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Snapshot 2007

One week later, and the ASif crew (and special guest Kaaron Warren) have finished their the 2007 Snapshot. It asked you what kind of fictional character you'd like to fuck. The truly interesting part of the project, however, is not to have a look at how a whole lot of people wussed out answering that--or, in the case of Les Peterson, revealed himself to be utterly humourless--but to compare it against the 2005 Snapshot, in which I stole questions from that American who stole questions from that French guy, and asked people about their favourite swear word and what they'd say to God. Of course, that's not important either, though it is amusing to watch cunt get shouted out a bunch of times and then come across Shane Jiraiya Cummings who says "I'll add that I absolutely detest the 'c' word. I won't disassociate myself from someone who uses it, but I'll irrevocably consider their IQ to have dropped 40 points."

But, no, the true attraction is watching the changes, the conversations between people, the new arrivals, and the groups that exist.

Perhaps most interesting, at least for me, is the changes. Two years later, Paul Haines has had the "worse professional experience" in the publication of Doorways for the Dispossessed and appears, you could argue, to be chaffing under what many people perceive his work to be, which is dark, gross out, sexually fetishised stuff. Two years ago, he was talking about the strands that tied his work together, and said, "I try to write nice stories, but they just come out all tainted and Haines-like. You'll find a lot of bad language, explicit sex, drug use, violence and nasty people in my stories." Karen Miller was just coming off the release of The Innocent Mage in 2005 and talked a lot about marketing and writing to the audience. Two years later, and her books are being released in the UK and States and, after some work for hire gigs, is returning to a new series. There is perhaps a lesson in that. In perhaps the biggest change in personalities, Lee Battersby, who in the original interview, came across confident, now comes across as bitter, perhaps angry, and arguably withdrawn--the failure of projects from Brimstone Press, and perhaps others I don't remember hearing about, have left their mark. Interestingly, however, many people would say he is more successful now than he was two years ago, contributing to the coveted work for hire Dr. Who gig and having his work reprinted in international Year's Best books, and, yes, even the awards. Which, speaking of, brings us to Shane Jiraiya Cummings again, who, after the announced closure of Shadowed Realms--which he originally described as publishing fiction that was "specifically designed for the upcoming generation that's either too busy or has movie-trailer mentality (or a goldfish attention span, take your pick)"--and which, yes, I know his partner, Angela Challis, edited, but I believe he was responsible for the design... anyhow, now, Cummings is preparing for the final push of his flash fiction drive with a collection from Ticonderoga and Black Box, the sequel to Shadow Box, released a few years back, and claiming that this will most likely be his last "hurrah for flash fiction." Of course, this year he is also judging in the two horror awards, and you have to smile when Cummings, always big on self promotion, notes that "Not a lot of Aussie short horror fiction has resonated with me. It looks to be a lull year, although a couple of anthologies may appear in coming months, and Shadowed Realms has two more issues to be published, so my hopes are high."

In more changes, it was interesting to see Sean Williams hint that there will be no more books co-authored with Shane Dix. Williams' doesn't give that moment much play in his interview, so I could be wrong there (apologies if I am). It is interesting to note that he has moved into solo authored science fiction novels with his most recent release, Saturn Returns, however, and this leads to support that. Of course, Williams, ever prolific, has about six ideas spitting from him as he talks, and while it could be that he has stopped co-authoring with Dix, his career appears to only be growing in strength from the position he was in two years ago, and one need only see that the same energy that was there in 2005 is still there in 2007. Similarly growing strong, Jonathan Strahan who, two years ago, was just beginning to edit original anthologies and is now, by all accounts, doing more, and doing them both by himself and with others, and with all being well received. Perhaps one of the last big changes, however, was the push made by Cat Sparks to establish herself as an author now, rather than a publisher, editor, and artist. Of the conflict, she says that "nowadays, I would rather spend [time] on my own writing. I get bugged about doing another open anthology all the time. There is always room for another decent anthology, but the world doesn’t need another writer. I remain conflicted over the issue." Should another snapshot be done in 2009, it will be interesting to see how that conflict has played out for her.

