All – or almost all – contributors to this year’s three Alchemy Press anthologies answered a few not-very probing questions about their contributions to the books. It’s now the turn for the editors to have their say. First up is Allen Ashley, editor of Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac.
Give us a little bit of background on your writing and editing career.
I have been in and around the British fantasy and science fiction scene for a very long time now. My first real breakthrough was when Stephen Jones and David Sutton published, and later reprinted, my story “Dead to the World” in their much-missed Fantasy Tales. I suppose that I really “took off” – into a very low orbit, mind – when The Third Alternative magazine came along in the 1990s and I started writing regularly for that. This was followed by a happy association with Andrew Hook’s Elastic Press, for whom I did a debut collection of short stories – Somnambulists (2004) – and my first two full-length editing projects – The Elastic Book of Numbers (2005) and Subtle Edens (2008). I was lucky enough to win the BFS Award for Best Anthology with Numbers in 2006 and that’s given me the impetus to just keep going ever since. Don’t tell anybody but I probably enjoy editing even more than writing these days.
As well as fiction, I am also a prize-winning poet; a poetry host; a singer; and have been and continue to be a cultural commentator for places such as TTA, Midnight Street and The BFS Newsletter. I wrote for Time Out (London) for many years under a different name and also wrote extensively during the golden age of football fanzines back in the late 1980s through into the mid-late 1990s. Recently, I have been focusing on my work as a writing tutor and currently have five groups running, including the advanced group Clockhouse London Writers.
Why the Astrologica project? What sparked off this theme?
The simple answer is that I decided it was a cool idea for a themed anthology. Astrology is, of course, the birthplace of astronomy, so as a science fiction reader and writer I’ve always been aware of its importance. More than this, an exploration of astrology brings into focus issues around pre-determinism or fate versus the human concept of free will. Rich grounds for inspiration there.
If you were writing a story for one of the star signs, which would chose, and why?
Taurus. In fact, I sort of wrote a Taurus story many years ago called “Theseus Rex”, which is in my collection Somnambulists. However, as an editor it’s my job to set the theme and then sit back and let my brilliant authors do what they will with the idea. Christine Morgan gave me a terrific Taurus story for Astrologica and I was very happy to accept it.
Which star sign are you and what qualities, if any, do you display?
Taurus. I usually add to that “of course”. I don’t actually subscribe to the full rigmarole and beliefs around astrology but I feel that I fit the profile on this one. I am down to earth, steady, determined, loyal, musical and careful with money! I used to have the bull in a china shop temper to go with it but I have really mellowed over the years. Whatever – I wouldn’t want to be any other star sign.
I’m very excited that my novel The Planet Suite is going to be reprinted in an expanded edition by David Rix’s Eibonvale Press during 2014. My collection of collaborations with Andrew Hook Slow Motion Wars will soon be out from Screaming Dreams Press. Plus, probably of most interest to anyone reading this, I will be judging the BFS Short Story Competition again in 2014, and I have another editing project on the go. This is called Sensorama – stories of the senses, basically. Eibonvale Press will be publishing this one. Check their blog for details. Submissions open on 1 January 2014 or you can email me for details: editorsenorama [at] hotmail.co.uk