Bill Congreve is a small press publisher (Mirrordanse Books: http://www.tabula-rasa.info/MirrorDanse/) and for the last three years has co-edited the Year’s Best Australian SF & Fantasy series with Michelle Marquardt (and the two of them got married this year!). Bill previously appeared in the 2005 Snapshot: http://www.tabula-rasa.info/Snapshot/BillCongreve.html
Q1 – Three years on, are you still excited about producing a Year’s Best? What is the greatest satisfaction you get from the project?
Bill – Firstly, please excuse the brevity of some of these responses. We’re madly proofreading and laying out the new Year’s Best.
This may seem a little strange, but the adventure of it always excites me. The uncertainty. Will this one do as well as the previous? Better or worse? What will each month’s sales report be like? What intangibles will pop up and change the pattern of things. For instance, I did a review copy mailing to every library distributor I could find record of in the country, then the following month watched the returns come in as a number of those library distributors returned the free review copy to our distributor for credit. Then watched the sales as the rest used it to help their own business. This was partly frustrating. Lesson learned, but all of it was exciting, and the end result was positive.
Then there is always the thrill of reading something worthy from somebody you’ve never heard of. That happened with this book as well. It ended we couldn’t use the story as it was much to0 long and had problems with the ending that we can’t ethically edit out with a Year’s Best reprint style anthology, but now I know there’s a new talent out there. A name I’ll be watching for in the future.
There’s also the thrill of getting a new book in the hand. It’s a kind of tactile, visceral reaction holding something I helped make happen.
Q2 – I’m going to steal some of Ben Peek’s questions from 2005, as I’m keen for an update – Having taken it as a task to read the entire Australian scene, what are your opinions of its content, pro and con?
As a community, we’re too small, we know each other too well and can’t hide from each other. Strong opinions which in wider forums might inform new debate, here simply inflame emotions and irrational responses. The extremes are exaggerated, both the political correctness of congratulating each other for sub-standard work, and the tall poppy syndrome. Our awards system needs a makeover.
Q3 – What kinds of spectulative genre fiction does it appear the scene is encouraging, and what is struggling to find a voice?
We’re still doing the cross genre speculative fiction thing. There is no clear genre to most Australian short spec fiction. That’s both a strength and a weakness. Perhaps its also a sign of a cultural identity developing in what is a short national history and sparse national mythology.
There is very little hard SF. There is also surprisingly little horror taking full advantage of our landscape and myths. The stories that do, stand out.
Q4 – What’s the best thing you’ve read this year?
Fool’s Run by Patricia McKillip, and Blind Lake by Robert Charles Wilson.
Q5 and finally (most important questions until last) if you had the chance to get it on with the fictional character you fancy most, who would it be?
If my wife Michelle was a character in a Conan novel, I’d be happy.