Readers of this
column know that editors play a huge part in what they get to read.
Lou Anders, who has edited Argosy
Magazine, and numerous anthologies including 'Live Without a Net',
has just started as the editor of
Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus
Publishing. I caught up with
Lou to find out where he's been, where he is now and where he --
and his new science fiction imprint, Pyr -- are headed.
a clear blue sky.
RK: Lou, how you did you get started in the writing business in the
first place? Did science fiction lead you to writing or did writing
you to science fiction?
LA: I came in via media "sci-fi," which
may surprise some people given a number of vehement public statements
I've made and
I've written denigrating Hollywood for their usual bastardization
of the genre. When I was a child, my father shoved a copy of ERB's A Princess of Mars into my palms and ordered me to read it. And I
devoured everything Burroughs then available in about two summers,
and went on to read copious amounts of Moorcock and Lieber.
But I left science fiction in high school for writers like John Irving
(his World According to Garp was hugely influential on me) and Tom
Robbins, and in college and immediately thereafter I was much more
interested in 70s cinema and experimental theatre. I was heavily
into Maya Deren, Antonin Artaud, Stephen Berkoff, Russ Meyer. I didn't
read any science fiction to speak of, though I did make a return
to comic books with Watchmen and Dark Knight.
The short of it is that theatre in college lead to a partial scholarship
to study acting in Oxford and London, which lead to directing plays
in Chicago, which lead to working on sets in Los Angeles, which lead
to journalism & screenwriting, the former being "scifi" based,
which lead to internet publishing, which lead to publishing, which
lead to here.
RK: Tell us about writing in the world of 'Star Trek' and 'Babylon 5'.
How does working in somebody else's universe sharpen your skills?
Scoggins and Lou Anders on or near the sets of Babylon
LA: Well, I didn't write for Star Trek and Babylon
5, I wrote about them. I got very lucky in that I fell in with
Titan Publishing in the UK
just about the time they were launching the first Star Trek magazine – previous
fan-mags had been one or two interviews with Random Red Ensign number
6 followed by 20 pages of advertising. And Titan came along with
the desire to do a full-on, 80-page, large format magazine that would
run 30 to 40 articles an issue and use 250 color photos. Paramount
had no idea how to accommodate such a license. There was no infrastructure
in place to deal with it, and they needed a man on the ground to
put it together. Jean-Marc Lofficier recommended me to Titan on the
strength of my very first interview and they took me to breakfast.
And I sat there and – I think it's safe now to say – lied
through my teeth and said "You will never find, in all of Los
Angeles, a better Star Trek journalist than me."
At the time, I didn't watch the show, and my first and only piece
of journalism – a Doctor Who convention report for Sci
Fi Universe – had
yet to come out. But miraculously they bought it, and pretty soon
I was their "Los Angeles Liaison" churning out about 30
articles a month on average and living on the Star Trek and Babylon
5 sets. But the thing is, while what I said was a bold face lie at
the time, I worked my ass off to make it true. I ended up writing
about 500 articles in five years, and by the time I quit journalism
in 1999, both Deep Space Nine's Executive Producer Ira Steven Behr
(the last truly talented producer to work for that franchise) and
Babylon 5 creator J Michael Straczynski confessed that I was their
preferred journalist when it came to covering their respected shows.
But I was writing film scripts with a partner on the side, two of
which were optioned by production companies, but, like 99 out of
100 Hollywood projects, never got off the ground. We were also pitching
regularly to Star Trek, and they liked us and our ideas and kept
having us back, but then Voyager went so far downhill we realized
that we didn't want to succeed with them, and we never took them
up on their last pitch invitation.
They'd done an episode where the main jeopardy was that Harry Kim
was worried that his parents would forget him after he'd been lost
in space for a couple years. I kid you not. They've found some Federation
email trapped in an alien transponder device and everybody's getting
a letter from home but Harry. In the last three minutes of the show,
a final piece of mail that was stuck in the system finally jiggers
loose (imagine that) and low and behold, he learns that his parents
still love him.
