Interview with Marian Womack, Part 3

Welcome back for the conclusion of our talk with Marian Womack, who is the editor, along with James Womack, of THE BEST OF SPANISH STEAMPUNK .

Read part one here

Read part two here


Airship Ambassador: What do you do to keep a balance between writing, publishing, and the rest of your life?

Marian Womack: It’s very difficult, and most of the time I feel like the balance is getting out of control. I don’t write as much as I would like to. It’s not helped by the fact that we work from home and so we can in theory get up at six in the morning and not ‘leave’ the publishing house until midnight. I am learning, slowly, that I need to force myself not to work as much as I think I have to.


AA: Do you get to talk much with other writers and publishers to compare notes, have constructive critique reviews, and brainstorm new ideas?

MW: The small-press and indie publishing community in Spain is very close: I am in constant contact with people not just in Madrid, but in Barcelona and the provincial cities as well. We share ideas and pool resources, and sometimes even publish authors between ourselves.


AA: How have you and your work grown and changed over time?

MW: I find that I work a lot more quickly, both in the publishing house and in my own writing. I’m much more pragmatic. I still need to learn what to ignore and what to insist upon.


AA: Writing can be a challenge some days. What are some of your methods to stay motivated and creative?

MW: The Spanish speculative fiction community is filled with ideas, I couldn’t stop being motivated if I tried: there’s not a week that goes by when I’m not asked to contribute to anthologies, discuss projects with other publishers etcetera. The publishing house helps as well: we’re only two people in the office, and we have to be talking to our immensely creative subcontractors as well.


AA: How is Madrid, Spain for writing and publishing? Does location matter for resources, access, publicity, etc

MW: Madrid is the capital of Spain and has all the advantages of a capital city, to a far greater extent than in other capitals, perhaps: the fact that Spain is so centralized means that everyone ends up passing through Madrid or Barcelona at some point. You couldn’t have a publishing house like Aix’s Actes du Sud in Spain: there just isn’t the infrastructure to support something like that in the provinces.


AA: Do people outside the regular reading, steampunk, and convention communities recognize you for THE BEST OF SPANISH STEAMPUNK? What kind of reactions have you received?

MW: This is still a young book. I think if we had recognition outside the normal circles it would probably be for our edition of The Master and Margarita that we published last year, the first Spanish translation of the finalized text, and still, I think, the major work we have produced. But watch this space…


AA: If you weren’t an editor and author, what else would you be doing now?

MW: I would be running a small farm, looking after my orchard, making collages and reading endlessly. For fun. Or else, I worked in libraries for seven years and would probably be a librarian.


AA: Most of the authors I’ve talked with have some type of day job and that writing is their other job. What has that situation been for you and how has it helped/hindered being a published writer?

MW: I work for the publishing house. I also translate, which is how I earn most of my money outside the publishing house. At the moment it’s a little complicated.


AA: What are the challenges and advantages in being a translator? What are a few interesting experiences that you’ve had in that role?

MW: Translation, Ezra Pound said, is the closest kind of criticism, you’re engaged with every word, working out exactly what it does. It teaches you a lot about structure, about what writing is and how it works. That said, I can’t immediately think of any interesting experiences: it is an intrinsically interesting activity, but most of the experiences happen inside me.


AA: Looking beyond steampunk, writing and working, what other interests fill your time?

MW: I have a three-year-old son, who is very, enjoyably, time-consuming. We haven’t had a holiday since 2010, and I miss travelling.

AA: How do those interests influence your work?

MW: Have helped make me faster, perhaps.


AA: There’s only so much time in a day – what interests don’t you have time for?

MW: I have artistic interests that I have had to let atrophy a bit. Already finding time to manage our literary activities is very demanding.


AA: What other fandoms are you part of?

MW: I like Doctor Who, but I don’t have the time to become really active in the fan community. I love Victoriana, Sherlock Holmes etc., but I can’t find the time for that either.


AA: Are there people you consider an inspiration, role model, or other motivating influence?

MW: Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, who taught me at Clarion last year and who have become very supportive of our projects. I have a long list of writers I admire, that probably wouldn’t fit here.


AA: What event or situation has had the most positive impact in your life? What has been your greatest challenge?

MW: Having my son has been both, I think.


AA: Three quick-fire random questions – what is your favorite way to relax, stone type, and flower?

MW: TV series, limestone, siemprevivas.


AA: Any final thoughts to share with our readers

MW: Thank you so much for this thorough interview, and this book was a huge effort that at times we thought might not make it, and it is great that it is out in the world now, and we hope you like it.


Thanks, Marian, for joining us for this interview and for sharing all of your thoughts. We look forward to hearing about your next projects!


Keep up to date with Marian’s latest news on her twitter feed.

You can support Marian and our community by getting your copy of THE BEST OF SPANISH STEAMPUNK here or here.


Also, check out her page at The Steampunk Museum.

