Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Editors: Sarah Dobbs

Scifantastic was an A4 print magazine that ran for 5 issues in 2005 / 6. I read all 5 and enjoyed the eclectic mix of tales they contained. I caught up with editor Sarah Dobbs on the viewing platform at the top of the Eiffel Tower. OK, again we actually corresponded by email.

GDJ: Scifantastic ran for 5 issues, and was notable for publishing my first story in print (sorry, moment of egomania there). Before that you ran a web page of the same name. Do you have a preference for print over web?

SD: Ha, and well deserved! I think everybody prefers to see their name in print, and read something you can actually hold. There's something much more permanent about it, though without the web version, the print version would never have taken off.

GDJ:How did you decide on the look and feel for Scifantastic? Was there a vision behind it, or were the choices of presentation limited?

SD: I wanted it to be bold, aesthetic, attractive and accessible, and to be able to present new art and artists that other magazines might not take a chance on. The presentation was limited, and I was inexperienced. I much prefered the soft binding to the first issue's ring binding.

GDJ:Producing a magazine is obviously a lot of hard work. What inspired you to give it a go?

SD: God knows! If I knew the amount of work it took I'm sure I would have wussed out. It just seemed like a natural progression. I wasn't as excited about the webzine any more, so it was time for something new. I got my enthusiasm back for the whole project for a while. I had a real passion for short stories, and particularly wanted to hear from women in this genre. Also, I knew I could publish exactly what I wanted, so it was like creating a magazine for myself. A bit selfish really.

GDJ:You published quite a wide variety of stories during the magazine’s run. What is it you look for in a story?

SD: I look for someone with a good idea, who understands what to do with words and structure. People with a real feel for language always grabbed me, or a new spin on an old tale. It's always easier to say what you don't look for: cliche's, hammy writing, poor dialogue, or the general ‘Dear Editor, I have been published to Mars and back, you would be stupid not to want my story’. Actually, no, I read cover notes last, and took what I wanted regardless (well, most of the time).

GDJ:You write romantic fiction as well as speculative fiction. Do you have a favourite genre or sub-genre?

SD: Not at all. There are different reasons for writing in different genres. I suppose I prefer stories that don't care what they are, genre bashing, crashing, stories and the like. It would be nice if there was a big publisher in the sky who didn't mind what genre you were scrabbling about in, but there isn't, so I guess at the minute I'm just enjoying writing my new novel without thinking what it might be tagged as. Post-literary pseudo-psychological fiction. It's called Tokyo Dreams (at the minute) so I suppose I'd deserve that.

GDJ:You were studying far an MA in creative writing at the time. How much did that help with the magazine, or conversely did Scifantastic help with your studies?

SD: It didn't. In fact, the bloody MA was what spazzed up the magazine, much to my dismay. No. I loved writing for the MA, and that took precedence. I sort of felt it was time to be a bit me-me-me for a change. Basically, being selfish took up all of my time. The magazine became an after thought and it was never supposed to be like that. It was the BA before that which helped everything. It laid such a solid groundwork and enabled me to start thinking about stories as something other than what you read in the bath when you want to relax. I have a feeling everybody knew about the importance of fiction before me (bit of a late developer I suppose)!

GDJ:What plans do you have for this year?

SD: This year I've got lots of extremities crossed that I'm going to get funding to continue doing my PhD full time. I'm about 40,000 words into an 80,000 word novel, so I'll also be plodding on with that. If I don't, then I plan to do lots of complaining while I continue with the PhD part time, plus do my delightful monkey job (sorry monkey job, you keep me in peanuts) to supplement the PhD and aforementioned complaining. It's all about the scribbling. I work to write, hope you all do too.

GDJ:Thanks for your time.

SD: Not a problem, I enjoyed it.

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