Along my reading journey, I’ve made a conscious decision to include self-published and small press works in my reading schedule. But it is difficult to know where to start: So many new authors and books to examine to find the perfect fit for my tastes. And to help others with this same problem, I’ve decided to turn my Indie Wednesday feature into a day where writers can introduce themselves and their work to everyone.
Well, today, I’m honored to welcome Adrian Collins to Bookwraiths. Most well known as the founder and editor of Grimdark Magazine, he is here talking about his first, huge, star-filled, grimdark anthology, Evil is a Matter of Perspective, where he has brought together a who’s who list of authors determined to show everyone there are always two sides to every story — including the people you love to hate. So without any further introducing, let’s get to the interview!
Thanks for joining us Adrian, and congratulations on the upcoming release of Evil is a Matter of Perspective. For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Wendell, mate, thank you for having me. I run Grimdark Magazine with a team of SFF enthusiasts from around the world. We’ve recently printed off and distributed our first anthology, Evil is a Matter of Perspective, which is the reward for three years of hard slog to build relationships, knowledge, and the fan base to deliver this project—and one of the proudest achievements in my life so far.
Apart from that, I’m a pretty average fellow from Sydney, Australia.
As an editor, I’m sure everyone would love to hear what you look for in a story? Also, what elements automatically cause you to throw a submission on the proverbial reject pile?
For Grimdark Magazine I’m after a grim story told in a dark world by a morally grey protagonist. I want to see the villain’s perspective, horrible things done for questionably good reasons, betrayal, things going wrong, twists that turn our hero into the villain.
There are a few things that cause a fairly quick rejection, primary amongst them being when the submitter has pretty clearly not bothered to read our submission guidelines.
With fiction it’s usually one of the two extremes: either the author has sent us a vampire romance story, or they have gone completely off the deep end and sent us a splatterporn / rape-fest-driven short story thinking that’s what we’re after.
Fantasy readers who love to get engrossed in every corner of an author’s world—not just the threads of the primary protagonists—will love this anthology.
When I pitched this anthology to authors, I asked for a story featuring one of their antagonists from a current world they were working in, as either an origin story or a different perspective on the current timeline. The authors who jumped on board delivered a phenomenal range of stories where their villains took centre stage and we saw their worlds from a different angle. I loved seeing the drive of some of these characters.
You have an amazing list of authors featured in this book. Rundown the who’s who and give us your own personal favorite stories from the book.
We had an amazing response to our anthology pitch from the author and artist community. The team we put together includes a stack of traditionally published authors and some brilliant artists.
Evil is a Matter of Perspective features stories by R. Scott Bakker, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Michael R. Fletcher, Shawn Speakman, Teresa Frohock, Kaaron Warren, Courtney Schafer, Marc Turner, Jeff Salyards, Mazarkis Williams, Deborah A. Wolf, Brian Staveley, Alex Marshall, Bradley P. Beaulieu, Matthew Ward, Mark Alder, Janny Wurts, E.V. Morrigan, and Peter Orullian.
The artists behind that sleek, beautiful look are Tommy Arnold (cover), Jason Deem (interior art), and Shawn King (design).
My favourites are hard to pick, like deciding upon a favourite book, but the bits that stuck with me included (but are not limited to):
· The big twist in Brian Staveley’s Better than Breath
· Just plain old enjoying how Deborah A. Wolf writes Blood Penny (just beautiful to read)
· When I realised which character’s origin story I was reading in Alex Marshall’s The Divine Death of Jirella Martigore
· Laughing out loud on a train while reading R. Scott Bakker’s The Carathayan
· The chills running down my spine reading Exceeding Bitter by Kaaron Warren
You know, I could sit here and give you 19 bullet points with a unique thing I loved about each story, but I’ll stop there before this blows out and I accidentally spoil something for a reader.
What challenges did you face putting this book together and getting it to print?
Challenges… this could be a looooooong post. Running an anthology Kickstarter is 18 months of juggling a million jobs and 100 contributor / supplier / marketing relationships. But, one of the things you need to be able to do is identify your strengths and weaknesses, and one of my premier weaknesses is numbers. I’ve always been horrible at maths and patterns. Could never even understand basic algebra (honestly, what can you use it for anyway?).
