My theme this year is SF and fantasy, authors and worlds. But I’m starting with our SF publishing.
Australia has a fascinating history of SF and fantasy. According to Wikipedia, it was a ban on US pulp magazines during World War II(luxury) that gave local authors the chance to show their stuff. And show it they did!
I remember some earlier Australian publications. There was always a strong fandom, and some anthologies, but the first professional Aussie SF publication, Void, was published by my lovely Ford Street publisher Paul Collins in the early 1970s. I stumbled on to his secondhand bookshop a few years later and bought some copies, in hopes of a sale. I never did sell to Void, or his book imprints Void Publications and Cory and Collins, though I sold to him later, when he had started writing and publishing children’s books. However, these publications did publish some of our top writers, such as David Lake, Keith Taylor and A. Bertram Chandler. David Lake is best known for his sequel to The Time Machine, The Man Who Loved Morlocks, though that was published by another small press. I have a copy somewhere on my shelves. Keith Taylor wrote fantasy for Cory and Collins, though the last time we met he was writing historical romance. The late Bert Chandler wrote a delicious space opera series with a hero called John Grimes, as well as Kelly Country, an alternative universe novel in which a science fiction novelist time travel visits Glenrowan on the night the Kelly gang confronted police there and changes Australian history.
These days, much SF in Australia is published by small press, with what is sold in the bookshops focussing on fantasy, usually thick fantasy trilogies. Most large press Australian SF is published overseas and brought back here to sell. I think there are some Aussie authors whom their overseas fans don’t even know come from here.
But many of them are willing to write for small press here, however big their names are outside Australia. Sean Williams, for example, has had fiction published in semi-prozine Andromeda Spaceways, including a short piece set in the universe of his YA Twinmaker science fiction trilogy. This author is a NYT bestseller, and I have worked for ASIM(now ASM) and believe me, we have never paid much, which may be why we get so many overseas submissions by future big names who never return once they are being paid about ten times what we can afford! But local authors - that’s another matter. Sean McMullen, another bestselling local SF author, has also been in ASIM and has been published by Ford Street Publishing in recent years.
As I’ve said, it’s difficult to publish SF here, except in small press publications. And small press is able to take chances the big companies can’t.
We have lost a number of small press publishers over the years, including Satalyte Press, which closed very suddenly, leaving authors having to find new homes for their works, including one which had been launched only recently, and FableCroft publishing, run by Tehani Wessely, a teacher librarian who published many anthologies over the years, including Worlds Next Door, a children’s SF and fantasy anthology in which I had a story.
There are still plenty of them around, though. Coeur De Lion doesn’t take unsolicited work except for its annual anthology, Dimension 6, which is published on line. That has published the likes of Margo Lanagan, who is certainly well known outside of Australia, for such books as The Brides Of Rollrock Island and Tender Morsels and definitely for her devastating short story “Singing My Sister Down”, and writes both SF and fantasy.
Aurealis has been around for many years and has given its name to the annual Aurealis Awards for versions forms of speculative fiction. It is now publishing only on line, about a story a month.
Twelfth Planet Press does both anthologies and novellas. Mother Of Invention included work by Seanan McGuire(who is not Australian, but clearly willing to do small press).
Ticonderoga Press, a small but formidable publisher, has published the fantasy collection Prickle Moon by Juliet Marillier and a reprint of Lucy Sussex’s The Scarlet Rider, a book originally published by Tor, but doing much better in its current incarnation and with a nicer cover than the Tor edition.
Ford Street Publishing specialises in books for children and teens, some of which are mainstream, but there are plenty of speculative novels as well, including a fantasy series Paul Collins is writing with Sean McMullen. Sean McMullen has also written two YA time travel novels for Ford Street, centred around Australia’s Federation in 1900.
There is a new publisher, Shooting Star, which has published a book by the wonderful Gillian Polac, among others.
The nice thing about all those small presses that specialise in spec fic is that there is always at least one book launch at every convention. The bad news is that I so often end up buying yet another book and have to find space for it...