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Magistria, Edited by G.W. Thomas.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know I've been kicking around with a bit of sword and sorcery fiction. It's not the main thrust of my work, but diversity is my love, and it's got different challenges, different muscles, a different brain pattern, and all that kind of jazz.

With that in mind, last year I was asked to take part in G. W. Thomas' shared world collection, Magistria, and because I liked the Abbey and Asprin Thieves World series, and because I'm rarely asked to do anything, it sounded all good to me. At the time, Thomas was with Cyberpulp, which wasn't exactly my pleasure, but at the beginning of the year Thomas left and set up his own publisher called RAGE m a c h i n e, which was fine on my side of things. I still got the chance to play, and even if the books were being printed up through Lulu--where you can self publish with a click of the finger and there's no quality control--it cut down on the individual cost which, considering Thomas put his whole back list from Cyberpulp there, was a way to avoid that crippling debt. So, having left Cyberpulp, Thomas became a new publisher getting off the ground with a new sword and sorcery anthology going out to pick up a new audience and the ride with that is always on the interesting side of things and, from my line of sight in the Australian small press scene, takes me to a new audience.

I'm spending a bit of words explaining this, because on paper, this would not be the kind of thing I'd normally have my short fiction involved in. It's even the kind of thing I'd avoid and which I would tell students of mine to avoid, so I feel the need to spend a bit of time on it. That means I'm going to piss people off, but that's life, and you can call this post whatever you will, or just look at it as a walk through the considerations I have when I look for places to submit too. Publishing is never as simple as you think it is when you start out, I assure you.

In the ten years I've been publishing, I've picked up a few things here and there. One of these is that you don't publish your fiction in any place, and you don't give it away for free. It's a nice guide if you want your work to appear in places with a professional vibe, though it's worth noting that occasionally the two don't go together. In Australia, this means you often end up with the token payment (not professional rates), but those token payments are a sign that informs the writer that the quality of the anthology you're submitting too will be above that of the non paid publications. Like I said, that doesn't always work, however, and sometimes you have to weigh up that. I don't submit to the CSFG publications anymore because, due in part to the grants they receive from the local Government, and because their goal is to promote Canberra based writers, they must have a certain amount of Canberra based authors in it... because of this, the collections content end up being a very mixed bag, most of it bad. I had a story in Elsewhere a few anthologies back, and I hated the story and the book was, in my opinion, poorly designed and filled with fiction that, for the most part, was unreadable. The next year, I submitted to Encounters but found myself hoping for rejection, which I got. Now if you submit hoping for rejection something isn't right and, truthfully, it isn't. While many of the CSFG writers and editors (and other authors from the country who appear there) won't like me for saying this and will disagree, the truth is I don't respect the quality of the product and the fiction, based off the anthology I was in and the collection Machinations, so even when they pay chunks of money, I won't submit. Their last anthology might be very good, but word is that it isn't. Now, I'm not picking this to single out the CSFG people who, I feel I should add, produced an excellent book in content and design with Kaaron Warren's collection The Grinding House... I'm just giving my reason why I don't submit there and why I have the guideline for myself that you don't give it away for free and don't go anywhere and why it makes a good rule, even if some times you end up ignoring one or the other.

On paper, Magistria is an avoid market. It pays a percentage of sales, which means that if you see cash, it'll be tiny. That's if, I might add. In addition, it's done through Lulu, and I already listed the problems there. These things can be ignored if there's a good reputation involved, but since Thomas has only just started, it's a clean slate. I view that as a pro, but others might not. The question is obviously why would I be involved here, especially since one paragraph back I just kicked the CSFG who, at least, fund their print runs out right and are quite dedicated to their cause. Well, it comes down to me wanting to write some sword and sorcery and see it in print, which these days means more often than not avoiding the mainstream short fiction markets (Black Gate is a fine place, but hideous in its turn around time) and because my publication reputation is practically non-existent outside Australia. It's naive to think the three hundred book print runs (sometimes not even that) in Australia will give you an international reputation, so that means I go back to being unknown author and that means building a body of work people can associate with me. This is especially the case for sword and sorcery, where I've published very little--and almost none of it a straight sword and sorcery thing. That means (to me, at least) that you can take a chance on something you might normally not and, since no one is watching and no one cares about short fiction, who cares? Certainly not anyone from Australia, at the least.*

Outside all this, however, I enjoyed writing my story. It was fun. Head chopping, baby killing fun.

At any rate, Thomas has started going around and getting reviews and promoting the Magistria collection. Since I list all the reviews of my stuff through here, that's what I'm going to do, and as you all know about the collection and its background, you can all make informed decisions about it. My story is called 'The Glass Elephant's Prison' and here are the comments about it so far.

From Sword and Sorcery:

Two mysterious men, one a prisoner, the other a killer, head toward an inevitable confrontation. And who is the mute, illiterate girl? The story begins slowly, but is well written and descriptive, though it suffers from several of the aforementioned typos. The mysterious nature of the two main characters is engrossing, leading the reader to a fine climax. A solid read.


From SF Reader:

Two cursed men try to regain their memory. A few threads still hang loose at the conclusion, but I found the tale engrossing.


Both reviews have made note of typos, something hardly unknown in the small press, but which may be above the usual if it's getting noted. I've got a copy of the book and, though I haven't read it, it's a solidly constructed thing, with the only glaring problem in it that one story has different paragraph spacing for the others.

So there you go.




*Well, before I wrote this, I guess. How long till the angry comments from the CSFG? I don't know if they've forgiven me for my comments about Donna Hanson's site.

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Comments

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ashamel
Jul. 29th, 2005 06:52 am (UTC)
I understand your feelings on self-publishing sites like Lulu, but I got a comic from them recently, and production-wise it was really nice.

Somewhat tangential to your point, but I was impressed nonetheless.

Of course, Australian comics are all pretty much self-published anyway, so thst's less of an issue. Although I can't imagine too many wanting to use a US company to do the printing, because of the postage involved.
benpeek
Jul. 29th, 2005 07:08 am (UTC)
the book itself was actually well put together. POD stuff is usually quite good, nowadays.

i should be writing an essay.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 4th, 2005 12:07 am (UTC)
Hey Ben
Glad you liked "The Grinding House". Just for the record, I don't think CSFG is working off a grant this time, so there are no Canberra restrictions for "The Outcast" antho.
Kaaron Warren
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