This is the first in a series of interviews with the editors, curators, and supporters of the Interstitial Arts – the people who help artists get their work to an audience. Today we’re interviewing Mike Allen, long-time IAF member and editor of last year’s March Madness on our blog.
IAF: Can you introduce yourself and give us a little background on who you are and what you do?
MA: I like to say I wear a lot of hats. I write poetry and fiction, and I edit poetry and fiction, I record narrations for podcasts and occasionally act in amateur theater. To be more specific about a few things, my poetry collection Strange Wisdoms of the Dead was a Philadelphia Inquirer Editor’s Choice Selection in 2006, my short story “The Button Bin” was a Nebula Award finalist in 2008, and I’ll have my first collection of short stories, The Button Bin and Other Horrors, out from Apex Publications later this year. For fourteen years I’ve been editor and am now publisher of a little poetry journal called Mythic Delirium, and I’m also the editor of a a critically acclaimed and hard to classify series of fiction anthologies called Clockwork Phoenix.
IAF: Please talk about your latest project.
MA: I’ve talked about Clockwork Phoenix in this space before – it’s an anthology series that puts artistry above all else, and that actively seeks out stories that don’t fit into any predefined category. The series wound up without a home after the third volume came out due to the rough economic times, so my latest project has been to fire up a Kickstarter campaign to edit and publish a fourth volume myself. Amazingly, from the time I started writing the responses to these interview questions, until now, as I type this sentence, the campaign has shot right past the $5,000 benchmark to be fully funded and now we’re pushing toward our $8,000 goal to secure payment for our writers at professional rates. Publishers weren’t interested in picking up this series, but Kickstarter gave me a means to take my problem start to the people, so to speak, and ask if they would help to make this happen. And I’m so glad I did. And of course, I must ask that folks come check us out, we still need all the help we can get.
IAF: How has being an editor of interstitial work (i.e. work that falls outside recognized easy genre or marketing categories) created difficulties for you?
MA: Well, the obvious difficulty is this one: I’ve created a critically-acclaimed anthology series that has showcased a number of stories that have gone on to land award nominations or reprints in “Best of the Year” anthologies, including pieces by Vandana Singh, Saladin Ahmed, Deborah Biancotti, Ann Leckie, C.S.E. Cooney, Gemma Files and Stephen J. Barringer, Claude Lalumière, Nicole Kornher-Stace and more, and yet once my original publisher could no longer publish it, it had no hope of finding a new backer as it’s just too weird.
IAF: What advice would you give to another artist in a similar position?
MA: Kickstarter has been a godsend, though I’m lucky in that I was able to show I already had a track record of success when I launched the campaign. I think, addressing the unique position of an anthologist hoping for enough funding to be able to self-publish at a professional level, I’ve seen several other off-beat anthology projects turn to Kickstarter and end up successful. It’s definitely a viable alternative for those who want to work outside the mainstream. Just make sure you’re striking the right balance between keeping your goals realistic and yet setting an amount to reach that doesn’t end up shortchanging you when it comes time to actually put the book together.
IAF: One Wish–If you could change one thing about your current situation as editor and publisher (or writer!), what would it be?
MA: Well, I have a curious problem as a writer, which is that I’m known so extensively as a poet that people seem to forget I also write fiction, even though I’m a Nebula finalist. My first collection of short stories, The Button Bin and Other Horrors, is scheduled to come out later this year from Apex Books (the title story was my Nebula award nominee) will perhaps help. We shall see.
More generally, if I had the power to change the environment I’d work on, I’d ask for readers to be more open to things that are strange and different, and more curious in general. We’d all benefit then. Luckily at least a few of these ideal readers seem to have found me, at least enough to help support a new Clockwork Phoenix.
From the Editors: The Clockwork Phoenix project will be available on Kickstarter until August 9th.