Two years later, ROR, the writing group of Trent Jamieson, Marianne de Pierres, Margo Lanagan, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Richard Harland and, I believe, Dirk Flinthart, is showing itself to be something of interest with the linked children's book series, the Lost Shimmaron, and it will be interesting to see how that group plays out in the following years. It's an interesting mix of well established and establishing names, and I do have to admit, I find Jamieson to be the odd one out in the group, regarding content and style, but there's nothing to be made of that other than that I can see how the work of the others plays off each other, but not so much his. Ah well. Out of the group, only Harland appears to have not been interviewed this year--and he wasn't in the first year, either--which is a bit of a disappointment. However, moving on. There is the rise of the Cour de Lion, which is Keith Stevenson and Andrew Macrae. The mix of the two appears to be an interesting one. I never thought too much of Stevenson's run on Aurealis, just because it didn't appeal to me, and he didn't appear to be pushing much in the way of boundaries. However, with Cock--a concept I was initially wary of, but which I thought came out nicely--and the planned s l o w, Stevenson appears to be pushing a more interesting direction, which is perhaps due to the influence of Macrae's high concept driven mind? Who can say. Macrae, of course, is the cover artist of 26lies, and in the last year, with Acidheadwar and ordinary magic, revealed himself to be have a surprisingly flexible mind, and one almost concept driven. Anyhow, however the two are working, it's working nicely, and they are set to publish the final Tom Tyson collection by Terry Dowling, as well. In the terms of new writers, David Conyers, A M Muffaz, and Steph Campisi have been thrust a bit more into the light of recent, though Conyers' work is perhaps more niche than the other two, being centred on the Cthulu Mythos, and I suspect it will find a more receptive audience in the small press horror scene of the States than here. Campisi, however, comes up with my favourite interview, where she says, about the local scene, "There's definitely this weird thing going on where people are lauded by the scene as up-and-comers or whatever, and I think contextualise themselves incorrectly as the Next Big Thing or as an Established Writer, and go about mentoring people and the like when really they're pretty much irrelevant in the eyes of anyone who isn't part of the scene." Heh. You just have to love that girl. She'll have hate mail any day now. To duck out of the obvious new people, there was Miranda Siemienowicz, who is perhaps more well known for her work on Horrorscope than fiction, and Gary Kemble, from the Articulate Blog.

Most telling for this year's snapshot, however, was that more than one person was responsible for it. Over seventy people must have been covered this year, which shits over my paltry forty three (though, aren't we all glad I didn't run forty three interviews through this blog again?). But, with seven people involved in the interviewing, a wider and more detailed snapshot of the scene could be produced, and it was good to see Rjurik Davidson, Terry Dowling, Simon Brown, Jacki French, Shaun Tan, Justine Larbalestier, and Lucy Sussex, among others, being interviewed. I'll just pause here for a moment, however, to direct you all to Nick Stathopoulos' interview, in which he notes his attraction to cartoon characters, and then goes on to note that he often thinks of his friends as having cartoon counterparts...

He's a funny guy, is Nick.

Of course, it goes almost without saying, that my favourite thing in all the interviews was to count how many times people said they didn't reach much local work. Oh, yes. It did make me laugh.

Anyhow, I've gone on about the two here for long enough. You want to read them, do so.


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Aug. 21st, 2007 02:18 am (UTC)
Fantastic summary, of a very fascinating series of interviews. It was well worth the read.
Aug. 21st, 2007 02:52 am (UTC)
Aug. 21st, 2007 03:02 am (UTC)
Of course, it goes almost without saying, that my favourite thing in all the interviews was to count how many times people said they didn't reach much local work. Oh, yes. It did make me laugh.

I enjoyed it most when coupled with comments like: its shits me off when small press fold projects before they see the light of day ...