Published in: on July 8, 2015 at 6:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with Marian Womack, Part 2

Welcome back for part two of our talk with Marian Womack, who is the editor, along with James Womack, of THE BEST OF SPANISH STEAMPUNK .

Read part one here


Airship Ambassador: Who are some authors who might not be well known yet in the steampunk community?

Marian Womack: As far as the international steampunk community is concerned, sadly I think that it’s most of them. Translation is always an issue, and very little material is translated from Spanish. But all of them are worth knowing. Jesús Cañadas, Sofía Rhei, Javier Calvo…


AA: Any first time steampunk authors?

MW: Some of the people I approached were well-known speculative fiction authors who had not yet tried their hand at steampunk. Laura Fernández is the key example, she’s a very funny very inventive writer but this was, I think, her first steampunk tale.


AA: Are there any objects or things which play a major role in telling one story or another? Ships, devices, etc?

MW: Steamships crop up a lot, and time machines. Automata are perhaps the most obvious things, but maybe they’re not really ‘things’ per se. A Lovecraftian house that thinks…


AA: Without giving spoilers, what interesting things will readers find along the way?

MW: The rewritings of Spanish contemporary history are I think the most interesting bits, speaking personally: the stories that pick up on Max Aub and Salvador Dalì, for example, or the visions and revisions of the anarchist history of the pre-Civil War period.


AA: Are there any plans for a sequel or spinoff?

MW: Not at the moment. I think we’ve done a lot with Spanish steampunk at the moment, but of course, as the genre carries on developing, maybe five years down the line there’ll be something more to work with.


AA: When people read THE BEST OF SPANISH STEAMPUNK, what would you like for them to take away from the stories and the book as a whole?

MW: How many good writers there are out there; how important it is to read in translation; how travel broadens the mind…


AA: Not everything can make it into any one book – what didn’t make it into the final version?

MW: We tried to be very inclusive (there were times that I felt that the only limitation was the translator’s RSI…), but in order to support inclusivity I tended to prefer shorter stories, and there were a few that fell by the wayside simply for being a little overlong. But I think that everything that I was offered that reached a high enough level of achievement ended up being accepted.


AA: What are some memorable fan reactions to THE BEST OF SPANISH STEAMPUNK which you’ve heard about?

MW: It’s too early to know: I hope to hear stories of fans getting phrases tattooed on their biceps in the near future, but we’re waiting for the fun to start.


AA: A tattoo would certainly indicate a high level of impact, not to mention commitment! What kind of attention has THE BEST OF SPANISH STEAMPUNK generated?

MW: Outside of Spain, we are very happy with the interest being generated: interviews and reviews etc. It goes to show that if books exist in the majority language then they will be read and considered in that language (and maybe that the English-speaking environment, if offered things it can read, is generally very welcoming to them).


AA: You co-own and co-operate your own publishing company, Ediciones Nevsky. How did you get started with it?

MW: We began in 2009, focusing on translating Russian literature into Spanish (even here, with a clear sf focus). It was clear to us that there were a lot of works, some which we considered quite fundamental to Russian culture, which had not been translated into Spanish or bought into Spain. And then things just kind of grew from there. In 2011 we started to publish non-Russian books, and since then the two lines, European fantastic and Russian literature, have grown in parallel.


AA: Aside from publishing entertaining and fiscally successful books, is there a larger mission or vision?

MW: I don’t know how far a publisher can be an educator: it’s our job to provide material to readers rather than to create new readers, but to the extent that we can bring people to think in a different way, not isolated by genre or country, about science fiction or fantasy or Russian literature, then I believe that is our aim.


AA: Every author and publisher I’ve talked with has a different journey to seeing their works in print. What was your publishing experience like for this book?

MW: It was the first serious ebook we’ve published, so there were a lot of firsts in publishing it, but they were in general challenges rather than problems. We were lucky to have online distribution via a small US publisher, so we didn’t need to set up complicated operations abroad sight unseen.


AA: How long did it take to collect and edit THE BEST OF SPANISH STEAMPUNK ? What were the deadlines and publishing schedule like for you?

MW: I think it took about two years from soup to nuts. The translation took a long time, and wasn’t helped by the translator being delayed six months. That’s about normal for a large project for us.


AA: For the aspiring writer, what would you like them to know and do before they send you, or any publisher, their first submission?

MW: For us, that we’re not accepting submissions… No, seriously, we’ve just closed a submissions window for novels, which will keep us busy for a year or so. I think the most important thing, especially clear with my current reading schedule, is that no one in the publishing world is going to be sympathetic if you don’t follow the rules of submission. No one is such a bona fide genius that we’re going to publish their romantic short stories when what we want are Gothic novels.


AA: Have you been on book tours and to conventions? What has that been like, and the fan reaction?

MW: The last two conventions we went to were LonCon and MirCon (Hispacon), but that was before the book was published; we’ll be going to Celsius in Avilés in July and hope to see what the reaction is like there. As far as general reactions to the project are concerned, everything is very positive: people are happy that we’re putting in the effort to translate these stories and spread the word.


