Edwina Harvey is someone who wears many hats – and wears them very well indeed. Not content to be a wonderful writer in her own right and a talented artist, she is also the editor of (amongst many other things) one of the coolest anthologies that has come out in a long time! I’m delighted to have Edwina along today to talk about editing – and about one of Australian spec fic’s institutions.
I didn’t consciously get into editing. It sort of snuck up on me.
Early forays included editing fanzines, and editing the Australian Science Fiction Bullsheet (a job I inherited from Marc Ortlieb and worked on with Ted Scribner from 2002 until 2010).
Within a few months of tripping into the Bullsheet, I was immersed in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, where I was surprisingly reluctant to be an editor, though keen to help the magazine flourish in other ways. I subedited for Sally Beasley on her first issue, which gave me confidence to edit ASIM 12. By then there were plenty of other editors in the ASIM co-op who could help me out if I needed it.
I’ve always felt one of ASIM’s strong points is that there’s “safety in numbers”. You’ve got that ‘brains trust’ to call on, and once “your” issue of ASIM is published, you can have a rest if you want, safe in the knowledge that the next 5-12 issues are being capably edited by your colleagues.
The rotating editorship of issues of Andromeda Spaceways is a two-edged sword. While some people feel it’s difficult to write for a magazine that doesn’t have the same editor selecting stories for every issue, I’ve always maintained it enhances the chances of a story getting selected. Editors of forthcoming issues, all with their own tastes, can be looking at your story, and what might not suit one editor is often taken by another.
Andromeda Spaceways was born out of a desire to see more “light” SF and fantasy published in Australia. While authors such as Robert Rankin, Terry Pratchett and Tom Holt write and sell great light-hearted novels, there are very few markets open to “funny” SF, (which is *very* difficult to write well, let alone sell,) which we wanted to address. But that’s not all we are about. While we have a reputation for “feel good” SF and fantasy, we’re also willing to publish the grittier, darker edge of the genre as well. We’ve published some whacky, off-beat horror stories in our time – dead people being dug up so they can go vote in a presidential election for example – but we’ve also published and will continue to publish dark, scary horror where the after-images stay with you forever. Lyn Battersby’s story, “The Memory of Breathing” is a good example of this. Subtly constructed, I can still remember it years after I first read it.
So ASIM is a bit like a smorgasboard – there’s a lot on offer, and hopefully readers can find something to suit their tastes. Carrying the smorgasboard analogy a little further, it’s all about getting the balance right. For instance, we love publishing fantasy, and experimented with an “all fantasy” edition very early on, but we got letters of complaint from our readers. Likewise, we went through a run of editors in quick succession who were very keen on publishing noir horror stories, and we got complaints about that as well.
Submissions to Andromeda Spaceways are all read “blind”. Stories are sent out to one of our “slush readers “ chosen at random with no indication of who wrote it. This way the reader is gauging the written piece, not getting distracted by who wrote it (be it a Big Name Author, or someone in their critique group as the reader. And we have had Big Name Authors submit work to ASIM who have been knocked out of the slushpool in the first round, so while fair, the system is not infallible.) If a story makes it past the first reader – who grades it from 1-5, one being the highest ranking – it is given to two other readers to assess. If its total marks are above a certain point, it goes to “the slush pool” where it languishes in the hope that an editor will give it a home in their issue.
Occasionally I hear writers say, “My story got rejected by ASIM” so I ask them if they made it to Round 2 of our slushing process. If they did, I try to console them by assuring them we didn’t “reject” their story. It was likely good enough to be published, only no editor picked it for their issue.
Sometimes not picking a story for an issue has *nothing* to do with the story, and everything to do with the issue. Frequently editors will find a story in slush that they’d just love to use in their issue, but they’ve already selected a similar story, or their word count has blown out. (When you’ve got three pages to fill in your issue, and you really want to publish the 12k novella you’ve just read in slush, forget it! It’s just not going to fit! And we have editors who try to shoe-horn in as much as they can to every issue, then keep finding *more*).
There *is* some horse-trading that goes on behind the scenes. An editor who is deeply impressed with a story but can’t put it in their issue for any reason, will often ask another editor to consider it for their issue.
And we’re always delighted when we discover a story we’ve picked has given a fledgling author their first break – their first paid story. Some of our editors (I consider myself among them) can see the spark – the potential in a story – and are willing to work with the author to make that spark glow, while others are looking for an “off the rack” model. When deadlines are looming, an editor often can’t invest the time to bring a story to its full potential. That’s why it’s so important for authors to polish their stories to the best of their abilities *before* submitting it – not only to ASIM, but to any market!
We get some very high quality stories submitted to Andromeda Spaceways, but unfortunately, we get more good stories than we could ever publish. As many of us are also writers, we appreciate the goal of any author is to see their story published, so we try to release stories back to authors in a reasonable space of time (anything from a few weeks to a few months) rather than hang on to them indefinitely. That doesn’t always work in our favour, as we often see stories we haven’t been able to publish go on and achieve acclaim with other publications, but that’s one of the pitfalls of publishing – always has and always will be in my opinion.
While editing is something that snuck up on me, I decided I want to pursue it professionally. I finally got my editor qualifications last year, and have embarked on a new career as a writer/editor. While it’s still very early days for me, it’s gratifying to have authors I’ve edited short stories for through Andromeda Spaceways contact me and ask if I’d consider editing their novels.
Edwina was one of the founding members of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. She has been primarily a spec-fic writer for decades, and has been editing for more than a decade now (which only proves that she’s old. : – ) Having recently received her editing qualifications, she is now pursuing what started as a hobby as a full time career. Edwina’s YA novel, The Whale’s Tale was published by Peggy Bright Books, (peggybrightbooks.com) as was the highly acclaimed anthology, “Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear” , which she co-edited with Simon Petrie.
If you’re interested in engaging Edwina was an editor, she will edit 2,500 of your words for $25 as an introductory offer. You can view Edwina’s recent editing CV at edwinaharvey.wordpress.com
Edwina is also a silk and ceramic artist. Go to celestialcobbler.com to see samples of her artistic endeavours.
Under no circumstances engage her in conversation about cetaceans, or equines (including mammoth donkeys) if you want to escape with your ears intact. : -)