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Monday, May 12, 2014

ASIM 60 On The Launch Pad!

I've just completed my very first issue of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. I am so very excited as the final work is done to get this launched!

It's not that I've never edited anything before. I've done a number of media fanzines, back in the days before the Internet turned fan fiction into an industry and made it possible for anyone, however awful their writing, to be published. In fact, it was that experience which made it possible for me to do this. When I was putting together Tales From New Wales(Blake's 7) and Under The Greenwood Tree(Robin Of Sherwood) and other such zines, I was looking for stories, poetry and art. I wanted a combination of funny and serious. I wanted to be sure that my authors, while they were, admittedly, working within the constraints of a universe created by someone else, knew what they were writing about.  You could probably get away with things in Blake's 7 fan fiction while you had a story entirely set on the spaceship Liberator and about character relationships, but in the world of Robin Of Sherwood, you'd better have done your historical research about England of the twelfth and early thirteenth century if you wanted your story to appear in my fanzine.(Most other editors felt the same, though I remember reading some excruciating ROS fiction written by people who knew nothing whatever about the Middle Ages!)

So when I was reading for ASIM 60, I had similar requirements. I am only a layperson in the area of science, but if something sounded weird to me, I knew who to ask for an opinion. There was one utterly beautiful story which had a slight flaw in its physics. I wasn't sure, but suspected it, so I asked for advice from a scientist on the ASIM team and got it. The author did a small rewrite and his story is now as good as it deserves to be. Another writer gave me a lovely story which needed just a bit of a tweak in the geography and history - they were areas I did know enough about to discuss with the author. 

I needed a mix of humour and serious fiction, fantasy, SF and horror. I needed some poetry. I needed some art. In other words - not too different from editing a fanzine. I read and read and read. In the end, I probably chose more other-planet and  space-themed stories than I should have, but I love this kind of fiction, it's what drew me to SF in the first place, the "sensawunda" you just don't find in any other genre.  But there was wonderful fantasy too, and, interestingly, poetry that ranged from SF to fantasy to Steampunk - I took one of each and asked for them to be placed as near as possible to appropriate stories. One of them, by Darrell Schweitzer, I had illustrated, it gave me such a powerful image. Another was about a black hole, the third a story in its own right, with a female knight who reminded me of Martin's Brienne of Tarth.   

I'm not fond of horror fiction, but you have to have balance; I found one that was not overly gory, but presented a vision of vampires I hadn't come across before.  

When the time came for art decisions to be made, I wondered which should be the cover story and which should get an internal illustration. It was very hard to choose, let me tell you! I'd picked the stories in the first place because they were ones which had a strong visual sense; I could picture what was happening in my head. Should the cover story be the one set on a water world? The one set on an island where victims were thrown into the sea far below the cliffs? The story in which a man finds himself living his life as a movie?

In the end, the cover story was a space-themed one. I'd always wanted to edit a magazine with a space cover. And the artist actually liked the story enough to offer me a choice of three covers, one of them the one I went with, with a view of Mars in its first steps towards terraforming. I chose it even though another of the options was actually closer to what I'd originally had in mind.

Choosing artists wasn't easy either. When others from ASIM are choosing, they have the option of asking my advice, but hey, I'm the art director! And as art director, I know all of them. There are some wonderful space artists among them and some fine internal artists. How to choose?

I went for two artists I had worked with before and was comfortable with. There were others I was also comfortable with, but I had a limited time, as they, too, would have a deadline, so had to make up my mind.

 The cover artist is Eleanor Clarke, whom I've known all her life, admired since she was winning her first awards for photography and painting, and who fully justified my faith in her with a breathtakingly beautiful cover painting. The other was the amazing Lewis Morley, whom I've also known for years, who is utterly reliable as well as first-class, whether he's doing cover art or illustrations(he has his own graphic novel series, Peregrine Besset). Both have been shortlisted for Ditmar Awards - Eleanor is on this year's shortlist, by the way, and Lewis actually won for an ASIM cover, which turned out to have been his first go at a cover. This time I gave him all the internals. We can't pay much, so he might as well have all of what we can pay for internals.  

Again, like choosing for a fanzine, though I had an art budget for this - in a fanzine you can have as many illoes as you can persuade your chosen artist to do. One of my fanzine artists was Robert Jan, who has done a few pieces for ASIM over the years. 

The big difference from a fanzine, apart from having to pay the contributors with more than copies, is having a length "budget" - mine is slightly over, by about four pages because I have six first sales and we needed extra space for their blurbs. There will be some advertising in it , though it will be appropriate advertising, for speculative fiction books, publishers, etc.

Another major difference is that I can't do this on my own. I need a layout artist, who, this time, is Simon Petrie, our man of many hats and skills, including science - he's the one who helped me out with the physics in that story. Simon also has to deal with the printer and receive the copies and post them out. Someone has to organise the contracts and pay the contributors. And then sell the copies as orders come in. It's all hands to the pump for proofreading. 

I've come a long way from the days when I just had to type up my issue, literally cut and paste, then photocopy and bind it all and take the orders myself. Of course, things might be different now, with a computer instead of a typewriter and the Internet to promote and sell. But I would never have had the confidence to do this if not for my experience as a fanzine editor way back when. Mind you, back then there were not quite as many people to write rude reviews as there are now, but back then they could be even nastier than now, because they had all paid for their copies - no such thing as review copies of fanzines - so when they didn't like it, they got really pissed off! But people can be unpleasant all the same, as who should know better than I, with Goodreads ratings for my novel from 1 star to 5, so it's nerve racking.

Still, I am going to be so proud of myself, the ASIM team and the contributors when my issue comes out in only a few weeks! 

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