Oh it is to laugh!
Aug. 21st, 2007 03:07 am (UTC)
heh. yes, there were some remarkably ill thought moments from people.
Aug. 21st, 2007 04:07 am (UTC)
I still maintain that if everybody did write "Oh Yeah, I buy and read everything" it still wouldn't represent a healthy market because we'd just be propping each other up rather than independently sustaining and building fiction on its own merits.
Aug. 21st, 2007 04:17 am (UTC)
Yeah but there's propping each other up (which happens entirely aside from the purchasing of material - its okay to prop up bad writing but not okay to prop up the publications there to give ppl opportunities to learn how to publish?) and there's chipping in so as to ensure there are enough outlets for future writers to start out in small press avenues.
Aug. 21st, 2007 04:20 am (UTC)
I think the greater argument is that anyone seriously attempting to launch or continue publishing an independent fiction magazine/journal in this country should be keeping a close eye on their competition - and that means reading all the other magazines. Now thankfully I'm only one of seven or eight editors on the committee of Borderlands, so I feel less pressure to personally read everything, but single editors have a lot of reading on their hands each year if they want to stay in the game to the best of their abilities.

Is there an argument there's been too many avenues for new writers in the past few years, maybe?
Aug. 21st, 2007 04:23 am (UTC)
Course, there's not *that* much to read. We've done it all at Last Short Story. 220 stories, a large part of that flash (90+).
Aug. 21st, 2007 04:23 am (UTC)
i don't know if there's enough of a distinction in that for me. seems to me you're saying the same thing. but, anyhow, you know me: i've always said you shouldn't rely upon writers to buy books and support your work, and that people shouldn't buy just because it'll give outlets and support the scene. people should buy because they want to read--because they have a genuine interest in what is done.

sadly, can you not say, then, if a project isn't sustainable from that, then it doesn't deserve to exist anyhow?
Aug. 21st, 2007 04:29 am (UTC)
Well then none of the projects would exist. Should Australia not have a small press?

I am increasingly having a problem with the sense of entitlement that there should be places that publish and worship writers about these parts, no matter the cost to the publisher.
Aug. 21st, 2007 04:40 am (UTC)
see, i don't see it as a sense of entitlement.

to go by your theory, that writers should put in and support, then what you're doing is really creating a system that is no different than self publication. you stop creating a product that is aimed to find readers, but which is instead aimed at allowing authors to publish. which, you know, frankly, if we're all going to go down the self publication route, why bother with editors and sharing the table of contents and the like? but, if you see the products that are made as something other than being a place to support your growth, but rather as a project aimed at an audience, then you shouldn't have to buy it to keep it alive. it should be aimed at an audience. at a group of people who want it.

but, and i've said this to you before, a, if you think that writers should support your projects, and you don't get a joy out of being a publisher, and an editor, and if you resent writers for not getting down on their knees and thanking you, then stop publishing things. you should only do things you love. there's no money to be made out of this scene--no money for you, for me, for anyone. if there's no love, there's no point.
Aug. 21st, 2007 05:06 am (UTC)
not at all. but I'm still left with the unanswered questions - what is small press for? who reads it? when i ask the question i always get told noone reads it and its for developing writers. If that's true, i think its quite obnoxious to expect other people to wear the costs and to on top of that pay a writer for the privelege of publishing them. I don't think that buying an issue of a mag is remotely the same as self publishing.

I think though that the scene should stop with the bullshit is all I'm saying. Noone reads any of it yet everyone is full of shit to say - take NC. Everyone *talks* *about* the idea but hardly anyone has actually read it. I think people should be more honest about the bullshit.
Aug. 21st, 2007 05:16 am (UTC)
well, here's my take:

the small press is meant to serve projects that the major presses won't touch, for whatever reasons they have. this is why i prefer the word independent. for the independent press does not have to answer to CEOs, the banality of large publishers, and share holders. it is, at all times, about producing work that does not fall into what is being done elsewhere. it is not, and has never been, about developing writers--though in australia, too many people believe this, and i suspect it's a flaw in the way people approach it.

as for who reads it? well, whoever i can convince too. everything that i do through this blog is aimed at finding readers. and they're out there, i believe.

but, however, you are right about the bullshit. there's a lot of it here. me, i'm honest: i read what appeals to me, which isn't everything, and i don't like the look and feel of magazines, so i tend to not buy them, either. but me, i'm just one dude, and what do i know?
Aug. 21st, 2007 05:19 am (UTC)
well in the first instance, you're one of only a few who are willing to call it like you see it. The bullshitters are obvious when you look and it's sad because it's not actually helpful.

