Friday 20 September 2019

Interview with Siobhan Logan & Darragh Logan-Davies of Space Cat Press

Interviewed by Shellie Horst.

Siobhan Logan and Darragh Logan-Davies brought together their joint experience as author and editor to create Space Cat Press earlier this year. With a promise to bring readers “Star Struck Stories” Space Cat’s focus is space exploration. They are in the process of releasing their first publication, Desert Moonfire: The Men Who Raced to Space.

Shellie: With small presses reporting difficult times, why do you feel now is the right time to start a new press?

Siobhan Logan: Is there ever a right time to leap off the cliff and try the small press adventure? Yet 2019 is exactly the moment to publish a book about the rocketeers behind the first Space Age. Our first title, Desert Moonfire: The Men Who Raced to Space, is launching our list. I’ve been a huge admirer for years of the role small presses play in the publishing industry and especially in writer development. They offer an important space for new voices to emerge and be supported. I don’t underestimate the challenges. But the presses that stick around do seem to find their distinct niche and forge a close bond with their readership. There’s a dialogue where readers tend to buy a particular kind of book from your press and that shapes your output over time. Quite a few indie presses are run by one or two people on a shoestring budget in a corner of the kitchen. We’re not approaching this on a commercial basis. It’s very much a passion project where we aim primarily to meet our costs and pay our writers. We have a modest Three-Year Plan, to schedule maybe two books a year, one of which will be an anthology. At each stage, we learn what’s working and tweak or jettison, exactly like rocketeers test-firing their engines. The more it takes off, the more we can vary our output and deliver what our readers enjoy.

Space Cat is to follow a non-profit business model. How and where do you plan to re-invest receipts and what does that mean for your readers?

Darragh Logan-Davies: I feel I need to explain the financial side of things a bit more. When I was at States of Independence Publishers’ Fair last year, I asked writers and indie publishers what would be the one thing they would change about the publishing industry if they could. Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the answers I kept getting was money. Publishers on the whole are just not paying authors enough to survive on their craft alone. I understand why but it still doesn’t make it okay. So, we aim to pay everyone we publish a flat rate upon acceptance into an anthology.

What is the inspiration behind Desert Moonfire: The Men Who Raced to Space?

Siobhan Logan
SL: I wanted to get to know the individuals behind the century’s great adventure, the quest to turn humanity into a space-faring species. For me, the natural way to do that was to blend a historical narrative with a poem sequence that relives key moments and humanises the rocketeers’ story. I was surprised to discover how dark a tale that was. The space rockets were rooted in military technology and the rocketeers’ personal stories take us into concentration camps and gulags as well as the fields of war. The Space Race was very much another expression of the Cold War yet it galvanised thousands of people to achieve this extraordinary feat. Not just the Moon but from Sputnik and Gagarin through to the ISS and space probes, these missions pushed far into the solar system and opened a new chapter of the human story. I was especially intrigued to learn the role that science fiction played in inspiring the rocketeers and space theorists and eventually winning over the public to take fantasy for possibility. That cultural response to space exploration is a good starting point for Space Cat Press too.

Space Cat Press’s submission page lists a broad selection of forms: Poetry, Short stories, Creative non-fiction and Flash fiction. Is Space Cat Press aimed at any particular type of readers?

SL: Many writers dip in and out between different genres and forms. Magazines will often mix stories and poems say, but not poems and non-fiction. Space Cat Press is happy to ‘cross boundaries of genre’ as long as the wider story benefits. I’ve always loved mixing storytelling forms—fiction short and long, poems with non-fiction, performance and imagery, print and media. I really like the conversations that emerge when they are yoked together by a theme or narrative. And there is an audience for that if you find the right places and approaches to share those stories. Probably a niche audience but one that is enthusiastic and curious. So I’d say we expect to draw readers from three different but overlapping markets: science fans who like a narrative approach, poetry lovers who like to mix it up and readers from the SFF community who are inspired by space exploration.

DLD: We did the same thing in the literary journal I was involved in during my masters. ROPES accepted poetry, art, short stories, essays, and plays—even more forms than SCP. We had a great time arranging the various submissions so there would be something for everyone. Because SCP books will be a mix of genres and forms, we hope our readership will be similarly diverse.

