Daily Archives: June 5th, 2012

Snapshot 2012: Alisa Krasnostein

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:






Snapshot 2012: Helen Merrick

Helen Merrick is an SF reader, critic and fan. By day she teaches Internet Studies at Curtin University in Western Australia and writes a bit about SF, feminism, fandom, online communities and sustainability. Her publications include the edited collection Women of Other Worlds, and numerous articles in books such as On Joanna RUss, and The Routledge companion to SF. Her book the Secret Feminist Cabal was shortlisted for the Hugo, won the William Atheling, and was on the honours list for the James Tiptree Jr Award. She has just finished a co-authored book on feminist theorist Donna Haraway called Beyond the Cyborg (forthcoming from Columbia UP) that manages to include a fair bit of SF and Ursula Le Guin, which makes her very happy.

Your examination of the role of feminism in science fiction fandom, in The Secret Feminist Cabal, was on the Honor List for the Tiptree Award in 2010 – congratulations! What was it like to be recognised in this way?

I was totally blown away! It was the icing on the cake in terms of how the book was received by the SF/F community, which I totally did not expect, given it was an academic book. I seem to recall I found out about it on twitter, as I hadn’t even seen the honours list. It was all the more rewarding as the Tiptree award mostly honours fiction, and only a handful of non-fiction works have been recognised by the judges. It was also, of course, a lovely feeling as so much of the book is indebted to, and documents, the communities and histories that surround the Tiptree award, its motherboard, and the feminist sf fandom that helped support its foundation. I even ‘stole’ the title off the Tiptree award motherboard (they did give me permission)!

 Some of your research interests lie, broadly, in how feminism interacts with science fiction and vice versa. Do you see the two converging or diverging at the moment, and why?

Both, actually. I think we are seeing some really important conversations happening around feminism, gender, sexuality and race within the community in the last few years. And while there are certainly times when it feels like we are still fighting the same old battles Joanna Russ, Vonda McIntyre and others were waging back in the 70s, I think there is an improvement in terms of the kind of audience that are listening, and changing their views. What really encourages me is the impact of a younger generation of awesome feminist authors, editors and readers on this dialogue: like the Galactic Suburbia team (yourself, Tansy Rayner Roberts and Alisa Krasnostein), Alisa’s Twelve Planet series, and others such as Brit Mandelo (Tor) and Julia Rios (Outer Alliance), and authors such as Cat Valente, NK Jemisin and Karen Lord. This is not to overlook the work of others like TImmi Duchamp at Aqueduct Press, the Wiscon group, the Tiptree award and other feminist initiatives in the field that have kept these conversations on the board. On the other hand, I do wonder, along with Gwyneth Jones, about how well contemporary feminism/s are being expressed in the SF/F fiction itself, and whether we are too ready to welcome kick-ass female heroines as an easy sign of success? Not that I don’t enjoy reading books with kick-ass heroines, but I worry about what it means if this becomes a mainstreamed, diluted sign of what feminism in genre is about. But then again, we have had recent works as diverse as Kameron Hurley’s God’s War, Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, and Kim Westwood’s The Courier’s New Bicycle which all do brave, confronting work with gender, sex and sexuality which are anything but comfortable!

You’ve been involved in helping to edit and re-write some of the gender-related entries of the SF Encyclopedia, now (moving) completely online. What importance do you attach to this sort of resource?

I’m so glad you asked me about this! The SFE3 is — and will be — an amazing resource. I felt it was an incredible honour to be asked, and I was really chuffed when Peter Nicholls brought me on board in order to work on entries related to feminism and gender. I remember back when I was first working on my PhD thesis, Nicholl’s first edition of the Encyclopedia was a very important source for me. Even though it was very much of its time, there were long lists of female authors of SF that provided an important starting point for much of my research. The SFE3 is a herculean task of bring the second edition up to date, which has involved an absolutely enormous amount of work behind the scenes by the editorial team of Nicholls, John Clute, Dave Langford and Graham Sleight. So far I’ve edited the entries on feminism, and women writers of sf; I’m working on a new entry on gender, and also will be editing the older entry on women as subjects of sf.

What works by Australians have you been loving recently?

So Many! I’ve been following along the Australian Women Writers Challenge which I think is a great initiative, and has helped me keep track of the aussies I’ve been reading. Books I have loved recently: Rayner Robert’s Creature Court trilogy, all of the 12 Planet collections, Glenda Larke’s Stormlord trilogy, Lara Morgan’s Rosie Black Chronicles, and Kim Westwood’s Courier’s New Bicycle. I’ve also enjoyed Carole Wilkinson’s Dragonkeeper (which is from a few years ago, but I just read it when she came out for the writer’s festival – lovely children’s fantasy), Kate Gordon’s Thyla, Rebecca Lim’s Mercy series (paranormal YA), Joanne Anderton’s Debris and I have Margo Lanagan’s Sea Hearts waiting on my to-be-read shelf.

It’s two years since the WorldCon was held in Australia. How do you think the speculative fiction scene in Australia has changed since then?