We were so disgusted we didn't want to go into our pitch meeting
the next day. But we did, and we threw out a couple of what we thought
were some pretty clever ideas, and Bryan Fuller asked us "Did
you see last night's episode?" And while he told us how he thought
it epitomized the best that Star Trek had to offer, and
could we come up with something like that, we sat there holding our
afraid to look at each other for fear we'd burst out laughing, and
we walked off the Paramount lot, and I looked at my partner and said, "Dude,
we're not coming back. The worst thing that could happen to us as
writers is that they could buy something."
RK: What are your thoughts in general on the media tie-in?
not a big believer in the media-tie in."
LA: I'm not a big believer in the media-tie in.
I can see its value in sharpening skills, but it's not something
I think is very, um, literary,
and I would rather the eyeballs that are wasted on TV tie-in material
were directed towards the real stuff. That being said, my friend
Sean Williams has cautioned me that media tie-ins have their place,
and the other day George Zebrowski, who doesn't suffer unambitious
science fiction lightly, told me that what he bemoaned was not that
the media tie-in existed, but that it didn't set its sights higher
in terms of quality. (Furthermore, in the interest of fairness, I
must confess a fondness for certain Doctor Who books.)
RK: And I too, especially those by Mark Morris. How did you get the gig
writing the book about the making of 'Star Trek: First Contact'?
LA: Titan called me up and said, "We've just
negotiated the license. Do you want to do the book?" And I said, "But
the movie just wrapped two days ago, all the press junkets are over,
actors are sick to death of talking about it." But I took the
gig, and it was sheer hell. I spent a period of six weeks where I
didn't talk to anyone who wasn't working for Paramount, shut in my
studio apartment in Venice Beach conducting, transcribing and writing
up multiple interviews a day; begging, bribing and threatening agents
to get their actors to step up for one more interview; and typing
until my wrists hurt so bad I had to take a month off journalism
afterwards to recover. No kidding. And I could not have done it without
the assistance of Kristin Torgen, my ally in the Paramount publicity
department. The rest of the department couldn't give a shit about
an already-licensed and paid for tie-in book, because, hey, that
was written for a guaranteed core that would come no matter what
crap was on screen and didn't count as a source of new "impressions" (their
term for registering awareness with potential viewers). I don't know
where she is or what she's doing, but the book would not exist without
her and I'm grateful.
RK: Tell us about Bookface.com, preferably from beginning to end. These
days, it appears to bring up a domain name search engine.
was leveraging my contacts to—Oh look, your
LA: From beginning to end? Surely not. Well, I was
living in West Hollywood, Deep Space Nine had ended, Babylon
Crusade spin off had been
canceled, I'd broken up with someone in a bad way, my writing partner
was talking marriage with his girlfriend, and I was eking a living
sourcing photos for the Xena: Warrior Princess magazine. Dark days
An ex-girlfriend/old friend from college called and said she'd like
to fly me to San Francisco to act as a possible media consultant
for a dot com she'd founded. Highly skeptical, I come up, and they
show me the demo, which was for a browser-based reading window that
let you open fully searchable texts online but wouldn't let you print
out or download. The concept was that it would track ad banners and
allow click thrus to Amazon and B&N, so that it would either
drive sales (by letting you preview) or generate revenue while you
read. We pitched it to publishers as free publicity that paid them
back rather than charged. I signed on to build a science fiction
portal that would point to the site and that quickly grew to being
their Executive Editor and overseeing content in thirteen categories,
including nonfiction, religion, business, romance, mystery, history,
We had major cooperation from all the big guys – Penguin, Random
House, Warner Books, St. Martins, etc… and logged forty-thousand
plus users in a matter of months. But of course the bottom dropped
out of the ad revenue model and we were killed in the crunch. But
now Amazon and Google Print are starting everything up again and
crossing all the same bridges we did five years ago, and Salon.com's
even found a new model to make the advertising pay. Sometimes it
doesn't really pay to be first to market. Too bad, so sad.
But the upside was that science fiction readers and writers are notorious
early adopters and so after just a year of operation I knew scores
of people in the field. So when the writing appeared on the wall
for Bookface, I was leveraging my contacts to—Oh look, your
RK: Bookface.com led to your first anthology, 'Outside the Box'. How
was it for you to go from the New York publishing world you (presumably)
experienced with the 'Star Trek' book to the POD environment of Wildside?
