Australian Speculative Fiction: writers, editors, publishers
Interview by Ben Peek
Robbie Matthews is the Editor in Chief and publisher of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. He has files on us all.
1) You're the Editor in Chief/Publisher of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. In these interviews, Andromeda has copped a bit of flak, I guess, in that the editorial committee structure that you have there has been described as something that supports bland fiction. Seems only fair to let you have your say on the subject.
Yeah... I'm not quite sure why we're accused of producing bland fiction, because I don't think we do. Still, you can't please everybody, so tough. You don't like the way we do stuff: Publish your own mag! (and since a lot of people taking part in this exercise have, then fair enough... :D )
A bit of history: When ASIM was being bandied about, the local Spec Fic scene was looking pretty sick: Eidolon dead, Altair dead, Aurealis up for sale. We came up with a mission statement:
a) Regular publishing
With our 18th issue at the printers... that's three years worth of publishing... I think we're doing OK for part a. We've worked very hard to keep the prices down, and largely succeeded. We're not a perfect bound annual, we're a pulpy periodical coming out 6 times a year, so I think that's b covered.
Light: At the time... and still... a lot of published short fiction tended to be dark, angst-ridden, black, and much of it pretentious. And I thought: That's all very well, but what about the science fiction I remember from my youth? Where are the likes for Eric Frank Russel, or Arthur C Clarke, or Spider Robinson? Few and far between, I thought. So when I became involved in an SF mag, that's the sort of stuff I wanted to see.
Now we seem to be copping a bit of flack for that attitude... why aren't we turning out ground breaking literature to sear the soul and shake the heavens? Well, see points a, b and c... Back to Editing by committee producing bland fiction... all I can say is that our reviews have been getting steadily better and appearing in more and more prestigious places, and our subscription base is getting steadily larger. We must be doing something right.
2) One of the things that does interest me in Andromeda is that members of the committee take turns editing each issue. What then is the role of the Editor in Chief in this situation?
At the moment, doing as little as possible! In the early days, I arbitrated disputes, organized a lot of stuff, set up the slush-reading procedure, edited, assistant edited, pimped like crazy, and made sure that everything that needed doing actually got done. Since then, a number of highly talented and organized people have gradually taken over my various tasks, and our procedures have streamlined to the point where I actually don't do much at all any more. Just as well, as around about issue #6 I fell off the roof, shattered my arm, and was out of action for quite some time. Everything pretty much rolled on without me, so it was all cool. I have just taken over the Slush-Wrangling again for a while, though. Speaking of which, my claim to fame: I'm fairly sure I invented the term 'Slush-Wrangler'... :D
3) What's your opinion of the current quality of fiction being produced by the local scene?
Pretty good, actually. Standing up well to the stuff being produced overseas... since about 2000 we've been going through a mini-renaissance. It's not uniform, of course, but the bar has been steadily rising.
4) You're dead. You remember that scene in Pulp Fiction with the ear cutting and the petrol? Well, only half of that was needed to kill you. Later, when you got to Heaven, you saw God. You say?
5) Favourite swear word?
'Bugger' for most normal uses. 'Fuck' when I'm annoyed. 'Poot' when I'm trying not to offend anyone.
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