I chatted to editor Ian Redman while taking in the sights as we revolved slowly round the London Eye. Or, more correctly, we corresponded by email.
GDJ: Jupiter is approaching its 5th anniversary. Did you expect it to keep going that long?
IR: I didn't really have any expectations. I knew from my days publishing Zest how much time and energy these things take, and figured I could fit that in for the next few years and then just see how long it'd go for.
GDJ: Do you have any special plans for the anniversary?
IR: For issue 21 we're getting a special colour cover designed by Jesse Speak. It's a wrap around cover so the art work flows from the front all the way round to the back. But that's about it.
GDJ: Producing a magazine seems like a lot of hard work. What inspired you to give it a go?
IR: Well, when I started Zest my reasons, were simple. I enjoyed reading science fiction, and getting people to send me fiction to read rather than having to buy books just seemed like a cunning move. I don't think anyone really understands what they're getting themselves in for when they start this sort of thing. For Jupiter it was much simpler. I knew I was going to have more time on my hands, knew that I could do it, and just felt that so many small press SF magazines had folded, it was about time one bucked the trend.
GDJ: How did you decide on the look and feel for Jupiter? Do you have any plans to return to colour covers?
IR: I studied design at university and just set myself a brief. I wanted something that was clean, unobtrusive, I didn't want the look of the magazine getting in the way of the fiction, I needed a font that was readable at a small size (the smaller the font size, the more fiction you get for your pound) and most importantly a design that didn't require me to print with a bleed (basically if the printing doesn't need to go right to the edge of the paper, it's cheaper to print). I then just sat down over the course of a few months and this is what I came up with. Choosing the font was probably the most laborious process; it is after all the most important aspect of any text based work, how readable is it? That probably cost several forests printing out different fonts in different sizes before finally settling with what we have now. There have been a few minor changes over the years, but to be honest, the design still fulfils its purpose, and I'm always in favour of “if it ain't broke, don't fix it!”
As for colour covers, above I mentioned we'll have a colour cover for issue 21. But this is just a special 5th anniversary thing. I constantly think about a colour cover long term, but struggle to see it making financial sense. I'd need to raise the cover price, and just don't see it being something people would feel is worth it. I'd rather raise the cover price to give the authors some form of payment (even if token) – something else which is always on my mind. The great authors Jupiter has are so unrewarded at present, hopefully over the next year or so I can go someway to addressing this, but again, things have to be done in a sustainable/stable way.
GDJ: Unlike many other mixed-genre magazines, you concentrate just on Science Fiction. Are there any advantages or disadvantages to that choice?
IR: To be honest, the only disadvantage I can see is that I've cut my market down. Only those interested in Science Fiction will read Jupiter. But I think the advantages are far greater. Mainly, I don't have to read fantasy/horror/crime/anythingelse. Science Fiction is what I enjoy, so it makes sense to concentrate on what I like. I'd be rubbish at selecting good horror stories, and I wouldn't get the same enjoyment out of publishing. There are people far more capable than me when it comes to anything other than Science Fiction. So I let them do what they're good at, and I do what I'm (hopefully) good at. I also feel that being single genre gives Jupiter a certain focus which mixed genre magazines don't have. You don't have to 'work out' which genre this particular story will be and I don't have to worry about upsetting anyone if I don't publish enough of their favourite genre this time.
GDJ: You’ve mentioned on your blog the frustration of receiving completely inappropriate submissions. What other trials do you have to overcome as an editor?
IR: Publishing Jupiter is a joy. I really enjoy it, the only trials are the writers who don't read the guidelines, or at least, don't follow the guidelines. I don't mean just inappropriate submissions, but simple things like not including a word count in the e-mail or covering letter. This is something which saves me a lot of time in choosing which pieces to read when. You have to realise that fiction doesn't come to me in a nice steady stream. Sometimes I'll get nothing for ages, the suddenly loads will come at once. When I’m struggling to reply to everyone in the 2 months I allow, writers ignoring the simple parts of the guidelines gets to be a trial. To put it simply, if I've found a 15 minute window to do some reading, I'll scan the stories I have and find one I can fit into the one sitting. If a piece doesn't have a word count, I'll skip it and go read something else. I guess this is more of a trial for the author than me, just means it'll take longer for their piece to reach the top of the queue! No, the only real trial is people wasting 20 minutes of my time as I work out a piece isn't science fiction. I don't mind reading bad science fiction; I don't mind reading science fiction not suited to Jupiter. Those are at least things I can give constructive advice on. But if it ain’t science fiction what do you say?
GDJ: Several small press and webzines have come to a finish in the past year, while Jupiter continues on. Do you have the secret to longevity?
IR: I've rewritten this answer several times. But I think I've come to the real reason for Jupiter continuing: I always have something to publish. Every issue of Jupiter has about 30000 words, and somehow, every quarter when I come to put Jupiter together, I have about 30000 words set aside. The small press writers out there have never let me down, some times they've come very close, but I've always had the right number of stories for each issue I've published. Being sent great fiction from writers who don't get a lot back for their efforts is what keeps Jupiter going. I might be a small part of things, but put simply, if no one sent me any fiction, there wouldn't be a Jupiter. So hats off to all the amazing men and women I've had the privilege of working with these last 5 years. Jupiter wouldn't be here today without them, and it won't be here in the future if they're not there too.
GDJ: Thanks for taking part.