Australian Speculative Fiction: writers, editors, publishers
Interview by Ben Peek
Robert Hood is the co-editor (with Robin Pen) of the anthology Daikaiju!
1) Spend a small time around you and the people involved in Daikaiju!, and it becomes clear that it is a project motivated by love. When it comes to the realistic concerns of buying stories, designing the book, and selling it, how does that love come into play?
Loving the genre certainly helps when you're reading endless story submissions dealing with a common theme! But I reckon the passion plays against a realistic appraisal of such things as costings. Without going into too much detail, I think I have erred on the side of over-generosity when it comes to many of the financial decisions pertaining to the book and its production. For instance, it is arguably too long -- not aesthetically, as I think all the stories deserve to be in the book, and in fact there were at least a few left over that deserve to be in it too. But I really fought to include as many stories in the anthology as I could, even at the expense of financial sense, because passion dictated that they needed to be included. As a result the book is a bit too heavy. The excess weight pushed it over one of the limits for postage, and so it is costing a lot more just to mail out, especially as so many copies have to go the the US.
But I loved reading and editing these stories, and the authors have been so generous with their time and enthusiasm that it is truly inspiring. In many cases, getting a story accepted in the anthology was to the respective authors more than simply another sale. It was personal, something they've longed for. Then there's Bob Eggleton's cover. No way could we have afforded to pay someone of Bob's prominence to provide a cover like that. But he volunteered, emailing me out of the blue to offer to paint us a cover just because he loves the genre. Likewise with Todd Tennant and his internal art. Same with the authors, of course (especially when I started demanding changes and major editorial re-workings). And I asked Brian Thomas out of the blue if he'd write a piece for us, simply because I admired his Videohound's Dragon: Asian Action and Cult Movies book and noticed that he was on a Godzilla discussion group I frequent. Again he did it for peanuts simply through love.
On the down side, it did mean that rejecting many of those who desperately wanted to get in the anthology was rather more wrenching than normal. It was, as I say, personal. Several people wrote to me saying that they'd waited for this anthology all their lives! Rejecting them was tough!
2) As a product, this is a book that has the potential of a niche audience outside Australia. How much of that audience do you think will find their way to you, and what are you plans to reach beyond them?
It's quite difficult selling overseas, thanks to excessive mail costs and the differences between, for example, what the book costs in Australia and what US readers are willing to pay. We end up almost selling at a loss! There are ways to deal with this and we're working on finding them.
So far there has been no problem making the book's presence known in the States. US authors in the book have offered abundant promotional help, J.D. Lees of G-Fan has offered a free full-page colour ad in his magazine, reviewers have offered to review it ... and orders started coming in from the US as soon as it was announced that the book was available. It's already more than we can handle -- and we're looking at the need to print some more copies. We were way too conservative about the initial print run and are going to run out quickly. Not good business sense. We would have saved money on unit cost by simply doing a bigger initial run -- but hey! Agog! just doesn't have that much capital.
3) You edited the book with Robin Pen. How did the selection process work between you both, and how has that left your opinion of editing through committee and having one editor per project?
I wanted Robin on board as co-editor for several reasons. First, he and I have shared a mutual love of the genre for years, so it seemed ... appropriate. Also I wanted someone to bounce ideas off, someone whose opinion I trusted and who thought similarly to myself on these matters. Mind you, part of me also wanted Robin there so that I could submit a story myself and have it objectively evaluated. In fact I did write a story, and initially sent it to Robin under a pseudonym. In the end, he wanted to put it in, but I decided I couldn't do that, not in the face of the great stories we were getting and the difficulty I was having deciding what to reject. It just didn't seem like a cool thing to do. So my story was, alas, discarded.
Robin will no doubt tell you that he didn't do much. True, I culled the incoming submissions, sending Robin only those I wanted a second opinion on and then conferring with him on the final selection based on the shortlist. But I found his input invaluable. Just being able to say to him "Is this one really as good as I think it is?" or "This one doesn't make sense, is it just me?" was terrific. He helped me retain my confidence that this task was doable. And believe me, it got
But you know, it didn't feel like "editing through committee". I do think the best editing comes through the sensibilities of a single editor, and a good anthology reflects that focus. I haven't changed my mind on that. But Robin and I shared a common passion here -- and as I say, I had final say anyway... Not that we argued. He gave in to me on stories I was passionate about, or subtly influenced me to think otherwise if he thought I was wildly wrong. It all worked really well.
4) You're dead. It was, of course, one of those huge mechanical monsters that you've build. After stepping on a tiny port-a-loo, fluid seeped into the circuits and everything went boom. Anyhow, you go to heaven (assuming there is, blah blah) and God is there, waiting. What do you say?
"Lead me to the Celestial film and book library, Jehovah my man! You know, the one with all the films and novels that almost got written and made but were lost somewhere in the process. And the "perfected" versions of films and books that got fucked up by studio interference or lousy editors. Presumably the US Godzilla film directed by Terry Gilliam is there. And that ghost movie Hitchcock was going to make. And Kubrick's version of AI."
5) Favourite swear word?
Shit, what a fucking stupid question! Stone the crows, man, does every interview have to be reduced to cussin'?
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