Astrogator's Logs

New Words, New Worlds
Artist, Heather Oliver             

Unfurling Solar Sails: Yours Truly Acquires Candlemark & Gleam

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

“I’ll be your gypsy joker, your shotgun rider.”
– Bruce Springsteen, “Soul Driver” from Human Touch

Blue Door Stargate

When I was putting together The Other Half of the Sky (TOHOTS), my first science fiction anthology, I searched for a publisher – and, in hindsight, unknowingly dodged several bullets. The only person who gave me fair terms (without prompting on my part, yet) was Kate Sullivan, the founder of Candlemark and Gleam (C&G). I owe Sam Montgomery-Blinn of Bullspec many craft beers for suggesting Kate to me and doing the introductions.

Kate is that rarest of combinations, a deeply informed mover-and-shaker who’s also discerning, meticulous, conscientious, professional and results-oriented. She was an ideal collaborator who carefully and lovingly prepared TOHOTS for what would be a triumphant publication arc: the anthology went on to win unprecedented awards and accolades (including a Nebula for one of its stories) way before the “X Destroy Y” mode became safe to attempt – achievements that are even more momentous when one considers C&G’s infinitesimal PR budget.

Kate ran C&G single-handedly in addition to a full-time day job. On my side, I had long wanted to nurture and promote science fiction that combines quality craft and three-dimensional characters with a non-triumphalist sense of wonder, awareness of scientific principles, and original universes. So when the heroic effort tired Kate and she was contemplating closing down C&G rather than see her vision and standards compromised, I told her of my own vision.

So with great pleasure and anticipation, Kate and I announce that, as of November 16, I’ve acquired Candlemark & Gleam.  It’s a fitting symbol and a good omen that the younger sibling of TOHOTS, To Shape the Dark, will be the first book brought out by C&G under its new astrogator.

Kate will stay with me for at least one year, to ensure a seamless transition. In the past, C&G published a wide variety of speculative fiction subgenres and showcased many new authors. Although that big-tent policy will continue, I’m eager to have science fiction become the major tributary stream of C&G – especially stellar talents whom I consider neglected due to the publisher/editor stampede to be “edgy” (if only).

This means that C&G will now publish primarily by invitation and referral. However, we will also respond to queries with one-page synopses. Those who wonder what I’m likely to consider can look at TOHOTS or my reviews. Speaking of the latter, I don’t review often; when I do, I always discuss large contexts, rather than isolated works. I realize that some consider reviewing by an editor/publisher to be a conflict of interest, though many editors and publishers have been doing so with nary a qualm or ripple. I will let my author choices stand as my principal future reviews, though I’ll still do the occasional large-scale retrospective.

My thanks go to those who convinced me that such an endeavor is not madness (or, perhaps, necessary madness): Peter Cassidy; members of the Mixon report team; contributors to The Other Half of the Sky and To Shape the Dark; and my faithful shadow-id, Lilypad, who calmly delivered admonitory chomps whenever my self-confidence faltered.

Friends, companions, partners, colleagues: join me and Kate on this journey to strange skies.

Lion Planetfall

ETA: Kate writes about C&G’s trajectory.

Publish or Perish

Thursday, February 15th, 2007


Remedios Varo: Creation of the Birds

Like all art, writing places harsh and divergent demands on the writer. We first have to sit for long stretches in a silent, empty room, and there struggle with the work like Jacob with his angel. Then we must step back, examine our creation dispassionately, and ruthlessly alter whatever we think falls short. To venture into the wider world, we are required to do work that has little to do with inspiration, although it, too, requires passion. We must write proposals, send letters, find agents, listen to criticism and adapt both our expectations and the work in response to it. And if we manage to navigate through all these shoals, we must be prepared for a significant portion of readers to dislike our work.

Until the early 20th century most authors paid to have their works printed or printed them on their own small presses. In other words, such luminaries as the Brontë sisters and Virginia Woolf would be considered “vanity authors” by today’s definition. Now, with the advent of e-books, print on demand and online publications, the boundaries are starting to blur and shift again. At the same time, both writers and readers are getting increasingly isolated in non-overlapping online universes dedicated to smaller and smaller subgenres.

Given these circumstances, what defines a writer? I have read informal writing that is of better quality than published works. Also, given the atomization of today’s readership, few writers can make a living exclusively on their writing unless they are recognized geniuses or can write very fast (there is, too, the occasional random lucky hit of a best-seller). The traditional advice to aspiring writers — found once in private letters, now in public livejournals — is to keep writing, no matter what. Unquestionably, writing is among the most creative and constructive hobbies. However, I noticed that these exhortations tend to come from people who are already published in official venues and/or have independent incomes.

After giving the matter a good deal of thought, I concluded that a writer is someone who writes with the goal of publication. Amusingly, two formidable institutions, the IRS and the NIH (National Institute of Health), agree with me. The IRS allows deduction of writing-related expenses if the writer can show that s/he attempted to publish the work, regardless of success. The NIH (and all agencies that fund research) allow investigators to list only published works on their grants. The Brontë sisters agreed as well: unworldly though they were deemed to be, they mailed their stories to London publishers the moment they completed them.

Publication rarely brings fame and fortune, especially in today’s climate of soundbites and short attention spans. Its major boon is that it takes us out of the lonely room where we stretch ourselves on racks of agony and ecstasy, out of the tiny ponds where social interactions overwhelm the primary objective of writing. It gives us perspective, it keeps us grounded. And it allows us to consider a particular work finished — finished enough to let go, like a child that grew up and finally left home.