jueves, 6 de junio de 2013

Cristina Jurado interviews Eduardo J. Carletti, editor of Axxón Magazine

It is a pleasure for me to publish today an interview of Cristina Jurado with Eduardo J. Carletti, director of the famous Argetinian science fiction magazine Axxón. This interview was originally published in Spanish on the miNatura magazine and on Más ficción que ciencia, Cristina's blog on Libros.com, which I strongly recommend if you read Spanish

Encyclopedias describe an axon as the prolongation of neurons, in charge of directing nervous impulses towards other cells. It's the cable in the electrical circuit formed by our nervous system. Axxón is something similar but in the science fiction, fantasy and terror literary circuit. This Argentinian e-zine is been connecting news, popular texts and short stories to the public since 1989. Today we published an interview with one of its founders and current director, Eduardo J. Carletti that just appeared in the last issue of miNatura. This engineer in Digital Electronics and Computer Hardware not only develops software but also writes sci-fi -Instante de máximo quebranto (1988), Por media eternidad, cayendo (1991), Un largo camino (1992)- or works as editor.
Cristina Jurado: You have told the origins of Axxón many times as being rooted in the sci-fi literary meetings that you used to attend in 1989. Therefore, debate and exchange of ideas are core pillars of your magazine. This willingness to dialogue, how do you think Axxón embraces it?

Eduardo J. Carletti
: It's reflected in the large number of sections that the magazine and the web site had over the years. Every person responsible for each of them has and had total freedom. We also had a zine inside the magazine called “Andernow”. Many sections stopped because the people in charge didn't stay. Before, there were “face to face” debates and exchange of ideas because we used to meet every Friday. There was always the possibility to continue discussions during dinner or to organize a literary workshop or just talk until 5 am. Communications through Internet has transformed us in something more the hermit-like type. We see each other from time to time but we are in constant contact via e-mails, messages, and the Yahoo groups created for the magazine: one to direct it and the other to deal with content.

CJ: In the beginning, Axxón got distributed through the diskettes that you personally delivered all over the city. Content distribution has changed extraordinarily in the last years. Now, everybody can access data generated in the other side of the world. How do you see the evolution of e-zines? In your opinion, where are they going?
EJC: I see the evolution of society, more than the one of digital publications. It was wonderful for editors and authors to be able to publish fiction and other content in one space. The birth of Axxón or BEM attracted many people, some bringing material, some just collaborating. We had teams with more than thirty people.  Then, free blogs came and many viewed them as the perfect opportunity to be the captain of their own ship.  We were hurt. Many collaborators decided to do their own thing. After that, sites and blogs suffered from another phenomenon: the boom of social networks, especially Facebook. Today it's imperative to be in Facebook or, even if you have been the most visited site in the world, you will die slowly.

Facebook is not only a big screen to publish links; it also stimulates content production. But to post contents in Facebook means to loose control over them. It's the owner of the network who decides how to display them, how long will they be up, or when will they disappear. The way it works forces content to be short-lived. And there are also an almost limitless number of distractions; nothing good for sites devoted to a minority. Now, Twitter arrives and one can notice that people got used to short sentences and some videos. They are less interested in longer texts. What it's the future? I don't feel like making predictions because I would probably say that we will end up communicating in monosyllables. I believe that there will be something close to a natural selection and only the most viable will survive. People will choose and it's impossible to predict what are they going to pick. A “Rediscovery of Men” process can take place, like in Cordwainer Smith's stories. Maybe one day we will get sick and tired of being hypnotized by short lines on a screen and we will seat down again to read and tell fictions out loud.

CJ: Related to the previous question, what is your opinion about the new distribution methods -like crowfunding or self-publication- in the publishing world?
EJC: I don't know much about it, but the idea is a very good one. You should ask the

people who has used or is using it; personally, I believe that it's a good solution. We already did it when we published our first and last Annuaire -without any Internet group specialized in this method, because it was organized in a Yahoo group-. The outcome was intermediate: we calculated the price of the subscription and we were told that we needed to gather certain quantity of subscribers. When we reached the required level of requests and collected the subscriptions, we initiated the printing. We had additional requests to cover the mailing costs. The problem was that not all subscribers paid on time and many copies sent to Europe were lost: we had to send them again. Some, never arrived, so there were subscribers who got upset. We did not generate enough money to publish another book so, at the end, we lost money. But this could have been because of our commercial weaknesses.

CJ: We would like to slip in your back room and see the way you work in preparing one of your issues.

EJC: Our working style is the same as any production line. We receive short stories and three people evaluate them. We wait for those evaluations and the stories that make the cut are sent to get an illustration. From the material that we gather, we choose some to start the issue and we give it to our editorial department. Then, the texts are organized to post them in private, and someone reviews them. If everything is OK, we go public, normally a Sunday night. Monday morning, we make the announcement. Something similar happens with the articles and the covers, although we get less material. In occasions we request cover illustrations, articles and interviews and, very rarely, some short stories.

