Australian Speculative Fiction: writers, editors, publishers
Interview by Ben Peek
Sarah Endacott is the editor and publisher of Orb Speculative Fiction. New issue in a couple of months.
1) Since 1999, you have produced seven issues of Orb, though it's only with issue six that you've moved Orb onto a yearly publication schedule. It rests, now, still as a magazine, but with a size that could play it as an anthology equal to Cat Sparks Agog! series of the Polyphony volumes produced by Deborah Layne and Jay Lake in the States. What is, then, your goal when producing Orb?
People are so strict around here.
I really enjoy the countless well-intentioned admonishments to have each issue look, sound and taste exactly the same. And that's just the format: I must keep every issue: the same length, with the same number of stories, with the same-length editorial, the same order of contents, same price, same frequency, same font, same layout and the SAME EVERYTHING. Okay, specs: it's true, I like to range between 96 pages with six stories, and 216 pages with 15, having a variance of p < 0.171. People want to change the order, too, interspersing articles with stories, and some have said that the very same issue was too SF, too F and too H (but no one has yet complained that the last editorial wasn't even about SF). I'm still... experimenting with Orb. They seem to be getting larger, yes.
But how could you even compare a magazine to a collection? A magazine is always more daring. Only a magazine takes the "big, sexy risk" of promising to keep steadily producing, trying to satisfy the people, the people (all the people!) living with an addiction to SF in our blessed country. Collections aren't stuck with the same (SAME!) name on each cover, and the obligation to do another one next time, still smarting from the whipping they got for the previous attempt. No, your average collection never suffers from these blights--unless they actually choose to bear this burden, say, by branding each anthology under the publisher's title.
Magazines have heaps of cool features. There's a whole drawer of other gossip, innuendo and cruelty in the back pages -- reviews, articles and features--that you don't get in an anthology or a collection. And pictures. So few anthologies have illustrations for every story. And ads. You know you look at them. They pay to come on board. It's frightfully expensive otherwise.
And the best thing about magazines? You get that sweet sitting-on-the-porch steps, scuffing the ochre dust with yer Dunlop Volleys, a still autumn dusk, the neighbours' TV aerials just starting to silhouette, you see a dry leaf fall from a tree, and you're there scuffing, with yer fingers itching to be a-turning those pages, sitting, wondering when you'll get--but still longing for that next issue of Orb.
I think that just about covers "my goal when producing Orb": to give someone that feeling.
2) In the nineties you were connected to the promotion of female writing, and were involved in the anthology She's Fantastical, and the special women's issue of Eidolon in its prime. Is there the same need, you think, for these projects now, and how active are you in this area these days?
No way would I do a women's issue again, unless it had something else tied to it, like, "women astronauts forge stories from the weird experiences they had while pregnant in space". I'd prefer to do a men's issue. But then again, I've got a completely different plan for #8 next year (that's the "scuffing the dust" cue).
3) What's your critical opinion of the quality of writing being published in Australia?
All writing is shit. All movies are shit. After every movie, 40% of the audience say, "That was shit". You never agree with your favourite, most respected SF buddy about how good stories are. You take something they reject and it gets an honourable mention in a year's best. You wear the t-shirt that says "I publish the stuff they (with arrow) reject". It's all subjective.
Sure, I have tastes, but I buried them in the enchanted, Velvet Wood, one moonless night, when I was quite sure the Elders had not seen me scale the Stone Monastery walls in my modest blue shift, and the yellow robe and cowl of the Novitiate, as I had already donned my Glamour (betwixt thou and I, it really only makes the guards' eyes swoon at mine visage, and is especially effective if their last night's revelry included stout tankards of warm mead at the village tavern that was bequeathed my brother when he was but nine year, on the very same day our dear mother succumbed to the Lurgy that, some say, is breathed on t' wind by three Terrible Lizards, sent by the Hordemaster from the North, from his dark, sickly lair to our fair, bright forests, which is where I didst take mine Amulet given me and seek a Cool Moss my mother described, and there sanctify and bury those Tastes).
4) You're dead. You died in that classic Melbourne way... in a dirty alley in Chinatown, trying to show your friends a bar that was disgustingly overpriced. Oddly, none of your friends died, and your body had no cash on it. Anyhow, you go to Heaven and (assuming you believe, blah blah) you see God. What do you say?
This is a really poor piece of writing, Mr Peek, and not up to your usual standards. It's also not the kind of material Orb magazine takes. I wish you every success in your writing career, however, and hope that you find a home for this piece.
5) Favourite swear word?
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