So here's another question - large publishers publish what sells or what they think can sell. So presumably its aimed at what more people want to buy and read. Does that mean that picking up the stuff they don't want to publish can ever be viable?
Aug. 21st, 2007 05:26 am (UTC)

a big publisher has, ultimately, a very narrow view of what they can and cannot publish, and, ultimately, it's just an opinion. you could pick up something from them, run it, and make a fortune--who knows?

the other side is that the mainstream publishers have different overheads than independents. an independent publisher can aim to do five hundred books, and with an author they know will sell the five hundred, and consider it a success. however, a mainstream publisher would look at that, know they can't turn much of a profit out of it, and skip it.
Aug. 21st, 2007 05:28 am (UTC)
Except that that's still not true - there's heaps of publishers around who can sell out the book they published and still tell you the came out financially behind. Whether you consider selling 500 copies a success, is a different story.
Aug. 21st, 2007 05:31 am (UTC)
well, that's them and their business model. there's lots of different business models out there. adapt the one when you don't come out behind, if it's that big a deal for you. mostly that'll mean upping the cost, or printing more. then you have to ask, can your author sell this stuff?

but, from what i understand, making profits from one book is hard. if you have a catelogue, it's easier.
Aug. 21st, 2007 08:27 am (UTC)
Obviously the overheads of a major publisher are massive when you take into account paying your editors, editor's assistants, designer, copy editors, proofreaders, managers, marketing department, sales reps, etc. I seem to recall reading somewhere that in professional publishing nine out of every ten books published lose money. Thankfully the remaining one book is usually successful enough to cover the losses of the nine.
Aug. 21st, 2007 11:11 am (UTC)
Yeah - there's no money in publishing at all. The Rowlings and the Kings just fund the rest.
Aug. 22nd, 2007 11:35 am (UTC)
A lot of the Big Publishers (there're seven or eight of them, Penguin, Harper-Collins, etc) have different ways to bring in revenue, two of those ways are through back-lists and front-lists. Generally speaking, it's the backlists that bring in the money, and the frontlists that lose (some) money. But not always. The back-lists exist in part to bring in revenue, and to fund potential front-lists.

Unfortunately, the relationship between publishers, distributors and retail/book stores is such that, well, it's pretty well fucked, and it's amazing (to me) that publishers ever make it back into the black, if even make a small profit. Which is why publishers have something they refer to as a "loss leader" (books which are sold at a reduced price, but leading to the sale of other items and thus compensate for the front-list loss leader).

That of course is a pretty complex problem as is, and one that blows my mind when trying to comprehend.

But I digress.

The cost of publishing a single book, after royalties and all are counted, currently hovers somewhere between 20-30,000 dollars (be it AUD, CDN, USD, etc). And given that the current anglophone market is one in which domination of market-share is the predominant mode of thinking & rationalisation, and books are seen as items to be pumped out to meet projected quotas, it's no wonder that the book industry as a whole seems pretty well fucked to a certain degree when standing on the outside looking in. And it's just as borked from the inside, by all accounts.
Aug. 21st, 2007 05:10 am (UTC)
That raises an interesting question though - do you think when ASIM prints a member of the coop that that's self publishing?
Aug. 21st, 2007 05:18 am (UTC)

though you could maybe argue otherwise, given the numbers of people involved, but why not? i don't see it as necessarily a bad thing, though i'm sure others will.
Aug. 21st, 2007 05:21 am (UTC)
I guess what I'm asking is that does the decision making scheme affect that - you say know, and T says that to some people "looking professional is more important than being so"
Aug. 21st, 2007 05:27 am (UTC)
i've no real idea how ASIM runs there deal, but tansy's right, in that for some people the look is more important the truth of it. some people, they don't even see the difference.
Aug. 21st, 2007 09:15 am (UTC)
As someone who has been on the inside (and on both sides!) I can say with confidence that having one's own story appear in ASIM while being a member of the co-op is *not* like self-publishing. The editor has absolute control over the selection of their issue, and there are no instances I know of where an editor has chosen their own story.

However, I can see how people might think co-op members got an easy ride, given how many of them appear in print. The easier answer is that co-op members are more likely to submit multiple pieces & produce work that suits the magazine. Also, those authors whose work appears in the mag are often those most likely to be drawn into being more involved through the co-op.

But yeah - I know that because I've been on the inside. I know that ASIM works hard to keep its system honest. Most people would assume there is some kind of cronyism going on, but that's their problem. Let's face it - a huge percentage of small press (and publishing in general) is about cronyism anyway. It's not necessarily a bad thing.
Aug. 21st, 2007 09:21 am (UTC)
okay, cool.

the numbers of the people involved in ASIM make it hard to say an easy yes or no for self publishing, but it probably does draw in some people who participate cause it'll help their own side of things. which isn't a bad motivation. but really, ASIM was never the best example for the self pub thing--though i still like to say, 'sure,' just so co-op members feel bad about having their work appear there while funding the mag.

it's the kinda guy i am :)
Aug. 21st, 2007 09:47 am (UTC)

It definitely is self-publishing on the parts of the editors - probably the most cost-effective way to edit and publish small press in this country. But editing small press & self-publishing small press go hand in hand anyway.

But nah, if financing the mag gave everyone editorial veto over all the issues, nothing would ever get done! (imagines the madness, hides head and shudders)

I don't think ASIM co-op members get any more advantages in getting published there that aren't also available to any other a) authors previously published in the mag, b) authors who are mates with an editor, c) authors who previous work makes their name recognisable to an editor or d) Australian writers full stop.

But then, about 90% of the small press-published fiction in this country gets an advantage for at least one of those reasons. Doesn't mean they get *published* for that reason, but they're more likely to have their stories read first, or sympathetically, or whatever.
Aug. 21st, 2007 06:57 am (UTC)
Still has to get through the blind thing first, at least.

Think Cat mentioned that the other day, heaps of editors etc. do this.

Silverberg, etc.,etc.

and Eric Flint, too

of course, they will sell more than 200 copies.

From a reading point of view, I only care if it sucks. Although, if say JBU had 3 Flint and 3 Resnick stories in it every issue that would be pretty bad, or if there were 2 Haynes and 2 Flinthart in every ASIM.

So, the odd story or single story in an anthology would seem reasonable, presuming that person is a writer of some ability already.

For small press, putting your own money in, and not having someone pay you, perhaps even more so. Hopefuly they would get someone else's opinion on whether what they wanted to go in sucked or not, though.
Aug. 21st, 2007 09:28 am (UTC)
Each issue of ASIM has a separate editor, and you won't find Haynes or Flinthart including their own stories in the issues they edit.

Aug. 21st, 2007 03:02 am (UTC)
Dirk Flinthart is writing children's fic? Good lord. Tasmania must have really mellowed him, assuming it's the same bloke I know who originated the pseudonym.
Aug. 21st, 2007 03:05 am (UTC)
i actually don't know if he's doing one of the kids books. from what i understand, there's five, and it's the others, and not flinthart. though i could be way wrong.
Aug. 21st, 2007 03:20 am (UTC)
Hey Ben - cool review! Interesting to see what others are taking out of the Snapshot.

For the record, there are 8 members of RoR - Rowena Cory Daniells and Maxine McArthur are the two you missed - and yes, Dirk is part of the group though he joined us this year, too late to be part of the Lost Shimmaron project.

Having said that, he is writing for kids right now, and is shopping around a fantastic boy's own adventure SF novel.
Aug. 21st, 2007 03:26 am (UTC)
ah, right. cool. i thought there were more people in it, but i couldn't for the life of me remember who. if you guys could skip adding people for a while, that'd be next, thanks ;)
Aug. 21st, 2007 09:41 am (UTC)
"I'll add that I absolutely detest the 'c' word. I won't disassociate myself from someone who uses it, but I'll irrevocably consider their IQ to have dropped 40 points."

Can't think much of the English, then.

I thought there was to be no more Shadowed Realms - that it ended with issue #11?

If we're talking something totally fictional, I'd want to get it on with--no, the full orgy experience with the Elder God crew. I mean, hell, that'll take you to the limits of experience and beyond, right?
Aug. 21st, 2007 12:38 pm (UTC)
all i know about shadowed realms is that they announced they were closing--i guess they're going two more issues before that, however, maybe to use up the stuff they bought. i really can't say--neither of them are sending me updates ;)
Aug. 21st, 2007 05:43 pm (UTC)
Seems plausible, although it's been almost a year since issue 11.

I know that Angela wants to keep the post-issue #7 fiction online pretty much indefinitely, since the second collection won't be published. No sign of any change to the site, though.
Aug. 21st, 2007 11:50 pm (UTC)
well, that seems a little... odd. the indefinite bit, that is. i'm not surprised to hear that they won't be doing a second volume of the flash fiction--i'm surprised that they did the first one, myself.

anyhow, publicly, angela and shane have been very quiet, so i have no idea what's going on down there. everything seems to be delayed, though, and one hears things that suggests some projects might be dead, but that could just be a nasty rumour. just wait and see, really.

Aug. 22nd, 2007 09:13 pm (UTC)
I think the idea is that the "second volume" of Shadowed Realms gets to exist in some form. The actual change to the contract is:

1. Grant of Rights
All rights revert to the Author 12 months after initial publication of the Work.

b) The Author agrees to allow the Work to remain in the Shadowed Realms online archive indefinitely. However, should the Author have cause to remove the Work after the initial 12 month period, the Author may do so by notifying the Publisher by email. The Publisher, on receiving the email, will act according to the Author's request within seven (7) days without question.

The original contract requires the story to remain online for the duration of the issue (two months) and then it was to remain for ten months, during which time the author could request removal.

I've no idea how this compares to anything else though.
Aug. 23rd, 2007 01:28 am (UTC)
well, it's a bit odd, but i guess it depends on what you plan to do with the story. there's not a whole lot you can do with a bit of flash, so i'd personally just not be worried about it, and just let it stay there. there's the off chance that someone might read it, which is better than no one reading it, of course.

personally, i doubt the site will remain up forever, so the whole indefinate thing will likely last an extra year or two, until it becomes economically unfeasiable to keep it there.
Aug. 27th, 2007 05:16 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah, I'm not at all worried about it - was quite happy to agree to the amendment.
Aug. 21st, 2007 10:09 am (UTC)
I tried to get Richard Harland, I really did! I used the email address on his website and everything!

Thanks for the summary, Ben... now I don't feel the need to clog the ether with another one...
Aug. 21st, 2007 12:38 pm (UTC)
poor richard.

anyhow, everyone loves a summary update. you ought to do it.
Aug. 22nd, 2007 11:38 am (UTC)
Excellent stuff Ben! Thanks for the excellent link-filled post!

Incidentally: Where in Sydney can I find your books? Is there any store in particular that you know of who're selling your books?
Aug. 22nd, 2007 11:55 am (UTC)
tell you the truth, i don't think there is a store round sydney that carries both books. galaxy or infinitas should have BLACK SHEEP, but i really have no idea if they do or don't. i don't think i've heard of any store carrying 26lies (someone on this blog said they went to forbidden planet in perth to ask for it, but they didn't have it there, so it's not just sydney. he also got a lecture on what an asshole i am, too).

unfortunately, i'm not real well distributed in this country. in fact, i'm kinda not at all. you're probably best buying them online if you really want them. sorry about that.
Aug. 23rd, 2007 07:54 am (UTC)
Ben, it's a St Chrisopher Columbus mriacle, dude. For once I didn't get dumped on. Miracles can happen, can't they? Full on conga rats for Alexandra Pierce working on getting it right.


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