2007 Snapshot Archive: Tehani Wessely

Interviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts

First published at ASiF!

Tehani Wessely has been working behind the scenes (and occasionally editing) at Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Australia’s most regular spec fic publication, since it first began in 2001. She can usually be found in the dealer’s room at conventions, selling the hell out of small press. She blogs over at http://asimmum.livejournal.com

Q1 – You’re one of the most public faces of the ASIM collective. It’s been six years for you now – what is it that you still love about the ASIM experience? What keeps you going, and what drives you crazy about it?

The ASIM experience is an ever changing one. I’m lucky in that I get to be involved in lots of different aspects of the production process (sometimes not all at once though). But the magazine has grown and changed so much in the last six years, and the quality of the published works continues to improve, that I haven’t had a chance to get bored with it! And I’m so immensely proud to be part of it, that I don’t think I’ll ever give it up. Seeing authors we have published go on to win awards, publish novels and that sort of thing is something I get the hugest kick out of! To be part of something that has achieved what it has, to provide that forum for new and established authors and artists, to be a part of the unique group that the ASIM co-operative is, that’s a big piece of who I am now. It has led to a great many opportunities for me, and has allowed me to be involved in a community of people I admire very much, and hope to be involved with for many years to come.

What drives me crazy about it? There’s two things: I want to publish MORE of the brilliant work we get through, and it’s so frustrating to have to let go great stories simply because we don’t have the room to publish them all. The other thing? It drives me NUTS that the Andromeda Spaceways Co-operative rarely get to see each other face to face! That we work almost exclusively online is what makes us happen, but I’d love to see more of my ASIM team mates in real life!

Q2 – What’s your take on the Australian spec fic scene as a whole? Is it a fun place to be? What do you get out of the blogging/judging/editing/convention experience?

I love the Australian spec fic scene, but I’m a relative newcomer to it, having only been part of the “community” (as I see it), for about six years. I get the impression that a lot of “oldtimers” (some of them not much older than me!) have a few more negative perceptions than I do, for various reasons. For me though, this community is my lifeline. I have a young family, and being able to “escape” to ASIM or into one of the other projects I’m a part of, or even just to my flist – keeping up with the doings of others in the community – keeps me sane! I wish I could get to more conventions, but perhaps the reason I enjoy them so much is because they aren’t readily accessible, and therefore more precious.

I’m so passionate about ASIM that I’m sure I bore others to tears with it, and it can be really frustrating in “real life” to try to brag about the magazine, or the achievements of friends (like the recent Courier Mail article on The Lost Shimmaron and New Ceres, both projects involving ex-ASIM members and friends!) and getting blank stares. I don’t get those stares in the spec fic community – people know what I’m talking about, and that drives me to continue to be a part of it, in whatever way I can.

Q3 – You’ve been reviewing for several years, but have recently become more prominent due to the ASIM online reviews, and syndicating many of your reviews through ASif. What do you like about reviewing books? What excites you about a new book? (and, taking advantage of your teacher-librarian history, what does it take for you to recommend a book to students?)

I love being able to offer someone else an opportunity to discover a new book, or a new author. And when you read for pleasure as much as I do, it’s good to have a purpose for it too! Some justification for the many hours spent ignoring the world (and the lure of sleep). The library I’m working in now is great in that it has a very diverse and mature collection. It’s going to take me a while to work my way through it, but for now, the recommendations I make are based on books I’ve read, or at least books by authors I’ve read, and enjoyed. I won’t recommend a book to a student based on critical acclaim, or Top 10 sales status. That just isn’t the way it works. I know what I like, and unless I’ve read a book myself, I can’t judge whether the critics have the same opinions I do or not.

It’s actually quite hard to recommend books to teenagers, because their age level, reading level and maturity level are often very different things! I fall back a lot on books I read and enjoyed as a teen, many of which are seeing print again under new covers, to attract the contemporary audience. This is great to see, but I also love to see the new authors on the shelves, or, better yet, going OFF the shelves!

Q4 – On a similar note, what’s the best thing you’ve read this year?

As I’m judging for the Aurealis Awards this year, I will restrict my comments a bit! Well, to be biased (but still honest!), I have to say the ASIM issues released so far this year have been our best yet – even issue 30, which just came out I’ve read heaps of, because the stories were floating in the slushpool when I was selecting for issue 27, and issue 29 is perhaps one of the strongest we’ve ever published. I love all our issues, but this year we’ve really outdone ourselves! And of course, the ASIM Best Of anthologies showcase some of the best of our early work.

On the novel front, I really enjoyed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (except for the epilogue – unnecessary, JK, unnecessary!), and think it did the series justice. But I’ve been reading so much great stuff this year, it’s really hard to narrow it down! Ooh, I really enjoyed John Birmingham’s WW2.1 trilogy though – it absolutely fascinated me, even though it’s not really in the type of stuff I would normally read. See, that’s what a good review can do – I picked up the first one because of Ian Nichols’ review of it in ASIM!

Q5 – and finally, if you had the chance to get it on with the fictional character you fancy most, who would it be?

Oooh, I could have fun with that! Gotta say, it’s not a book character (although I can think of a couple out of Laurell K Hamilton’s world I wouldn’t kick out of bed), but Captain Jack Sparrow is my god.

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