We’ll break here in talking with Marian.

Join us for the conclusion as she talks about life, balance, and some personal thoughts.

Keep up to date with Marian’s latest news on her twitter feed.

You can support Marian and our community by getting your copy of THE BEST OF SPANISH STEAMPUNK here or here.


Also, check out her page at The Steampunk Museum.


Published in: on July 7, 2015 at 7:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Interview with Marian Womack

Airship Ambassador: Hi Marian, thanks so much for joining us to talk about your latest book.

Marian Womack: Thank you for having me.


AA: First, what was the motivation for creating THE BEST OF SPANISH STEAMPUNK ?

MW: Spain is currently a very fertile breeding-ground for steampunk: the ‘institutions’ are in place; there is a flourishing literary community, as well as conventions in Barcelona, Valencia, Fuenlabrada etc. Off the back of this I decided to publish a couple of Spanish-language paper anthologies, and then thought it would be a good idea to spread the love a little: I wanted to use material from the anthologies, but then also to open the collection for newer writers, and then translate the whole thing into English, which is still in most cases steampunk’s ‘mother tongue’.


AA: It’s really encouraging to see how strong the interest in steampunk is other countries.There is a great statement in the summary which could be used as a goal not only for this book but also many other great steampunk stories. Would you share more with us about how you came to this idea and how the stories in this book support that vision?

Steampunk offers an invaluable opportunity to re-evaluate our world, and the choices we have made that have brought us to the positions we are facing today. Steampunk is a canvas on which to re-imagine what could have been, and show us what we could become.

MW: The tendency of Spanish steampunk is to be more overtly political (Spain is a fairly recent democracy, younger than I am), and a lot of Spanish writing engages with political realities, so to think about steampunk as a speculative political mode was perhaps obvious, especially in the midst of what has been so far a seven-year economic crisis. We are also, as a species, having to confront potentially apocalyptic changes in our environment, and that comes across quite clearly in Spanish writing.


AA: The summary description of the book also talks about the authors writing from the margins, exploring themes of scientific advancement, history, and culture. Could you expand on that a bit more?

MW: Spain is a country that has apparently ‘had its moment’ historically: our Golden Age fizzled to an end in the seventeenth century. So when you come to speak about steampunk, which as a genre is quite clearly identified with the ‘winning’ countries in the various nineteenth-century colonial projects, then Spain doesn’t naturally fit into that paradigm. And also we have authors in the anthology from Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, which are all countries that have tended, in recent history at least, to be exploitees rather than exploiters.


AA: The stories are grouped by themes in the table of contents. Were those themes chosen ahead of time or did they arise naturally from the stories which were submitted?

MW: A natural process. I wasn’t surprised to receive (given my answers above) stories with a political twist, so a few groupings were obvious and perhaps deducible from the off, but most of them arose from the reading and anthologizing process.


AA: Let’s talk a little more about the ideas behind those themes. What did you want the stories to convey about “on politics: freedom, social awareness, inequality, “the woman question””?

MW: I had no desire to force an agenda. The stories convey what they want to convey. As a group, I’m sure they convey the current interest in Spain in the artistic portrayal of political issues, which have become ever more significant in general discourse.


AA: And “on technology: science & machines, spain & the industrial revolution”?

MW: Spain had an industrial revolution, which very few people know much about: it wasn’t an epoch-making or culture-transforming revolution in the sense that the British Industrial Revolution was, but it did cause great changes on a local level (you still see the mines if you travel round the Basque Country). I thought it was interesting to have a couple of stories that looked at the general question of industrialization from a more oblique perspective.


AA: And “on metaliterature: steampunk & our cultural myths”?

MW: Something that did surprise me was to receive a number of stories that dealt with other literary texts: we had rewritings of Alice in Wonderland or Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant, for example. On one level we’re used to steampunk dealing with the cultural currency of Victorian history (mechanical Jacks the Ripper, mechanical Queen Victorias etc.), but Victorian literature (Alan Moore aside) isn’t such an obvious fit. It was pleasant to have such dialogues with the literature of the past, not just with the past itself. So this was a section that came together out of nothing, and it’s always gratifying when that happens.


AA: Why choose steampunk as the aesthetic and feel?

MW: Why not? It’s a genre we like, and to publish a couple of anthologies was more an organic decision rather than an editorial choice.


AA: The authors came from at least seven different countries. How did you find them to include on the project?

MW: It was an open call for submissions. There were one or two authors I approached directly, but 90% at least of the contents of the book came via the open call. One thing I am sad about is that we had so few countries represented: I think we could have publicized the call for submissions outside of Spain more effectively.


We’ll break here in talking with Marian.

Join us for part two as she talks about the authors, the process, and reactions to this project.

Keep up to date with Marian’s latest news on her twitter feed.

You can support Marian and our community by getting your copy of THE BEST OF SPANISH STEAMPUNK here or here.


Also, check out her page at The Steampunk Museum.


Published in: on July 5, 2015 at 11:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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