Wednesday 25 April 2012

Signed books giveaway draw

Several fantastically generous and supremely talented authors have donated signed copies of books for us to give away to help encourage donations to the We See a Different Frontier peerbacker. We're holding a prize draw to let you win one of these titles, and all you need to enter is to back our (very worthy) project—we plan to publish a colonialism-themed anthology of new speculative fiction from outside the first world perspective, guest edited by Fábio Fernandes—to the tune of a few dollars.

  • Kelly Jennings’s Broken Slate (about; donated by Crossed Genres)
  • Catherine Lundoff’s Silver Moon (about)
  • Tim Maughan’s Paintwork (about)
  • Sophia McDougall’s Savage City (3d pt of Romanitas trilogy)
  • Ian Sales’s Adrift on the Sea of Rains (about)
How to enter:

Email or comment to let me know when you donate to the Peerbacker. You will be assigned one "ticket" for every $5 you donate; if this is not your first donation to our appeal, you will receive one extra ticket as a thank you. This is in addition to the usual rewards for donating to peerbacker, of course. If you already own or for any other reason are not interested in receiving one of these titles—e.g. you wrote it!—let me know in advance and I'll try to make sure you get something else if you win. The draw will be made, using the tried and tested method of scraps of paper in a battered top hat drawn out by a disinterested and innocent party, on or shortly after May 1st. Each ticket drawn from the hat will win one of the signed books, to be sent in the mail. Judges' decisions are final, and all other usual disclaimers.

We hope there will be more giveaways and other fun to be had in the next few weeks, so visit this blog or the peerbacker site regularly for updates. If you have anything you'd like to contribute to a future contest, giveaway or promotion, please get in touch!

Monday 16 April 2012

Artist Interview: Cécile Matthey

Cécile (portfolio; TFF profile) was the first real artist who illustrated for The Future Fire, starting in summer 2006 (previously I had been crudely mocking up recycled photographs in GIMP, the less said about which the better!) and the difference was immediately obvious—arguably our first step toward looking like a more professional magazine.

Born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland some 38 years ago, Cécile now lives in Fribourg, a small bilingual city located just between the German- and French-speaking parts of Switzerland. Initially an archaeologist, she recently became a librarian. She is currently working as a photo librarian for an international organization. She’s also active as a freelance illustrator and scientific illustrator (working in archaeology, natural history, etc.). Cécile was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

The Future Fire: How has your background in archaeological and entomological drawing contributed to your work?

Cécile Matthey: Scientific illustration demands precision, rigour and an analytic mind. In order to make the drawing clear and didactic, you have to look at the subject very closely, do some research about it, and choose which elements should be included or not in the illustration. This peculiar approach has an influence on my other works in different ways.

First of all, my lines are always clear and precise (in French we call it « ligne claire »), and my illustrations very structured. I also tend to stick to some essential elements, without adding too many useless details. There is some rigidity in this style, but I think it brings a certain impact to the illustrations.

Because of my experience in scientific illustration, and more generally my scientific training, I always do some research about the various elements that appear in my drawings. The illustration for Apala, for instance, shows the real Kanchengjunga mountain and a landscape from Sikkim. In The Recycled Man, the lion is inspired by a picture of Trafalgar Square. In Kemistry, the moth is drawn from the picture of a real insect, etc. (One of the scientists in The Issuance of 136, Dr. Knox, happens to look like his real historical counterpart, but in this case it was due to pure luck!)

This scientific background, and my personal tastes, tend to make me add references to the natural world everywhere I can! See for instance the crab watching the fight in ‘Recycled Man’, the fishlike eyes swimming in the jug in the ‘The Issuance of 136’, the tree and animals in ‘Apala’, or the moth in ‘Kemistry’ (which is almost a scientific illustration in itself). There is also a big tree in the illustration for Drown or Die, some robot spiders in the second illustration made for ‘Recycled Man’, a rat in The boy who shattered time, etc. (these ones are not featured here). Even Falcon’s eye in ‘Half light house’ looks like a serpent’s eye with a vertical pupil.

TFF: How do you approach picking a subject and then a medium and technique for an illustration for us?

First, I read the story a few times until it becomes familiar (it’s also a mere question of understanding, since I am not a native English speaker). Then I take some notes in the margin or highlight the elements that could, to my mind, make a good basis for an illustration. Finally, I let it all dwell in my head for a while, so that ideas can take shape.

Before I take up the pencil, I also look for documents and models to guide me. The numerous books in my library and images found on the web are valuable resources. In my desk I also have a drawer full of pictures and magazine cuttings that I can use as visual references and « idea tanks ».

Then I get down to work. Preparing the illustration usually takes me more time than drawing itself. At that stage, I usually have quite a clear idea of what I’d like to achieve, but some things may always change a bit along the way. Once the drawing phase has started, I try to work in a single go. First I draw small thumbnails, just a few lines as a draft to build the illustration, to get the right composition, etc. Sometimes, I try out colours too. When I am satisfied, I start on the illustration itself.

As for choosing a technique, it depends upon the story’s atmosphere, but also on what I’d like to do right then. For « Apala », located in India, I wanted to do something colourful, a bit Bollywood style... and also try out a new big box of colouring pencils! For « The Issuance of 136 », a black and white atmosphere, reminiscent of Victorian engravings and conveying a gloomy mood, seemed ideal. I had just rediscovered graphite and charcoal techniques at that time, so this was a good opportunity to use them. About « Half Light house » (the first illustration I made for The Future Fire), I chose graphite and white pencil on grey cardboard to convey what I felt was a soft, dusty atmosphere.

I always work on paper or cardboard. For illustration, I like to use a mixed technique involving ink, colouring pencils and watercolour. I make a light use of computer tools, essentially for retouches or corrections at the end of the process.

TFF: Have you always drawn?

CM: Drawing has been my favourite hobby since childhood. I attended a scientific illustration course in an art school in Bern (Switzerland), and I regularly attend drawing courses in order to explore new techniques and subjects. But on the whole, I am essentially self-taught.

It took me rather a long time before I started illustrating stories. The illustrations I made for The Future Fire were among my first « serious ones ». I think I did not feel confident enough at the time, because illustration is a complex and demanding task. But I find it very satisfying. You have to be creative, supporting a story, suggesting an atmosphere, in short, evoking a whole world in one image!

TFF: Do you have any creative projects of your own?

Unfortunately, I can never find enough time to draw! But I do I have a few projects that are on their way or still tucked in some corner of my mind.

First of all, I’d like to illustrate a fantasy epic written by a friend of mine, called «Le retour d’Achal Kaalum ». It’s a project I started in 2006, but on which I haven’t been able to work regularly so far. I already did a few illustrations for it some years ago, but I now feel like doing them all over again!

Then, I’d love to have a small personal exhibition of drawings inspired by various myths, legends and fairy tales. It’s as good an excuse as any to explore some new themes and force myself to draw more regularly. But nothing is really organized yet.

Regarding science fiction, I’ve recently started to explore a new genre and began to do some illustrations for Steampunk Magazine. We’ll see how it goes...

A long-term project, if I can ever find the time, would be to illustrate one of my favourite books: Treasure Island, by R.L. Stevenson.

But the most important project of all is to keep drawing, to keep learning, to try and make better illustrations each time!

TFF: Finally, who are your favourite illustrators?

CM: My pencil is fed by many illustrators. In the field of science-fiction and fantasy, my all-time favourite surely is John Howe, whose work I knew and admired well before « The Lord of the Rings » movies: I remember my husband and myself being almost the only visitors at an exhibition of his works, when he was not as famous as today.

I also love the worlds of James Gurney (what a great idea to make dinosaurs and humans live together !), Moebius (a magician of the absurd) or Schuiten and Peeters (they create such incredible architectures—a subject I am totally unable to draw, alas). As for children’s books, Arthur Rackham, N.C. Wyeth, Lisbeth Zwerger and Rébecca Dautremer are among my favourites. As for comics, I especially admire Hugo Pratt, a master of black and white. Quite eclectic, as you can see!

