Wednesday, April 18, 2012

W1S1 Interview with Ian Redman of Jupiter SF

Editor Ian Redman of UK SF zine Jupiter kindly agreed to answer a few questions for W1S1. He has some invaluable comments, whether or not you're a writer of SF.

Q. Can you tell us a bit about the history of Jupiter? Why do your issues have such curious names?

A. I've always been a great fan of Science Fiction. When I was at school I published a small press magazine called 'A Zest for Science Fiction', I called a halt on that at issue 9 when I set out for the big wide world of University. I never lost the itch of reading new fiction and discovering new authors, so when I finished my studies I decided it was time to have another go. The title 'Jupiter' came about because it had all the right connotations of Space and Science and I realised I could give each issue a name following on from one of its moons. After toying a little with the names of other planets I think I finally settled on Jupiter purely because it had more moons! I felt titling each issue after a moon made us a little different from the other magazines out there and kept us centred on real science rather than verging into fantasy.

Q. You look for "well-written science fiction stories and poetry". Can you describe the top three things you look for?

A. I only have one top thing. An emotional link into the story. This usually comes about through the characters, but some times the technology can do it too. The best story is the one that makes me cry, smile or just pause after reading it.

Q. What sorts of things put you off submissions you receive? Do you see the same mistakes and flaws a lot?

A. Technically I have a few put off's. Our submission guidelines ask for the work count in the covering letter / email. If I have 10mins free to read a story, I don't want to pick up your 10K masterpiece no matter how good it is. But if I have half an hour, I like to choose the longer pieces to read. It's a pain if I have to start opening Documents just to see which piece I should read. I also find it very annoying when we get sent stuff that isn't Science Fiction, stuff that isn't even close. It just shows a real lack of effort on the authors' part. As for flaws in actual stories, the biggest is the whole 'show not tell' thing. I get a lot of stories that build up detail telling me what colour the walls are, what is on the table etc. Stories need to be short. If the character doesn't need to think about the colour of the room, I don't need to be told. I have a brain, if I need to I can make up a colour myself. And suddenly if that's what I'm doing, filling in the blanks, that's one of those emotional links I mentioned earlier. Now I'm putting effort into the story. If I'm adding detail in my head, I'll add detail I like, subconsciously, that's going to make me like the story more. A good story is a little like an eyewitness report, lots of detail missed out, but exciting. With a bad story everything is 'told' and instead of an eyewitness report you're reading a police report. Factually perfect. But boring boring boring.

Q. How do you see the magazine scene evolving?
A. E-readers. It pains me to say it, and I don't have one yet, but as soon as magazine and books become lots cheaper electronically than print, or when Amazon start to give the Kindle way, it's where the world will move. Magazines perhaps have a little longer than books, Magazines are much more about layout and design, neither of which e-readers do particularly well. But the same was said about the web 10 years ago. I also think the next few years will be interesting for magazines like Jupiter in how we respond to self publishers. It's now very easy for anyone to get their work on Kindle in a professional way. In one sense that's great, but as readers, if we're not careful we'll get swamped in bad fiction, and find it impossible to choose the good from the bad. In my mind digital TV is a little like that. We now have so many channels you can waste so much time flicking from channel to channel trying to find something you like, or you stick it on one channel you like and see the same type of program again and again, never trying something new. In many ways I prefer the old way, we pay a controller to review everything available and make the best choices on our behalf. That's how I see editing Jupiter. I'm reading all the rubbish, so you don't have to. Magazines need to react to the surge in self publishing by letting readers know that you might have to pay more to read a magazine than to read a self published story, but whilst it costs your wallet it saves your time. Usually you can't buy time, yet that's what we as editors offer, from us you buy time.

Q. Jupiter is published in the UK. Do you think there is such a thing as UK SF?
A. I think there is a certain thought process that our culture puts into UK SF, but I don't really think about it. Often I don't even realise where a contributor is from until I'm posting out their copy.

Thanks, Ian! Fascinating stuff. If you're interesting in contributing to one of the moons of Jupiter, the full guidelines are here.


  1. What an informative interview! Thanks for your frank and detailed responses, especially to the question about the weaknesses you see in submissions.

  2. Thanks Anne, glad you found it interesting.