LA: Well, I went from the London publishing world,
actually. But at the time, I thought POD was simply another facet
of the digital revolution
and the new economy that would change the world, and so I was wildly
and naively enthusiastic. I'm much, much more skeptical now and,
in fact, wouldn't advise anyone serious about being taken seriously
to go the POD route, as an author or a publisher. I'm sure that something
like it, as well as something like the eBook, is going to be here
one day, but it's like laser discs and DVDs. The idea is there, but
the format's had to go away, and will come back in a decade when
they get it right.
RK: Tell us about the creation of 'Live without a Net' and the forthcoming
'FutureShocks'. These are both from Roc, a major name in SF publishing.
How was it working with the traditional New Yorkers on anthologies?
was reacting directly to what I felt was a preponderance
of post-cyberpunk in American science fiction in the year
LA: Splendid. I've been very fortunate in both my
editors at Roc—Jen
Heddle on Live without a Net and Liz Scheier on FutureShocks. I was
frankly surprised that Roc took on Live, because apart from Al Sarrantonio's
Redshift, I didn't see them doing a lot like it. I had set
the anthology up at a small press that was slowly going under, and
the book was
about half done, and in one frantic weekend at the World Fantasy
Convention in Montreal, I built a house of cards by getting both
some big name authors and a "major name" publisher interested
by guaranteeing each the other. Someone introduced me to Jen, I asked "Do
you do anthologies?" and when she said, "Sometimes," I
replied, "My name's Lou Anders. Come let me buy you a drink."
And again, I was very fortunate and very grateful that she liked
the idea and followed up, and when she called to say they'd buy it,
I put down the phone and ran laps inside my house. But Live without
a Net was a bitch to do because it stretched out over a year
and a half and changed publishers midway. And I'd more than half
it with some very talented, but then largely unknown writers, and
now I had to get a requisite number of "names" in without
exceeding my word length, not all of whom came through, and I had
to hammer and slice the thing into shape.
FutureShocks, by contrast, has been an utter dream, largely due to
the success of Live. Everyone signed up enthusiastically,
wrote within their prescribed word limits, and handed their stories
in on time.
It's been so easy I feel guilty. And though I didn't have to buy
Liz a drink, all my dealings with her suggest she's a marvelous person
who really "gets" SF, and a great asset to the new Roc,
and the first rounds on me next time we're in the same city.
RK: Tell us a little bit about 'FutureShocks'.
LA: FutureShocks is my anthology about
new fears and cultural transitions arising from biological, sociological,
change. Science fiction is often called the literature of estrangement
and distinguished from the other genres by its refusal to make the
reader too comfortable, and I wanted to explore that for its own
quite happy with the results, which contains some truly excellent
work, and I'll be anxious for it to be unleashed on the world.
RK: 'Projections' is an anthology from MonkeyBrain books. Tell us your
experience with them and with the anthology itself.
read a lot of SF nonfiction."
LA: Well, the confession is that MonkeyBrain founders
Chris Roberson and Allison Baker are dear friends, and while they
a decision they didn't see a business upside to, they've been very
good about letting me do the book I wanted to do. In their and my
defense, I didn't know Chris from Adam until he handed in "O
One" to Live without a Net, and I thought it was utter
out by the Sidewise win and the Campbell and WFC nominations — so
the nepotism really did follow sincere professional admiration and
But Projections is a bit of an odd animal. I read a lot of SF nonfiction,
a copious amount, and I was leafing through Science Fiction Studies or something similar and thinking about the fact that by and large,
the SF criticisms that I enjoy the best are the pieces that are written
by the writers themselves. And that I couldn't put my finger on a
good book that aggregated a large chunk of same and that I personally
would really like such a volume for my own shelf.
When it began, it was actually two books, one on literature and one
on cinema, and it was a decision on the part of MonkeyBrain to combine
it to one volume. We thought about sectioning it into two parts,
but it didn't break nicely either word count-wise or TOC-wise, so
we just jumbled everything together, hoping that the subtitle "Science
Fiction in Literature & Film" would be enough to lead folks
to expect a bit of both. But, wouldn't you know, that seems to be
one of the aspects reviewers are stumbling on, who seem to be wanting
one or the other.