Aussiecon 4 was such a buzz, and a great chance to showcase Australian talent — in some ways it feels like the energy has just carried on. We seem to be seeing more and more quality Aussie spec fic being published all the time; certainly the Aussie awards lists of the last couple of years have been absolutely packed with fantastic work. And I can’t help but notice how well Aussie women are doing in the field – especially in fantasy and YA. It’s also worth noting the enormous growth of home-grown podcasts in the spec-fic scene, which certainly seem to help keep up the Australian profile in the international scene: Galactic Suburbia, Coode St, Writer and the Critic, Bad Film Diaries – the list goes on. I think its very encouraging that off the back of Aussiecon there appear to be all sorts of avenues and channels that have opened up in terms of conversations and connections with the international scene. We may be small, but we get noticed 🙂

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:






Snapshot 2012: Jonathan Strahan

Jonathan Strahan has been luckier than any one person has a right to be. Happily married with two lovely daughters, he has edited or co-edited more than fifty books, has been the Reviews Editor for Locus for ten years, is the producer and co-presenter of more than a hundred episodes of The Coode Street Podcast, and a long time ago he once worked on a magazine called Eidolon. He is a recipient of the World Fantasy, Locus, Aurealis, Ditmar, Atheling and McNamara awards, and is a six-time Hugo Award nominee. Although his Twitter profile says he dreams one day of being covered entirely with jam, this is not entirely true.

Right now you seem to be working on a million anthologies or collections, which must surely get confusing. One in particular that is getting close to release is Under My Hat, a witchy anthology that has a very interesting list of contributors. What brought about this particular theme, and how was it to work on?

It’s true that I do tend to have a number of projects going at any one time, but Under My Hat has always been special. About three years ago I was having a conversation with my youngest daughter, who was about eight years old at the time. We were talking about what it was I did for a living, and at one point she asked me if there was any of my books that she could read. That really struck a chord with me, and I became determined to do a book that would really appeal to both her and her sister.

As it happened, both girls grew up loving witch stories, and when visiting the US to attend World Fantasy Convention each autumn I would search through stores for wands and hats and witchy stuff to bring home for them. A witch book seemed perfect. The title came to me when reading one of Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching books, and the whole thing seemed inevitable.

The book was actually a dream to work on. I sat on the idea for a while, busy with other projects, but then one day I did the calculations that made it clear the girls would only be the right age for the book if I did it now so I really got my act into gear. It sold quickly to Random House in the US – my editor Jim Thomas has been a dream to work with – and the book itself has come together quickly and easily. Everyone got the idea immediately, and everyone seemed to love it. The final book is one I’m really happy with. One of the nicest things about doing it was working with my daughter, who actually read some of the stories in the book and provided editorial opinions on them that I sent to the authors. It’s been a real family affair.

Speaking of themes, over the last few years you have brought out four anthologies in the Eclipse line, which is a consciously non-themed set of anthologies. How different is it to solicit and edit for non-themed rather than themed anthologies? What has it been like to see the Eclipse ‘brand’ develop over the last four years, and how have they been received?

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.

As happens, though, over time the series evolves its own character, which I think became most clear with Eclipse Three. It really is quite a wide-ranging book, and it has quite a diverse range of writers and subjects, but they all never quite lose touch with genre or story. The books have been received incredibly well, with stories winning many awards and the books themselves either winning or being shortlisted for awards. I’m very, very happy with and proud of the series, and am even now contemplating its future.

As well as original anthologies, you’ve also been involved in putting together collections, particularly of Jack Vance. What do you regard as the value in collections such as these, and how are they different from anthologies to work on? 

I’ve been remarkably lucky to collaborate with some wonderful people at Subterranean Press and Night Shade Books on collections by Jack Vance, Bruce Sterling, Kim Stanley Robinson, Joe Haldeman, Fritz Leiber and others. Probably the heart of them are the seven books of Vance stories I’ve co-edited with Terry Dowling, and probably my favourite is the Robinson book.

The value of these books is that they either preserve an important piece of genre history, or they present a chance to look at a writer’s body of work through a different lens. I think that’s what happened with the Robinson book, which really highlighted the variety and strength of the short fiction he’d done over a long period of time.

The main difference between editing single author collections and anthologies, the obvious one of there only being one author to deal with aside, is that you do get to go into a different sort of depth. You’re balancing styles, approaches, flavors while also trying to remain true to the historical perspective on the author. It’s a challenge and a delight and I hope to do many more.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

I don’t read as much at novel length as I’d hope to these days, so I’ve only read a small number of novels by Australians over the past decade. The most interesting and exciting of those that I have read was Kim Westwood’s The Courier’s New Bicycle, which I came to quite late in the piece, but loved. At shorter length, Margo Lanagan’ continues to amaze, and the stories in her short collection Cracklescape are simple terrific. I also spent some time recently taking a second look at Deborah Biancotti’s Bad Power, which I enjoyed a great deal, and would happily recommend Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Love and Romanpunk. 

Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian speculative fiction scene?

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.

All in all, the the nearly two years have proven really vigorous and adventurous and I’m optimistic for the future (though I’d still like to see some more SF being published <g>).

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: