An Anthology or a Magazine?

A few months back I mentioned how I would release the latest issue of Sybil’s Garage in trade paperback format.  Prior to this release, Sybil’s has been a digest-sized magazine.  I had modeled its size and content after the ‘zines I loved to read, like Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and Electric Velocipede.  This was enormously fun, watching the magazine grow from a staple-together thing I produced at a local print shop, to a perfect-bound, color covered publication.  But there were limitations.  For one, the magazine was only available through the Senses Five Press website and wherever I sold it at conferences.  This limited sales.

I believe that Sybil’s deserves a wider audience.  I also believe that most people feel more comfortable buying from well known websites like Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble or Powell’s, etc.  When I published Paper Cities, I saw how selling through a book-distribution channel (IPG) allowed us to sell many more copies than I could have sold otherwise.  It seemed obvious then to sell Sybil’s Garage through similar means.  So I changed the size to a trade paperback, used an ISBN instead of an ISSN, and printed/distributed it through Lightning Source.  So the latest issue (or, perhaps, “latest in the series”) is a print-on-demand title, yes.  But now — and especially in the next couple of weeks — it is and will be available through dozens of online booksellers all over the world.  And this just makes sense from a cost perspective.  It cost me the same amount to produce.  And also because the authors of Sybil’s Garage are from such diverse places as India, South Africa, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and other countries.  So it just makes sense to make it available to people all over the world through international booksellers.

I remember at Worldcon last year watching Electric Velocipede win the Hugo Award for best Fanzine.  It was a great win for editor John Klima, and I took vicarious pleasure in it because I’ve watched EV grow in popularity as well and feel kin to it.  And I have to say that it made me think differently about Sybil’s Garage.  Could this little ‘zine also win at some point?  Of course, switching to an anthology format places the ‘zine in a new category, a category with a lot more competition (and I can probably no longer call it a ‘zine).  But I think that, as a publisher, it’s my responsibility to make sure the publication is available in as many places as possible.  So it was a tradeoff.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care about awards.  I think it would be wonderful if Sybil’s Garage even were nominated.  But I understand how that might be more difficult now, given that the anthology categories contain many more eligible works.  I think Sybil’s Garage easily ranks among the best of them, but that may just be my editorial pride.  I suppose time will tell if my decision was the right one.  I think it is.

And now, with most of the leg work behind the latest release complete, I have time to write again.  For several months now I’ve been doing research for a novel.  Some of you may remember me talking about reading books about Jewish mythology.  So far I’ve read (or plan to read) the following books: Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism, Great Jewish Short Stories, The Tel-Aviv Dossier, Jewish Folk Tales, A Treasury of Jewish Folklore, The Book of the Unknown: Tales of the Thirty-Six, Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean (!), The Travelers Guide to Jewish Landmarks, Hebrew Punk, and a whole slew of books on Kabbalah.  Admittedly, for some of the larger works, like the Tree of Souls, I’ve only read portions of the text.  There’s an awful lot of information to absorb, but I find the reading highly enjoyable.  As a kid I was forced to sit through long services in a language I didn’t understand.  I often found myself bored.  My interest was in fantasy and science fiction.  And now, through reading of Jewish mythology, I’ve found a link between the fiction I love and the 3500-year-old heritage of my ancestors.  Jewish mythology is just as rich as the Greek and Roman traditions (and in many ways overlap), and it’s incredibly fun discovering, for example, that in certain Jewish mythologies, God has a wife (the Shekinah) and so does the devil.  I am finding that the “monotheistic” faith, which abhors any form of imagery of God,  is chock full of anthropomorphisms, and a bewilderingly complex hierarchy of angels and demons.  It is my hope to mine all of this into a fictional story about a Lamed-Vavnik, one of the thirty-six righteous souls who sustain the world.  I hope, as all good fiction intends to do, to challenge some of the assumptions we have about faith, righteousness, morality and the elitism of one belief-system over another.  I also hope to make one damn fun adventure story too.  Anyway, this is all speculation as I’ve only just begun.  It should be a fun ride.