I'm also very concerned with (read: "exasperated by") the
dichotomy between SF literature and sci-fi film and said as much
in my opening essay in what I thought was an erudite manner, but
maybe I should have just written that, "Hey, by golly, I think
the best writing on writing is by writers and here's some really
cool pieces. Now go enjoy them in their own right." Anyway,
I'm very proud of the result and would love to do a follow-up collection
one day if the opportunity arose.
RK: How did you get involved with Argosy? What role did you play in the
conceptualization and the design? And what led to your departure?
LA: Ah, Argosy. I imagine I'll have to endure questions
about that for a while, and I look forward to my other work reaching
the level when
I can leave that behind (it's already migrating off the bio), but
I suppose I'd better say what I can right now. Depending on the time
of day, it's a painful subject because I'm both still very proud
of the work that I did on the first three (yes, three) issues, but
at the same time, I'm hyper-aware of certain shortcomings and behind-the-scenes
problems that I'd rather not be associated with.
The short of it is that a very charismatic man came along at the
right (wrong) time with plans to craft a string of magazines, and
we, who love the short fiction format so much and bemoan the dwindling
state of the digests, allowed our wishful thinking to get the better
of our judgment, fell in line with this pied piper and broke our
backs and burned our candles low and strained our relationships and
mortgaged our reputations to craft for him a thing of beauty made
of gossamer and candy floss and tissue paper, and when the house
of cards was found to be wanting and printers went unpaid and subscriptions
unfulfilled and my own contracted-for back pay reached astronomical
levels, and I had mounting "creative differences" (read:
serious ethical and moral problems) with their business practices,
I removed myself and asked that no mention of my name in conjunction
with the magazine ever be made again. And I mourn for what might
have been, but I cannot, in good conscience, countenance anything
coming out of there.
RK: What did you see yourself doing after you left? How did Pyr come
into being? Did you approach Prometheus?
LA: Pyr was utterly and totally a godsend, if one
can use such a description in reference to working for the largest
atheist publisher in America.
A very good friend of mine from Bookface.com saw a job listing for
an acquisitions editor to work in science fiction and forwarded it
to me, whereupon I ignored it out of misplaced loyalty to Argosy.
My wife, however, is many orders of magnitude smarter than I am,
and tricked me into applying by suggesting that we just "see
what happens." What happened was that they flew me to New York
and over the course of a day, it was mutually agreed that what they
wanted was more of an editorial director than an acquisitions editor,
and we shook on it and I flew home.
RK: Prometheus has a rather skeptical slant when it comes to science
publishing with authors including 'Skeptical Enquirer' author Martin
Gardner, and it seems that this might cause some friction with the
speculative nature of science fiction itself.
LA: No, not at all. In fact, the interest in science
fiction on the part of an actual science publisher is generating
a great deal of enthusiasm,
both from readers and media, and from science fiction writers themselves.
I think there is at least one faction of the science fiction community
that believes and bemoans the idea that science fiction is losing
its grounding in science and sees this as a potential return to core
values. And that's a faction that I'm very much interested in reaching
with part of our line.
Bridget Jones of time travel..."
But at the same time, as I said to Prometheus when I accepted the
job, I don't want this imprint to be as narrow as to confine our
authors to one agenda, so that while I am selecting books that mesh
broadly with their overall aesthetic, I'm not limiting us to just
one mode or sub-genre or philosophical position. However, that being
said, I'm very unlikely to do a ghost story, or an angel book, or
a story about ancient shamans imparting long forgotten spiritual
wisdom. We will publish fantasy, and soft-science SF, but I hope
to ensure that we always have a solid through-line of the pure stuff.
Even Chris Roberson's Here, There & Everywhere, a grand adventure
novel which takes place all over time and space and dimension, is
rigorous in its physics.
RK: What kind of editorial dictate did Prometheus give you or were you
just given free reign?