Thank you very much, Cécile. We looking forward to working with you on many more issues of TFF to come. Thanks for all your wonderful art to date!

Thursday 5 April 2012

We See a Different Frontier - fundraising

Today we've started raising money for a themed issue of TFF, tentatively dated for the end of 2012, to be titled We See a Different Frontier. If we're able to raise enough money, this will be a professional rate-paying anthology of colonialism-themed speculative fiction from outside the First World perspective, guest co-edited by Fabio Fernandes (who talks about the rationale of the idea on his blog).

If you feel this would be a worthwhile project to support, you can donate at this page:
All donations, however modest, are genuinely appreciated. Even if you can't spare the money, it would be great if you could help to signal boost this appeal: blog it, tweet it, facebook/g+ it, email your friends about it, shout it in the market, slip fliers into books or onto café tables, bribe young attractive people to mention it casually to strangers in nightclubs...

We're going to be pushing this quite hard over the coming few weeks, with guest posts, interviews, videos, giveaways, contests, gimmicks and whatever else we can think of. We might add new rewards by popular demand. If you have any ideas for things we can do, or that you can do to help, please give us a shout. If you'd like to guest blog for us, appear on video explaining why non-Western SF is important, offer some goodies as a further reward or giveaway, we'd love to hear from you.

I'll quote the full description from the appeal:
Colonialism is still a thorn on the side of humankind. Many of the problems of the Third World, for instance, are due to the social-political-economic matrix imposed on its countries by the First World countries since the 17th century (e.g. the manufacture by European powers of arbitrary borders and tribal conflicts in Africa, and then the creation of Arab countries to defeat the Ottoman Empire in WWI). The balance of power is changing in the 21st Century, but it's still essential to look back if we want to truly understand the forces at play in the political and cultural panoramas of Third World countries—and even in countries that hardly can be labeled as Third World, like the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).

Much widely distributed science fiction and fantasy is written by American and other Anglophone authors, and treats subjects close to the hearts of straight, white, English-speaking men. There's nothing wrong with this sci-fi itself—we love lots of it—but there's clearly something missing. Having white Anglo cis/hetero/males as (the only) role models is not an option any more. We aim to redress this balance, not only by publishing speculative stories by people with different viewpoints and addressing concerns from outside of the usual area (see World SF), but also by explicitly including fiction that addresses the profound socio-political issues around colonisation and colonialism (see Race in SF). We want to see political stories: not partisan-political, but writing that recognizes the implications for real people and cultures of the events and actions that make up science fictional or fantastic histories, as well as our own history.

For this anthology we will be looking for stories from the perspective of people and places that are colonized under regimes not of their choosing (in the past, present or even future). We are not primarily interested in war stories, although don’t completely rule them out. We are not interested in stories about a White Man learning the error of his ways; nor parables about alien contact in which the Humans are white anglos, and the Aliens are an analogue for other races. We want stories told from the viewpoint of colonized peoples, with characters who do not necessarily speak English, from authors who have experience of the world outside the First World.

We want to raise at least $3000 so that we can make this a professional rate-paying anthology for authors and artists from outside of the mainstream. All editorial and technical work will be carried out for no pay, but we feel strongly we should pay authors fairly for their work. This money will cover the cost of paying around $250 for each of 7-8 stories, plus a cover artist, publicity and advertising, review copies, rewards for donors, etc. All profit from sales of the anthology will be paid to the contributors as royalties. If we raise more than this, we can buy even more stories and/or pay even more professional rates to the authors. If we don’t quite make it, we’ll still publish this great anthology, but it may not be as large, as great, or as professional.
The call for submissions will follow at the end of this fundraising process (in early June), at which point we will be able be able to tell you how much we are going to pay for fiction, what other specific eligibilities and  requirements there will be, and so forth. In the meantime, help to make this a great anthology to submit to by spreading the word now!