Thursday, January 24, 2008

A word about Escape Velocity

Escape Velocity is a brilliant new publication of Science Fact and Fiction. Today we're talking to one of the editors, Geoff Nelder.

1. Give us your editorial take on Escape Velocity. What made you start on the project? What was the most challenging thing about it? The funniest?

Several notions urged me to suggest to Robert Blevins at Adventure Books of Seattle that we should entertain the idea of publishing a science fiction magazine.

a) I've a bunch of short stories too good for the usual sci fi mags like Analog and Asimov (OK they rejected them, but that's their fault). So has Robert. However, the funny thing is that once we started putting it together we realized we couldn't crowd it with our own stories or it would look too much like vanity publishing. Consequently, we limit ourselves to maybe one story and one article each, plus the editorial.

b) There seems to be so few sci fi magazines and so many talented writers who need an outlet for their brilliance.

c) We insisted that we were not going to accept rubbish stories from famous authors, no matter how much they paid us!

(LOL from the interviewer)

d) We decided there was a niche for a magazine that focused on science fiction rather than a mix of speculative genres, and one that had a sufficiently readable font style and size that didn't need a magnifying glass.

I thought the title and cover art would be challenging but Robert thought of the excellent title and has a nose for the perfect cover art. He also does all the hard work of configuring and formatting the magazine for the printers (Lulu for issues 1 to 3 and then probably Lightning Source afterwards). In fact the most challenging or difficult part of editing is not the hours of reading and copyediting but in turning down submissions, especially from friends and relatives. It is a great honour and pleasure to read all the submissions even those we reject. Some stories are rejected not because they are not well-written or don't have thunderingly great plots, but becuase we've already accepted similar, or they exceed the word limit. It is amazing how many folk are so keen to have us read their fantastic (in the literal sense) stories they forget to read the guidelines.

Funniest moment in producing Escape Velocity? Tricky question. There was that moment when we had a deadline for Robert to jigsaw all the pieces in the mag together but Maria hadn't sent me her fascinating insights into working at the Hubble Telescope research institute. She couldn't just write it and whizz it to me because it had to pass the official litmus test at her works. So there I was one Saturday morning sat at my computer finding Maria's e-mail in my inbox. Unfortunately, I was leaving the UK for a holiday in Spain that morning. Nevertheless, I opened Maria's article and prepared to send it on to Robert in Seattle when I noticed a few editing elements I felt compelled to do. So I opened Word, threw in Maria's piece, and then my wife yanked my left elbow. She said: "I've put the cases in the car, and the engine's running. Am I going on my own?"

(Yvonne: I empathise...)

I 'just a minuted' and burned through the fastest copyedit I'd ever done. Then I had to send it back to Maria for her approval with a plea that I'd added nothing new so it didn't need the official censor. I then made my excuses to my wife so I popped to the bathroom. While there I realized I hadn't sent a copy to Robert. So while my wife tapped her feet and tut tutted in the open front doorway, I found a speedy return OK e-mail from Maria, and rocketed off the piece to Robert. I slowed to the speed limit where the speed cameras live and just made it to the airport in time. Phew!

2. Who is your favourite SF/F mainstream author, and why?

This is a tricky one. Jon Courtenay Grimwood has become a good corresponding friend and I admire the cunning plot in his alt history / future SF books. His characterization is a literary masterclass. I've also met Terry Pratchett and his black hat, large enough to eclipse a whole book group. I am a huge admirer of the Discworld novels of TP, but also his Truckers and the other two in that series.

3. Do you think the face of SF has changed over the last 2-3 decades? How do you think EV's contribution will affect it in the next few years?

SF has changed. Simplified, it has transformed from rockets and exploring the moon and the solar system, with the odd time travel story (plot more important than characters and their relationships), to character-led fictional applications of quantum mechanics - including time aspects - and much fancier rockets at different scales, in multiple dimensions and universes. Apologies for the oversimplification. EV's only desire is to exploit the wide range of SF possibilities. I believe I speak for Robert too in that we don't seek to change the way readers view SF, but we can open some minds to new directions via good stories then we'd be deliriously happy.

4. Share something personal: your biggest fear, your ambitions, the colour of your underwear ;-) ...

I have no phobias, but I have passions: all three are female. My wife, my bicycle and the Snowdonia mountain range.

An ambition is to have my Left Luggage sci fi trilogy enjoyed by thousands of readers. It's going through a critique group and volume has already been rejected by a handful of agents and mainstream publishers. It has an original premise and marvelous characters with a bewitching plot so I am hopeful.

The colour of my underwear remains a mystery since they are squeezed into and removed in the dark.

5. Do a quick plug for Geoff the writer.

Oh dear. Here goes then.

By coincidence the notion of escape is in my published humorous thriller, Escaping Reality. 'Learn how to escape and survive before they get you. A hot, adventure with romance and exotic locations seen here:

Sci fi adventure too in Dimensions at Adventure Books, and later in 2008 at Double Dragon Publishing.

Does your novel need copyediting - not just a proofread but make your characters 3D, plug those plot discontinuities and fix those pleonasms and POV errors? Then check out my editing services page at

Geoff, you've given us a lot to think about. Thank you for your time. And that link to Escape velocity again:

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