LA: Prometheus has been wonderful in that they are
a 35-year-old company of excellent reputation with a great deal of
experience that are
staffed by some highly-talented, ultra-competent, and extremely hard-working
individuals who know absolutely nothing about science fiction. So
while they are deferring to my judgment in a wide range of matters,
from choice of material to selection of cover artists to advertising
venues and even fonts and paper stocks, I am fortunate in that they
have excellent art, publicity, editorial, production, sales and marketing
departments and are working very hard to produce what I think, all
modesty aside, are some very damn good-looking books. And they are
marketing and publicizing the hell out of them. I could not be happier
with Prometheus. They have really stepped up and demonstrated a commitment
to this line beyond my expectations.
RK: Tell us about your initial picks for Prometheus. Are your initial
picks a reflection of your personal editorial intentions, or more
attributable to the serendipity of finding the work available?
Meaney is the best hard science/space opera fiction writer
in the field today."
LA: You know, in terms of selection, the first season
was relatively easy. I knew exactly what I wanted and was able to
get it. Execution
was another matter. I left for a pre-arranged, month-long trip to
China with my wife right after accepting the job (and yes, I took
a stack of manuscripts along), but I returned with only three months
remaining to have the books nailed down, contracted, illustrated,
launched, etc… It was a crazy, crazy time, haggling with agents
and drawing up contracts while writing catalog and jacket copy and
approving artwork and layouts and everything all at once—a
year's worth of work or more compressed into a very narrow window,
and I honestly don't think I've worked this hard at anything since
I was living in the 14-hour workdays of the dot com industry in 2000.
It's slowed down a little bit sense then, but then again, here I
am at 11:21 PM working on this interview, so by slowed down I mean
to the normal craziness.
In terms of the nature of the picks themselves, it's a very calculated
list. Our first season is comprised of four original novels, two
North American debuts, one classic reprint, and one anthology. Each
of our seven novelists (and, of course, our anthologist Gardner Dozois)
has been distinguished, either with major awards or multiple nominations.
The books are weighted towards hard SF, but contain two fantasies
(one secondary world, one historical), one sci-fantasy or soft SF,
and an anthology of stories examining the very Promethean struggle
of science vs. superstition. And yes, it's highly reflective of my "editorial
RK: Your catalogue includes some heavy hitters from the UK that to my
mind have been conspicuously and mysteriously absent from the US
scene. Tell us why talented writers published by major houses in
the UK don't automatically get picked up by major houses in the US.
LA: John Meaney. John Meaney. John Meaney. I will
say—and can say
with integrity since I've been saying it since 2001 when I'd never
heard of Prometheus or Pyr—that John Meaney is the best hard
science/space opera fiction writer in the field today. Possibly equaled,
but not exceeded by, Charles Stross. I have been lambasting US publishers
to pick him up since I first read Paradox, never dreaming that it
would be me who finally unleashed him on America, but deeply honored
to have done so. I do not know why it has taken so long. I can understand
why some UK writers, who are perhaps less accessible (or perceived
as less accessible) take a while for their reputations to reach a
specific gravity before US houses will take a chance on them, but
why Meaney's work, which is highly-accessible, fast-paced, action-packed,
and heavily laced with karate, sword fights, and pistol duels in
addition to rigorous scientific extrapolations, wasn't snatched up
on first sight is beyond me.
While we're on the subject, if you appreciate what we're trying to
do, please wait for the US editions. Some folks online have been
encouraging ordering from overseas, and people who do that are directly
impacting my ability in a very real way to bring more great UK and
Australian writers across.
RK: Is it true that science fiction sales are declining and fantasy sales
are rising? Who believes this and why?
Anders in the captain's seat of Pyr. Wait, that's
the White Star!
LA: Oddly, I just contributed a piece to the April
4th issue of Publishers Weekly on this very topic. Without re-treading
here, I would say
that while fantasy is perhaps encroaching into the science fiction
market, there is a good deal more of either genre being published
today, by big and small houses, than there ever was in the Golden
Age. In a broader sense, I believe that statistics bear out that
while a smaller percentage of the overall population reads today
than has in years past, the actual population increase means that
in sheer numbers more people are reading than ever have before.