Darragh Logan-Davies
Editor Darragh will be looking at a wide range of sub-genres across all these formats, is there a particular thing she’s looking for?

DLD: Well first off, everything we do here at Space Cat is a collaboration so we will both be reading the submissions. As for what we’re looking for, I’d like to see how far contributors can push the boundaries of speculative fiction and other genres. Do you write poetry about steampunk goblins living on Mars? Excellent, send it to us. Do you write short stories where damsels in distress turn badass and lead intergalactic raids? I, for one, would love to read it. Step outside the box and see where your imagination takes you. Rather than one specific voice, we’re looking for as many diverse voices as possible. We’ll release more information on our website closer to the submission call but take the Space Race theme as a prompt rather than a set of instructions.

The first submission call will go out in November. What kind of voice will you be looking for?

SL: I think the key to a good anthology is a strong theme and then let multiple voices speak to each other in interesting ways. The first anthology will be literature that is inspired by the Space Race. But we want writers to interpret that widely. There might be memoir pieces that evoke that moment of 1969 as children experienced it. Poems about the moon or astronauts. Pieces that explore what the Space Race means to young people in 2019. We want very diverse voices and stories. I’ve been reading SFF authors like Tade Thompson, Jeannette Ng or Aliette De Bodard. Through alien xenospheres, missionaries in the land of the Fae or Vietnamese water-dragons under the Seine, they’ve subtly deconstructed sci-fi’s colonialist mindset whilst having huge fun. I see poets too reflecting on our ecological moment or strewing collections with apocalyptic dystopias and rogue robots. Collections that are both intimate and social. You can get an idea of our tastes by reading Space Cat blog Reviews. But it’s down to what writers send us and how we arrange a narrative out of disparate pieces. We definitely want new voices to make it through. To that end, we’re offering a free Space Cat workshop as part of Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading festival in October.

What has been the biggest challenge so far with regards to Space Cat Press, and how does that compare to your experiences as writers/editors?

DLD: The biggest challenge so far has been simultaneously handling so many parts of this project at once. When I’m editing, I can just focus on the text and how I can help the author make it as readable as possible. With Space Cat, I will take a break from typesetting to talk to printers, or I will finish up some complicated work on the website and reward myself by designing new merchandise. It has been a bit insane but thoroughly enjoyable and having Siobhan to soundboard ideas with has been an immense help.

SL: There’s no point in undertaking a small press adventure if it’s not enormous fun. The collaborative nature of Space Cat Press means we play to our strengths and combine different tastes. So we do content-edits together. Then Darragh brings her copy-editing skills to bear and she’s also done the cover design and typesetting for Desert Moonfire—everything needed to get the book print-ready. Afterwards, I come in more on the marketing side. But we learn from each other, and from other small presses, at every step of the way. Lots of café meetings with the laptop!

There’s been faffy technical things which Darragh is great at fixing. She’s the Kaylee to our Firefly. But looking ahead, the major challenge is to find our readership. And begin a dialogue where we listen to them and become responsive to who our audience is and what they want. For me, that’s been the same challenge I faced in publishing poetry collections or stories with small presses. I knew then my main sales would be face to face by going out to events and engaging readers. We plan to take Space Cat Press to book fairs, poetry events, libraries and SFF cons, as well as into on-line spaces. It’s about connecting our passions and obsessions with yours. We can’t wait to hear from you, both writers and readers.

And returning to space at last—if you could own any planet, which would it be and why?

DLD: Hmmm, I am generally against colonisation, but I would have to say that if I could, I would own Earth just so I could make climate change the number one global priority.

SL: I agree. We had enough of that with the military impetus behind the Moon Race. I’m more interested in exploring imaginatively and vicariously through space missions and fiction. But I’d love to write about Pluto—that drop-dead gorgeous planet (yes, you heard me) and the mysterious rock-worlds of the Kuiper Belt. Or the Voyager space probes. When you see their mind-boggling images, you know we could fix our planetary mess. We have the ingenuity. We know our blue dot in the dark is unique and precious. We can do it and it’s all to play for.

Thank you for answering our questions, Siobhan and Darragh, and good luck with your explorations into publishing, Space Cat. 

Space Cat Press can be found on Facebook, their website or on Twitter @SpaceCatPress.

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