Saturday, 23 July 2011

bite me: the week in bite-sized chunks

*Writing from somewhere in a hermetically sealed room* As I am now in the brain-melting throes of writing my dissertation (12,000 words and four weeks to go), these round ups are focused on what dedicated SFF UK imprints are doing to digitally market themselves, their books and their authors to their fans and wider readerships.

Gollancz: have recently announced they’re making the Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction, ‘the definitive reference work in the field’, available free online. In another step towards helping more genre books reach wider audiences, and helping audiences to reach more books, Gollancz are launching the SF Gateway. It’s going to be the ‘world’s largest digital SF library, which will make thousands of out-of-print titles by classic genre authors available as eBooks’ (so not an intergalactic gateway to other such gateways, but still pretty neat). Available to access this autumn, the project has been headed by Gollancz’s digital publisher, Darren Nash. This really is an amazing venture, and really utilises the digital form. In a further step towards digital domination, Gollancz are also teaming up with pulp website Good Show Sir, with the goal of making every cover linkable to the actual text by 2012 (this last part might be a lie, but they’re missing out on a trick – who wouldn’t want to read about Nazi gnomes?!).

Angry Robot Books: are back again this week because I’ve been writing the section in my dissertation (known henceforth as the ‘Big D’) about how negative perceptions of the fantasy genre are often linked to cheap, and badly written, swords and sorcery fiction from around the 1950s. This was otherwise known as ‘pulp’ fiction (so-called due to the cheap wood pulp paper that enabled the printing of several key fantasy and science fiction magazines around that time). The Big D points out that publishers have been trying to put their sordid, scantily-clad maidens past behind them. Commissioning editors who were interviewed for the Big D all agree wholeheartedly that negative perceptions are linked to the covers for these texts (please see Nazi gnomes cover for reference). Art Directors and the like have been working for years to rebrand SFF away from these ‘pulp’ covers, only returning to them in a retro, ironic fashion. I write all of this because this week, Angry Robot announced the signing of swords and sorcery author Paul S Kemp. Kemp is ‘unashamedly a fan of the classic ‘swords and sorcery’ fantasy’. His series of novels will be bringing ‘swords and sorcery right up to date’. But with a few key changes. It’s about thieves and treasure hunters, who are the new assassins (Douglas Hulick’s Tales of the Kin helped with that), and Angry Robot are keen to emphasise that it uses ‘very modern language’. I’ve done a few questionnaires for my essay, and people generally find the language and names used (see Tolkien’s works for detail) off-putting when it comes to reading fantasy, and so would rather not. Could more books of this ilk being published, with modern covers, modern language and trending themes, be part of the key of helping SFF to reach wider audiences, without the need for a HBO series?

I will leave you with a quote from H. P. Lovecraft on the matter of being published by pulp magazines (which he was): ‘the field is so repugnant to me that it’s about the last way I’d ever choose to gain shelter and clothing and nourishment.’ Beautiful.

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