Personally, I don't have a philosophical problem with the rise of
fantasy and am overjoyed at things like the success of works like
Strange & Mr Norrell. I do, however, see the
historical and ongoing importance of science fiction in providing
for expressing a worldview in which rationality and ideas of reason
and tolerance pervade. Nor can I stress enough how significant SF
is in communicating same to each new generation. As a reader, I am
a fan of both forms, and what I really lament is the takeover of
SF/fantasy by mediocre SF/Fantasy. I see too many works that spoon
feed their audience, while more challenging fare languishes in the
ever-growing competition for consumer attention. I want my fiction
smart—whether that's scientifically smart or literarily smart.
I want my science fiction and my fantasy to stimulate, to educate,
to elucidate, to provoke and instigate.
RK: What are your thoughts with regards to horror fiction?
LA: My thoughts are that you are unlikely to see
horror coming out of Pyr. This does not mean that I don't like or
respect horror, or that
I wouldn't like to see the genre return to a state of good health,
but only that it is not appropriate for our line.
RK: Why do you and Prometheus think this is a good time to start a new
speculative fiction imprint?
LA: Prometheus had already been testing the waters
with a few isolated fiction offerings. They wanted to expand their
range, and were advised
to choose a niche rather than a mainstream fiction category. They
felt there was some correlation between "science" and "science
fiction." Imagine that!
RK: Indeed. What holes in the SF&F world do
you see Pyr filling? What needs will you be answering?
LA: I don't so much see definite holes, in the sense
you mean, as I believe there is always more good material than there
are outlets for same.
However, each and every outlet, I do believe, does need to labor
under a clear vision. Every editor starts from his or her own aesthetic
tastes and judgments and works outwards from there. And yes, as you
point out in your introduction above, editors do play an important
role in what readers are exposed to.
For my part, I have very defined tastes, and I am very much interested
in science fiction as a dialogue. I'm encouraged when I see the success
of smart science fiction and fantasy writers like Charles Stross,
Cory Doctorow, and China Miéville and believe that genius
need not labor in obscurity. It's true that Forgotten Realms novels
are outselling a lot of the genre, but Susanna Clarke is outselling
them. It may be harder to score when you skew smarter, but not impossible.
If there is a defining vision to Pyr, it is that I hope our books,
whether hard science fiction, imaginative fantasy or wild space opera
and military SF, are always perceived as being smart. I want to work
with writers whose prose and ideas always clocks in above the average.
I'm not saying we'll achieve this 100% of the time, or that this
will always be the perception our readers take, but I've acquired
27 books thus far and I don't think I've let the side down yet.
RK: Being chosen as the editor to helm a new imprint requires you to
provide a clear vision. Or does it?
large selection of diverse material across a broad range
LA: Recently (and by recently I mean last year or
so), I heard both Gardner Dozois and Gordon Van Gelder, two men I
admire greatly, declare separately
that they were NOT Campbellian editors. By which they meant that
they published a large selection of diverse material across a broad
range of subgenres and themes and did not actively seek out or encourage
work of a specific nature or work addressing a specific agenda. I
understand this position and I see how it works for a monthly short
fiction digest. I am the exact opposite.
More to my style, I also heard Robert Silverberg say that he used
his famous New Dimensions anthology series to "prune" science
fiction back to what he thought it should be, in effect saying "this
and only this constitutes relevant science fiction in my opinion."
I would like to come forward and confess that, yes, I am a Campbellian
editor. Each of my Roc anthologies has been an original anthology,
expressed around a very definite theme, with a specific agenda. In
the case of Live without a Net, I was reacting directly to what I
felt was a preponderance of post-cyberpunk in American science fiction
in the year 2000. The anthology was a deliberate attempt to counter
that trend in some small and useful way.
If I may use Chris Roberson as an example: I met Chris as part of
a group of writers at the World Fantasy Convention in Montreal, and
invited him, along with that group, to submit to Live. Whereupon
I promptly forgot him completely. Then, "O One" came in,
and I started to pay attention. I realized it would be a highlight
of the anthology. The story is about an alternate world dominated
by a Chinese empire. In the backdrop to the story, but by no means
essential to it, it is mentioned that the Emperor of China is interested
in space travel.