CJ: At the end of the 80's Argentina was in the middle of a tough politic and economic situation with an increasing inflation, preventing many literary magazines to continue their journeys. You were able to develop Axxón in that context and have maintained it during 24 years against all the odds. Global economical crisis and Argentina's claim of justice to be served against the dictatorship supporters present another difficult moment. How do you think that the current historical situation in your country influences science fiction and fantasy books?
EJC: Argentina's situation is depicted differently in the outside by the dominant media while, when seen from the inside, things are perceived differently. We are better than before -and I'm already in my sixth decade-. I think that this isn't very positive for Literature in general and it's even worse when the genre has a limited number of fans… even if I sound a bit contradictory. I'll explain: any society that improves its status, buys more technology, consumes more cable or satellite TV, uses more broad band Internet and has a large variety of entertaining gadgets within its reach. Maybe I'm wrong but I don't think that this scenario helps people get closer to books. It also doesn't help publishing companies backing new authors. They prefer the ones that sell millions of copies in USA or Europe.

Spain's crisis is present, because there is less production and fewer Spanish books come to these shores. Perhaps this generates anxiety in readers, who pressure the bookshops, who also bring that to the attention of the editors, but I doubt it. On the other hand, our Government promotes printing companies who acquire high-tech equipment and print directly here. This helps a bit but the market of fiction novels and short stories does not feel the impact. We only started to feel it in magazines, those devoted to lighter topics.

There are no science fiction magazines with a broad coverage and large print run in Argentina. In regards to literary production -and the themes chosen by local authors- reality influences but, luckily, in may different ways. We feel a progressive improvement in the content quality and in the variety of themes. Maybe this is a direct result of the writer's exposure to more information. Anyhow, this is a question that younger authors should answer and not me, an editor close to retiring.

CJ: Based on your experience in Axxón, what do you thing the editor brings in the publishing process? What differentiates him or her from a corrector or beta-reader?
EJC: When I cat as an editor I must provide carefulness, prestige, presentation, distribution, good selection sense, and -whenever there is time- give feedback to the author. Writers need to know what editors are thinking about their material, and often suggestions or indications about certain aspects of the text are welcome. I speak now as a writer: my close relation with some editors helped me a lot with my work. In other instances after publication I lamented some mistakes that I found and also –because human beings are prone to find guiltiness in others- I regretted that the editor did not detected them either.

CJ: What are the characteristics of the science fiction and fantasy genres in Latin America?
EJC: Some foreign editors, when translating our books, made interesting comments. There are several characteristics that captured their attention. It looks like in Latin America, we are more audacious –I'm talking on average, because we know that there are a lot of bold and original Anglo-Saxon authors, but they are not the majority- in the way we face themes and approaches, and also in mixing reality with speculation that borderlines fantasy.  They are better detectors than us of what is called “fantastic realism”. I believe that this is a consequence of the close contact with nature and primitive myths in Latin America and because we are not as much immersed in technology than many Anglo-Saxon authors. Obviously our idiosyncrasy as Latin people, a mixture of indigenous and immigrants of all sorts, must generate different ways of thinking and that´s reflected in our texts. Science fiction with a very Anglo-Saxon style does not interest out there but, luckily, there are fewer local writers that use that style.

CJ: Very soon you will reach 30 million web visitors and 240 issues. How do you see the future of Axxón?

EJC: It will go on if there are people willing to continue it. I'm old enough to be tired and I have less time left to go on without sleeping. My body and mind cannot keep up, like they used to. I think that Axxón will be inherited or… it will not be at all.

CJ: As sci-fi fan, what ingredients do you believe necessary in a good sci-fi story?
EJC: This is a never-ending discussion, isn't it? I think that it requires to: spill over lots of imagination, be risqué and, when possible, show new ideas. It needs to have an accurate development; bring solid characters; and offer something that does not send us directly to the screen of Twitter or Facebook. It's a positive thing to know a bit about science, even if science is not present in the text. If the author doesn't know well the frontiers of science –and just has popular level knowledge- he or she can make mistakes, ruining the content. The language and methodology of science bring along a lot of interesting sparks, even when science is not used in the story. That's the reason why there is a popular science section in Axxón. To me, it is as important as the literary part.

The end of the interview is the part where we ask our interviewees a fixed set of questions:

CJ: Star Wars or Disney?
EJC: Star Trek.

CJ: Fast food or home made food?

EJC: Home made food.

: If you had to choose to be a character from a movie, which one would it be?
EJC: One that could have an accompanying girl and that I could make fall in love with me… like Michelle Pfeiffer in Frankie and Johnny or Rachel McAdams in The Notebook or Halle Berry in Salomon and Sheba… hahaha… But it's true. Those girls made me fall in love with them. I fell for their characters too. I wish I were the character that makes them fall in love.

CJ: Can you tell us the worst book you ever read?
Axxón 236
EJC: Some that were sent to me for publishing … it's the truth.

CJ: And the best book you ever read?
EJC: It's a difficult question. The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut or What Mad Universe by Fredric Brown. And some more, of course.

CJ: Which type of music you like to listen? 
EJC: Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Yes…

CJ: 3D cinema, yes or not?

EJC: I haven't see 3D movies in a cinema with a good system. I watched Avatar at a suburbs' cinema without the necessary technology. I normally prefer to watch movies at home in my TV via satellite.

CJ: If you had to choose to have a super-power, which one would it be?

EJC: To be invulnerable like Superman.

About Cristina Jurado: Cristina Jurado Marcos writes the sci-fi blog Más ficción que ciencia on Libros.com. Having a degree in Advertising and Public Relations by Universidad de Seville and a Masters in Rhetoric by Northwestern University (USA), she currently studies Philosophy for fun. She considers herself a globetrotter after living in Edinburgh, Chicago, Paris or Dubai. Her short stories have appeared in several sci-fi online magazines and anthologies. Her first novel From Orange to Blue was published in 2012.

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