2007 Snapshot Archive: Russell B Farr

Interviewed by Kathryn Linge

First published at ASif!

From 1996-1999 Russell B. Farr ran Ticonderoga Publications, publishing short story collections by writers including Howard Waldrop, Steven Utley, Stephen Dedman, Sean Williams and Simon Brown. Following a six-year hiatus he resurrected Ticonderoga Publications in late 2005, producing Simon Brown’s collection ‘Troy’ in 2006 and the ‘Fantastic Wonder Stories’ anthology in 2007. Russell’s next release through Ticonderoga will be ‘The Workers Paradise’, co-edited with Nick Evans. He is also the founding editor of the online journal TiconderogaOnline, which can can be read at: http://ticonderogaonline.org/

1. Ticonderoga’s next release will be ‘The Workers Paradise’, edited by yourself and Nick Evans. Given the recent criticism of the Federal Government’s WorkChoices legislation, it seems a particularly timely release. What inspired you to combine speculative fiction with the (apparently) prosaic topic of industrial relations? Do you think it’s important to explore current issues in genre fiction?

‘The Workers Paradise’ is actually a direct result of the Federal Government’s WorkChoices legislation being passed in Parliament in late 2005. At that point I decided that I could either do something in response to the direction the Government was taking Australia or I could leave the country. I decided to do something and dropped a Nick Evans (the biggest leftie I know) a line to see if he was interested in a project that was both speculative and politically focused. This project became ‘The Worker’s Paradise’. I think it’s very important that genre explores current issues. Speculative fiction is a genre of ideas and it can explore issues from all angles. In some countries, speculative fiction is one of the only forms of literature in which people can protest. I think Australians have become pretty complacent about the real issues affecting this country and I think this needs to change.

2. In the 2005 Snapshot you say that small press is not financially viable in Australia. Yet since then Ticonderoga has published two books – Simon Brown’s collection ‘Troy’ in 2006 and the ‘Fantastic Wonder Stories’ anthology earlier this year. Have you changed your mind since then? What drives you to keep on keeping on?

Nope – small press is still not financially viable. And recent moves by Angus and Robertson to charge independent presses to stock their books won’t improve matters either.

The basic problem is that the audience for most small presses is just not large enough for the financial model to work. It’s still very hard to get overseas exposure – advances in communication like email and the internet really just mean that the signal-to-noise ratio is just that much worse.

Why do I continue? Well, for me, small press pays off in other ways. It’s a chance to participate in something I believe in. Ticonderoga Publications is never going to be financially independent enough that it’s viable for me to give up my day job, however I’ll be satisfied if it makes enough profit to support and maintain future projects.

3. Like many editors, you came into the Scene because you wanted to write. Do you still have future aspirations as a writer? Do you think your extensive editing experience makes you a better storyteller?

I don’t have any real future aspirations to be a writer – I don’t think writing will be my main contribution to SF. I still get the urge to tell a story now and then and I still get ideas, although they’re not necessarily genre. I think my editing experience has made me a better editor, but I don’t necessarily think it’s significantly improved my storytelling. The whole process of editing is about collaboration – two or more people working on one piece of work. If I’m editing my own work, then it’s still just me involved. When I’m editing someone else’s story, it’s a proper collaboration.

4. Enough about the writing (and editing), what’s the best thing you’ve read this year?

I have had a really slack year for reading and haven’t read anything near as much as I would have liked, however there have been two books that have stood out. The first is Anthony Bourdain’s ‘Kitchen Confidential’. I think it’s very important for writers to read widely and I think many could learn a lot from the techniques that Bourdain has used to make his memoirs both compelling and charismatic. Barry Hughart’s ‘The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox’ is a trilogy of novels that I’ve read several times and keep coming back to, about an Ancient China that never was.

5. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you’re given the opportunity to get it on with the fictional character you fancy most. Who’s it gonna be and why?

That’s a tricky one! On one hand there’s Jessica Rabbit – the obvious crowd pleaser. On the other is Genevieve Dieudonne from Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula – the 700 year old vampire babe.

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