Interviewing for XB-1

Last autumn, I interviewed Neil Clarke (Clarkesworld) and Martin Šust (XB-1) about their respective editorial work. The interviews were published on the website of XB-1 and in print in February and January issues of the magazine, respectively. Since then, Martin asked me to do more interviews, especially tied to the stories published in XB-1. March issue will among other stories feature a translation of Adam-Troy Castro’s great short story “My Wife Hates Time Travel”, along with an interview with him. One of the following issues is going to contain Ken Liu’s beautiful “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” and last week, I was preparing for an interview with him. He has received the questions by now and I’m really looking forward to his answers.

All the people I’ve interviewed so far are just brilliant and their answers were very interesting. The magazine is only available in Czech, however; that’s why I’ve asked Martin whether I could post snippets from the interviews here in English. He said yes – and here’s the first one!

How a supposedly crazy idea gave us one of the best SF magazines

Meet Neil Clarke, founder and editor of Clarkesworld Magazine. He has been nominated for the Best Editor Short Form category Hugo Award as the first editor being nominated for his work on a digital medium solely. He also runs Wyrm Publishing, which is focused on works in the realm of science fiction and fantasy and published books by Tobias S. Buckell, Catherynne M. Valente, Charles Stross and other well-known authors of SF.

With the October 2013 issue, Clarkesworld Magazine successfully reached its 7th anniversary. Did you try to imagine how the magazine would look today when you launched it in 2006?

It’s nothing like we thought it would be. In 2006, no one had any idea how to make an online publication work. Longevity wasn’t something these publications were known for and many authors were dead set against publishing their work online. For all practical purposes, e-books, our biggest source of income, didn’t exist. There have been major changes in the landscape over the last seven years and that’s required us to regularly revise our vision for Clarkesworld.

Clarkesworld was one of the first major online speculative fiction magazines, even more notable for its freely accessible content as well as pro pay-rate for authors and regular monthly issues – certainly a very ambitious project. It might be one of the notoriously unanswerable questions, but I dare to ask anyway: How did you come up with an idea for the magazine and decide to actually realize it?

At the time, I owned an online bookstore and had been experimenting with online fiction to help promote the small press magazines we were selling. Sean Wallace was publishing Fantasy Magazine at the time and had been one of the publishers participating in my little project. Sean and I were both at Readercon in 2006 and one night, we were just chatting about the experiment, the recent demise of Sci Fiction, and why no one was having any luck with this medium. Over the course of that discussion, we came up with a new business model and I decided to give it a try. By the end of the weekend, the magazine was fully staffed. A few months later, we published our first issue. Looking back, we were just as crazy as everyone said we must be.

The magazine went from being a newly established online periodical to one of the most important genre magazines very quickly; it won two of the Million Writers Award categories for the year 2006 and then continued with countless nominations for major SF awards and winning the three most famous ones, Nebula, Hugo and Locus, multiple times. What was in your opinion the most notable success so far, if such can be picked?

Our Hugo Award wins, particularly the most recent one, have been very personally rewarding, but when it comes to notability, it’s all about the stories. When one of them is nominated for or wins a major award, it’s a big deal for us. Singling out just one would be like picking your favorite child: an impossible task.

In summer, you launched a successful Kickstarter campaign for you first Clarkesworld-unrelated anthology, cyborg-themed Upgraded. It was preceded by very dramatic events…

Yes. I had a near-fatal heart attack while on vacation in July 2012. The doctors’ nickname for this type of heart attack is a “Widowmaker”. Every time I visit my doctor he reminds me just how lucky I am to be alive. The damage was much more extensive than originally believed, so they had to implant a defibrillator in my chest. Technically, that made me a cyborg and it’s what inspired the anthology. It may be the first cyborg anthology edited by a cyborg.

The magazine is not your full-time job yet, though hopefully the time when it becomes professional-paying market for the staff as well as the authors is nearing. How do you cope with having to have a day job beside your editorial work?

It isn’t without some stress. I have to work the Clarkesworld time in around the day job and family time. A lot of work gets done in short bursts, an hour before work, at lunch, after dinner while the kids do homework, late nights, etc. If I didn’t love the job, it would probably drive me insane. It also helps that I don’t watch a lot of TV.

The full interview is available in Czech here:

Since the interview, Clarkesworld also launched their Patreon and became a prozine according to Hugo ballot rules.

Hope you liked it. Soon I’ll also post a snippet from the interview with Martin Šust. And after the other interviews are published, you’ll be able to read snippets from them too.

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