When Argosy came along, I called Chris and told him I wanted to see
the continuation of the Chinese conquest of space (specifically Mars)
and if he would write that story (and only that story) as a novella,
I would publish it in Argosy. Chris, at the time, had no
plans to continue his Chinese tales, let alone their tales of space,
the process of exploration that led to the requested story, he crafted
two others. One of which, "Black Hands, Red Hands" appeared
in Asimov's to great acclaim, and one of which is slated to appear
in Postscripts. When I left Argosy, Chris withdrew
the novella, but it has since found a home at PS Publishing. Look
called "The Voyage of Night Shining White." It will feature
a stunning cover by Stephan Martiniere, and I have no doubt that
it's going to be one of the most talked about novellas of its year
and will certainly make the Hugo ballot.
Furthermore, there is a story in the third Argosy that I
would be inordinately proud of had circumstances gone otherwise by
Coleman Finlay. Charlie sent me three perfectly good genre stories
that I rejected in turn before I told him that what I really wanted
to see was a mainstream tale from him. He went away and wrote his
first such piece on commission – "Still Life with Action
Figure", and it's nothing short of incredible. Meanwhile, I
have suggested no less than three books to Paul Di Filippo that I'd
like to see specifically from him, and if he ever takes me up on
one of them, I will publish it.
RK: Now, most importantly, tell us about your vision. What are you looking
for from established writers?
hoping Pyr will stay slanted towards science fiction
over fantasy, while publishing engaging and intelligent
offerings from both genres."
LA: I have a friend in Hollywood who works in children's
animation. She's been in development at Disney, Nickelodeon, and
Klasky Csupo, and
she always maintains that she is only interested in projects that
have to be animated, that if a script can be realized with live action
then it should be. I apply something similar to my SF. If a story
can survive without the speculative element and is only using the
science fiction as backdrop, then I'm not interested.
But let me twist this a little away from vision and towards needs.
I'm hoping Pyr will stay slanted towards science fiction over fantasy,
while publishing engaging and intelligent offerings from both genres.
I have a real need for hard science fiction. I see more of that coming
from Britain than America right now and I'd like to do something
about it. When I solicit hard SF from agents, nine times out of ten
what I get in return is military SF, and that's not the same thing.
At the same time, my father raised me to believe that no one spins
the English language with as much eloquence as the Brits do, and
consequently I'm tough on bad prose. The combination of hard SF with
eloquent prose may narrow the field over here, but that's what I'm
RK: Tell us about the hiring/"bringing aboard" process?
Did you have to relocate?
LA: Nope. They were extremely helpful in allowing
me to remain in Alabama. I travel a lot, but having a comfortable
home base for me and my
family is important, and the nature of this business and the singularity
of the Internet means you really can do it from anywhere. Kudos to
Prometheus for realizing that.
RK: Are you looking for material from new writers? If so, how can a new
and un-agented writer best approach you?
LA: It's very hard for an un-agented writer to approach
me, I admit. This field attracts a lot of hopefuls, and while many
of them are
quite talented, their numbers are such in the greater mass of the
slush pile, that if our doors were wide open I would be buried alive.
I do not use readers. I do not believe I could teach or impart my
tastes, and while I am hand-selecting everything, I must have some
sort of filtration process in place or my job would swiftly become
impossible. That being said, I have a brand new writer named David
Louis Edelman who has never published anything in the field and while
he came from an agent, not one experienced in SF&F. David is
amazing. You'll meet him in our third season, and I'm expecting great
things from him. Other than that, the best way for an un-agented
writer to approach me is to publish something amazing in the short
RK: Do you see Pyr establishing a magazine? If so, what would you hope
to accomplish with it?
got three author Q&As, several chapter excerpts, and
an entire novella by Sean Williams that preceded his novel,
The Resurrected Man."
LA: Honestly, with the current state of the magazine
field, I don't think it would make good business sense for them.
That being said, Prometheus'
sister organization, the Center
publishes a great many magazine publications (such as the Skeptical
Inquirer), and if they ever did want to go in that direction, I'm
their man. I love short fiction magazines and would love the opportunity
to work in that area again.