When you’re setting up a Kickstarter, you’re signing on that if you take people’s money, you will deliver a product. How in line with customer expectations that product is, is your only wriggle room. If you run out of money, that’s your own bad luck. Unfortunately for my sanity, I didn’t have any accountants or mathematical genius’ in my network. So, I had to do it myself and it… took… months. I eventually got there and had the number right, but let me tell you, I reckon the old hairline has receded a few centimetres during the process.
The other challenge I’ll mention is that I live on the other side of the world to all the authors (bar one), the GdM team (bar two), the printer, the artist, the designer, the distributor, the logistics company—everybody involved. Not being able to talk to people face to face, or see the book in production, and the different time zones meant a great deal of late nights and early mornings on the phone, and a bit of stress worrying about what would come out the other end of this process.
Fortunately I had a group of very switched on and engaged individuals who worked with me until we brought this project to its completion.
Can you now claim to be a master of Kickstarter campaigns? If not, what else do you have left to prove?
Master? No. One success is nice, but there are so many little things I know I can do better. I’ll consider myself more of an expert than your average Joe when I’ve run five or more successfully back to back. My ability to run one is a work in progress, just like any skill. I’m having stacks of success and learning the intricacies of print production and distribution, but I’m also making mistakes, learning from them, and then making new mistakes to learn from. Each error means I’ll run a better project next time. Each time I post honest and transparent updates to our backers, I hope, creates the trust I need to run another successful one.
But I do love Kickstarter (so much so, I’ve got two more on the way). It’s gotta be hands down the best thing to happen to small publishing since print-on-demand. In my opinion, there is no better bang for buck marketing tool than a well-presented Kickstarter with a solid list of exciting stretch goals. Keep an eye on the GdM blog, I’ll be posting up a few articles about my experiences with Kickstarter in the coming months.
How do you view the future of grimdark fantasy going forward? Is its popularity waxing or waning?
If we judge the popularity of grimdark by where the big money is being invested, and we can see the stuff our crowd loves being turned into big budget shows—the new Game of Thrones spin offs, for example—then I’d say we’re still currently on an upward trend in popularity as people realise they enjoy those shows and books and try to search for more content in the same vein. I’m under no illusion though, at some point, we’ll be on the way back down, as all trends must. Maybe somebody will subvert the subverters, or come up with something cooler… who knows. The joy of being alive is not knowing what could happen. Today could be grimdark’s last day for all I know. But if it isn’t, then we’ll keep talking about all the things we love and publishing stories that feature anti-heroes and morally grey protagonists.
What grimdark books do you find yourself most likely to recommend to readers new to the genre?
Funnily enough I came across this list on Best Fantasy Books the other day and thought summed it up it pretty nicely.
Favorite grimdark authors?
There are an absolute stack of them that I love reading. I think, though, if I had to pick a favourite author, it’d be Mark Lawrence at the moment. His books are magnificent, he interacts with his fans frequently in the online circles I hang in, promotes self-published authors through his Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (agent and publishing contracts raining on the winners and runners up in that competition), and is just a genuine good bloke. If your readers are yet to read Prince of Thorns, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Any authors you’d love to work with but not yet had an opportunity to do so?
It’s no secret that I’m taking every opportunity I can to offer Joe Abercrombie work. His novels got me into this kind of fiction. The Bloody-Nine remains my favourite barbarian (sorry, Snorri). We just haven’t been able to get into his ballpark yet.
I’d also really like to grab a Kameron Hurley short story, something from N.K. Jemisin, Richard K. Morgan, Brent Weeks, Peter V. Brett, Anna Stephen’s new book looks like fun, de Castell, Sanderson, Polansky, Erikson… can we bring back Gemmell while we’re at it?
What is on the horizon for Grimdark Magazine?
We’ve got a collection on the way. I’m pretty excited to get that out on US / Canadian bookshelves and on Amazon for the rest of the world. After that, we’ll run another Kickstarter for a second anthology so keep an eye out for some more Tommy Arnold / Shawn King cover awesomesauce. I’m hoping that being able to deliver on the first one will give a few of the guys who weren’t able to jump on board Evil is a Matter of Perspective the trust in GdM to join our table of contents.
What up next for you personally?
Something I’m very excited about is a Kickstarter I’m running with Jinx Strange from our joint venture Omnicide Publishing. We’re going to put out a serial based loosely on the Australian First Fleet and the American Pilgrims run by a cracking author team—Richard Lee Byers, Jesse Bullington (Alex Marshall), Anna Smith-Spark, Michael R. Fletcher, and Angela Meadon with Matthew Ward managing the lore / world—backed by the GdM and Dirge Magazine teams.