer on a novel submission than a short story because you’re more forgiving as a reader with a novel than a short story and novel stories take longer to develop and unravel, they’re bigger beings. And because you have a package with the submission including the synopsis, you have more to consider and maybe, if the synopsis is written well, more reason to invest in some submissions than others? Like, well the story starts slow but it sounds like it might go somewhere interesting?
I should mention that I haven’t finished the manuscript reading yet. Maybe I’ll get more jaded by the end of it (June 30).
What work by Australians have you been loving recently?
PODCASTS! Australians are dominating the soundwaves and there are some truly fantastic Aussie podcasts. We have real depth in this format, with so many great ones to choose from. My faves are probably the Writer and the Critic, Coode St Podcast and Boxcutters though I’m just starting to warm to Shooting the Poo.
As for fiction, Kim Westwood’s The Courier’s New Bicycle was by far my favourite Aussie work in 2011, and I cannot rave about it enough. I also, despite common folklore, finished and loved Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Power and Majesty and am working on The Shattered City (I read slowly, and trilogies are a huge commitment).
I also adored Outland. I hope there will be a second season some day.
It’s been two years since Australia hosted the WorldCon. What do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian speculative fiction scene?
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 couldn’t 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.
Women authors are being taken more seriously outside of the epic fantasy subgenre. And more women are being collected.
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?
This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1st June to 8th June and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at: