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Robert Hoge, co-editor of Aurealis.

Robert Hoge is one of the two new editors at Aurealis. A first issue will appear sometime this year.

1)Having recently taken over the editor chores (with Ben Payne) for Aurealis, how have you approached forming a vision for a magazine that, ten years ago, was a strong force in the genre, but has in recent years lost some of its power and market presence?

Aurealis is still a strong force in the genre in Australia. But in the past 10 years we've moved from a market with (essentially) only two outlets to one with seven or more magazines publishing multiple issues each year. Plus there are between three to five anthologies being published most years, so there's an obvious diluting of the 'power' and 'prestige' that comes with being only one of two kids on the block.

That said, the approach Ben and I took when pitching for the role was that we want to make Aurealis the pre-eminent Australian market - the first choice for the best writers to send their best stories. To do that we'll have to deliver a quality product with a strong voice, that gets widely read, widely reviewed and widely noticed. I'm looking forward to taking a (healthy and productive) challenge up to the other prominent local markets in that regard.

2) There's been a lot of talk on this blog about committee editing producing a certain blandness when compared to a single editors vision. With two editors, I think, you're caught somewhere between the two. What's your opinion on both, and how you think this will impact the content you buy for Aurealis? (Also, and I might not be correct in this, so feel free to say so, but I've been under the impression that the magazine is still under ownership of Dirk Strasser--has he placed any guidelines on the work you can take if this is true?)

The potential danger in editing by committee is that stories get chosen because everyone involved regards them as 'okay' rather than having people make bold and risky choices. As a reader I'd much rather pick up a magazine that had two stories I absolutely adored and four I didn't think much of rather than six stories I thought were just 'okay.' But I don't think either approach - committee or single editor - is inherently better. And both systems are producing some good results here.

Ben and I have critiqued a lot of work together in the Vision Writers Group, so we've got a good sense of our matching likes and dislikes. And we've also got a good respect for where our tastes differ. That's important because it allows us to have a
good discussion regarding the mix of stories in each issue.

I imagine there'll be some stories in each issue that one of us believes in more than the other. And that's the way it should be.

Dirk still runs Chimaera Publications, which owns and publishes Aurealis, and is moving into small press publishing with their first title being Richard Harland's Black Crusade. We pitched a strong vision to him when we applied for the editorship and he hasn't placed any constraints on the type of work we publish.

3) The blog talk from these interviews is about the quality of the fiction being produced in the Australian scene. What's your take on it?

There's a huge amount of superb speculative fiction being produced in Australia at the moment. The amount of quality material coming out from established and from newer authors who arrived on the scene after Aussiecon 3 and others who have come up through Clarion South is astounding.

I don't have much time for people who bemoan the fact that the explosion in authors and in markets has meant there's some stories getting published that they don't think worthy. A fair opinions, but why dwell?

I'm much more inclined to judge the quality of a country's output not by the lowest common denominator but by the highest. Let's talk about the profound rather than the mundane. Let's talk about the great works - the ones that are deservedly getting published in professional markets overseas and the ones that are getting included in various 'best-ofs' and most importantly the ones that are getting talked about as being something special. Any country that can over three years produce works like 'Louder Echo', The Etched City and 'Singing My Sister Down' is doing pretty well in my book.

For every story or author that someone doesn't believe worthy of publication, I'll counter them with an alphabetical list of stories by everyone from Battersby to Westwood and back again. We have plenty of people producing great stuff.

I believe in Australian speculative fiction and I believe in the people writing it.

4) You're dead. You remember that TV series you really liked in the 70s, and how they later made a movie with a whale in it? Well, whales aren't that friendly. Later, when you got to Heaven (belief being not that important here) you saw God. You said?

So, what do you think about the quality of fiction being published in Australia at the moment? *g*

5) Favourite swear word?

Bollocks. I have a wide taste in swear words but I've got a particular fondness for polysyllabic swear words.


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Apr. 14th, 2005 06:43 am (UTC)
I have a quick question for Robert, if you're floating around. Whose idea was it to make the last issue of Aurealis $35.95, and why on Earth did you guys think pricing a small press magazine so high was a good idea? (Please don't take offence at that - I was just genuinely astounded that someone was trying to price something like that so incredibly high, and was wondering how you guys reached the decision to try it.)
Apr. 14th, 2005 06:47 am (UTC)
i'll send him over, grant, but it's worth noting that Robert and Ben haven't produced an issue yet. the thirty five buck deal happened under keith stevenson. still, maybe he'll have some insight.

i feel so moderaterish.
Apr. 14th, 2005 07:05 am (UTC)
Ah, I see. I wondered if this was the case.

I'd love to know Keith's thoughts, then!
Apr. 14th, 2005 07:16 am (UTC)
i don't have any contact with stevenson, so i can't help you there. maybe battersby does?
Apr. 15th, 2005 05:55 am (UTC)
the answer to your question is here.
Apr. 14th, 2005 06:44 am (UTC)
So how many issues a year, Rob?

You knew someone was going to ask sooner or later :)
Apr. 14th, 2005 07:17 am (UTC)
oi, watson's looking to get stevenson over here to answer his q. you able to shoot him an email pointing him in the direction?
Apr. 14th, 2005 01:02 pm (UTC)
Prices and release dates
Hey guys,

Two for the price of one, here. Yeah, I understand the issues people have with paying $34.95 for the triple issue. It came about for a few reasons, which Keith can address if he comes over. But basically it came down to the fact Aurealis had some grant money it could spend on good stories, and Keith had a bunch of great stories that he wanted to get out there. And they are good stories, and readers are getting value for their $34.95 but I understand the reticence to part with that much cash.

We're sticking to two (single *g*) issues a year. The first one has taken a bit longer as Ben and I settle in and clear some backlog.

Apr. 15th, 2005 01:58 am (UTC)
Aurealis triple issue - from Keith Stevenson
I see a couple of people have been asking about the triple issue and the price. While it's true we did get a grant to pay authors in 2005, which meant we could either pay a few people a heap of money or a lot of people a reasonable amount, the decision to make the last issue a triple was made by the publishers, Chimaera Publications. It was also their call on the cover price.

Hope to meet up with a bunch of you guys at Conflux.

See ya

Apr. 17th, 2005 06:27 am (UTC)
Re: Aurealis triple issue - from Keith Stevenson
I just fear no one will find out the quality of the fiction, because - like me - they would have taken one look at the cover price and, rightly or wrongly, fled a mile.

I also have a personal gripe with magazines releasing a thicker issue and pretending it's multiple issues when it's clearly and obvious one thicker issue. But that's just me.
Apr. 17th, 2005 07:02 am (UTC)
Re: Aurealis triple issue - from Keith Stevenson
the bigger issue than the price, i feel, is that no one will actually be able to find the issue to buy it. as yet, i have been unable to find any way to buy the thing online. i don't plan too, mind you, because i have no interest in the kind of fiction keith was publishing in aurealis, and especially not at that price... but there is, to the best of my knowledge, absolutely *no* way to buy it unless you find a copy in a specialty book store.

(you may be able to order a copy through slow glass books, but since that does not appear when you google, i assume not.)
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