RK: The Pyr website now serves primarily as a catalogue and advertisement.
Do you foresee turning it into something more?
LA: Absolutely. Currently, we've got three author
Q&As, several chapter
excerpts, and an entire novella by Sean Williams that preceded his
novel, The Resurrected Man. I hope to be able to continue
to add content as we grow, possibly exploring audio interviews, ancillary
book information (maps, appendices, etc…) and making PyrSF.com
more of a "destination" site in its own right.
RK: With 'Here, There & Everywhere' and 'The
Prodigal Troll' you've undertaken the unusual, but welcome strategy
of simultaneously issuing
the trade paperback and hardcover versions of the book. This is done
in the UK, but not in the US. What gives?
LA: This is an interesting experiment, and one that
I'm very curious to see play out. I, for one, am a collector who
will never buy a
paperback if a hardcover is available, but I'm aware of the importance
of the trade and mass market paperback in the market. I'm glad you
welcome the strategy, and I hope it pans out. It's something I'd
very much like to repeat if we are able. And we are already slated
to do it again in our second season for George Zebrowski's Macrolife:
A Mobile Utopia.
RK: Pyr is already slipping away from a strictly science fiction catalogue.
Are there any limitations on what you're willing to publish? Will
you publish horror fiction? Non-fiction? Graphic novels? Comics?
Is there a piece of utterly mundane literary fiction that you might
consider publishing? Will Pyr be doing media tie-ins?
LA: Nope, nope, nope, nope and nope. That being
said, the future is unwritten, and I did inquire about novelizing
a failed script from a big SF
media franchise but found it was not an option on their end. Astute
readers can probably guess whose.
RK: Pyr is competing head-to-head with huge New York publishers for a
slice of a diminishing market. What will you do to ensure that you
LA: More interviews on the Agony Column? I'm sorry;
it's 1 AM here now. We're busting our hump to get good books to readers
and to make sure
people know they are there. If you build it, will they come?
RK: What advantages do you have over such operations?
LA: We don't have to have exactly the same numbers
they do to consider ourselves a success.
RK: What disadvantages do you have facing them?
LA: We still need numbers. But I don't know that
we have disadvantages. Our distribution is excellent, and the last
thing the average consumer
looks at when browsing is the logo on the spine. I don't think I
ever noticed them until I got into the business.
RK: Tell us about distribution and bookstore placement. What are you,
as editor, doing to ensure that your books are easily bought and
found by readers?
LA: This is all to Prometheus' credit. They've had
a decades long relationship with Barnes & Noble, going back to
way before such was important. They've got good relationships in
place with all the major chains
and media/review outlets. And we're getting a lot of love from the
independents and the core community. Our books really are everywhere
in the US, and I'm thrilled with the almost overwhelmingly positive
reviews we're getting from Publishers Weekly, Entertainment
SciFi.com, Locus, Library Journal, Kirkus, as well as numerous websites
and regional papers.
Beatts(left), owner of very independent Borderlands Books,
with Lou Anders (center) and author Chris Roberson(right)
at a signing in Borderlands.
RK: Tell us about your relationship with chain bookstores and independent
LA: While you can't survive without the chains in
this day and age, I am adamant that we won't neglect the independents.
They are dwindling,
true, but they are absolutely vital. They represent a knowledge base
you cannot get from the corporations, as well as a (two-way) connection
right into the core community. Stores like Borderlands,
Galaxy are essential and I encourage everyone to support
RK: What more would you want readers to know about Pyr?
LA: I'm thrilled beyond words to be publishing the
US editions of the Hugo-nominated, BSFA-winning River
of Gods by
Ian McDonald and the
Aurealis-winning, Ditmar-nominated The Crooked Letter by Sean Williams.
These are two tremendous novels, and I think they are going to blow
Finally, for you linguists out there, we're pronouncing it "Pire" like "fire," but
true scholars know it's probably closer to "peer" in the
original Greek and are welcome to use that pronunciation and feel
superior. Thanks very much. It's been a pleasure.
RK: Thanks, Lou. And readers, looking for links
of interest can follow on to...
Lou Anders Home Page
Prometheus Books Homepage
farewell to the Zocalo..."