What was the catalyst for starting Galactic Journey?
In today’s interview, which was conducted by my friend Jean-Paul Garnier from Space Cowboy Books, we have the pleasure to introduce you to Gideon Marcus a Hugo Award finalist. He is the author of Kitra, a YA Sci-Fi adventure novel. Furthermore, he has been exploring the world of science fiction through the old Sci-Fi magazine collection his dad amassed during the fifties and on. He has lots of upcoming projects that all sound super interesting, so let’s listen to his story and what he has in store for us.
I hadn’t intended to become a time traveler – it just sort of happened!
My father left me a huge collection of science fiction magazines, mostly Analog, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Galaxy, but with a lot of other random ones, too, particularly in the 1950s. The collection became reasonably complete starting around 1954.
In 2009, I decided I wanted to read all of these magazines, but where to start? More than a thousand books is a daunting to-read list. So I decided to read them one month at a time, “as they came out”, time shifted 55 years. I started with everything from April 1954 in my collection and worked my way forward.
In September 1958…er…2013, my wife asked if I might recommend some of my favorite stories from the era. I started to put together a list. Then I thought, “I’m a writer — why don’t I put together a blog?” figuring perhaps two or three people would read and enjoy it.
I had no idea the Journey would become a spotlight on progressive issues, that it’d be nominated for the Hugo even once (much less three times), or that I’d be working with more than twenty great associates on the project. I can’t wait to see what the next decade has in store.
Was Journey Press a natural offshoot of Galactic Journey or were there different motivations for moving into publishing?
It all started at Loscon 2018. I ran into A.J. Howells, who had gotten the license to reprint Fredric Brown’s The Office and started his own publishing house to do so. I hadn’t realized just how easy it was to do that in this age of digital everything. An obvious first project was an anthology of my favorite science fiction from the era I’d just covered in Galactic Journey, specifically by women since those are the creators whose works tend to be forgotten the most.
2018 was also the first year I was professionally published (Andy and Tina, the lead story in Inklings Press’ Tales from Alternate Earths 2). I was starting to shop around a book I’d written and quickly became very disenchanted with the whole current publishing paradigm. I had many author friends, almost all of them who got peanuts in royalties and had horror stories of unsupportive (and often predatory) agents and publishers.
Well, I’d run big companies. I knew how to market. I figured if I wasn’t going to make money writing, I could do that all by myself. So part of my motivation was showing up the folks in the traditional publishing business.
One year after we launched our first book, even in the midst of a global pandemic, our titles are in 500 bookstores around the United States and a couple in the UK. We’ve met hundreds of wonderful people, booksellers, readers and fans. Best of all, we’re getting to bring to life a whole bunch of books for people to love.
I’d say it’s been a successful experiment!
In your work with Galactic Journey do you ever find it difficult to separate yourself from the “present” coloring your critique and analysis?
The present, to some degree, must color my critique and analysis. I am writing for a modern audience. The time travel aspect is a gimmick, a way to present the material in a context that might be unfamiliar to modern readers, but which will still resonate.
That said, the degree to which I’ve immersed myself in the time is about as far as one can go without the risk of being committed. And even then, I’m not so sure.
To wit, there are two radio stations in my house that play nothing but music from exactly 55 years ago (the FM station plays the stuff you’d hear on American radio, the AM station plays Japanese hits of the time — we go to Japan a lot). We have a television station; if I turn on Channel 9 on any TV in the house, provided the rabbit ears are properly hooked up, I will get what was playing 55 years ago. I read the paper every day. I read the books that were “just published.” I scrupulously adhere to the lingo of the time, at least in my writing.
At this point, it’s second nature. There are times I’m surprised to find myself in 2020. Truth be told, there’s a little bit of a coping mechanism involved there — 2020 is a pretty awful year. That said, I have hope. After all, by every measure, 1965 was worse. And things got better. Or as my daughter recently put it, “It’s not 1984, it’s 1964.”
Tell us a bit about your reasons for putting together the Rediscovery anthology, and will there be a follow up?
Galactic Journey very quickly started spotlighting stories by women. They were the ones I looked forward to reading the most; I commonly say that women only were able to publish 10% of what was in the magazines, but 25% of what was worth reading. So it made sense to put together a collection of my favorite women-penned stories from the era. That’s how Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958-1963) was born.
We’ve already broken ground on Rediscovery 2 which will cover 1953-1957, and I’m excited to announce that Dr. Lisa Yaszek, science fiction professor at Georgia Tech and the author of The Future is Female, will be involved in the project.
My work on Rediscovery also got me in touch with Robin Brown, son of Rosel George Brown. We’re going to be putting out Brown’s seminal woman space cop story, Galactic Sybil Sue Blue, in June 2021!
In your historical research of science fiction what is the worst story you have encountered?
Queen Bee by Randall Garrett.
You are an author and an educator; how do these two professions overlap and inform each other?
They’re inextricably bound. As a space historian, it means my Kitra books have pretty good science, especially for a YA series. As a public speaker, it means I’m always presenting on the things I’ve learned along the way, whether it be discussing the women pioneers of space science, the legislative legacy of JFK, or the sea change in science fiction circa 1965. Like Asimov, I’m always seeking to educate as well as entertain.
What made you decide to write a YA novel?
Kitra Yilmaz has been clamoring to get out of my brain since 2004. It’s telling that when I quit my day job in 2018 to go into writing full time, I had no trouble writing 1000 words a day for the next several months until Kitra, the first book in the saga, was done. There will be ten in all.
As to why Kitra is YA, there are two reasons.
The first is that we have a daughter, Lorelei. I wanted to write books that she could enjoy. Since she’s a young adult, it made sense to make the books accessible for a younger audience.
Beyond that, I grew up reading YA — before it was called YA. Back then, Heinlein and Norton and Bova were writing what was called “juveniles,” science fiction pitched at younger audiences but accessible to all ages. They were usually stories of hope and often featured space travel.
YA tends toward the dystopian these days, and while I’ve enjoyed recent titles, I wanted to write something that wasn’t bleak, something that would engage and excite young readers.
How has being a Hugo finalist affected your career?
It’s made it much easier to sell bookstores on carrying my books, that’s for sure. 🙂 It’s also facilitated my meeting some absolutely wonderful people. (I’ll give a tip of my hat right here to S.L. Huang, author of the Cas Russell series, whom I met in the green room at Worldcon 76, and who is now a freaking Hugo Award winner.)
What is your favorite thing about working in the field of science fiction?
Writing the books I want to read. Meeting the fans I want to chat with. Dreaming about futures that might be.
What’s next for Journey Press?
We just worked out our publication schedule for the next year and a half, so this question is well timed:
March 2021: The Eighth Key, by Janice Marcus — a high fantasy gay romance.
June 2021: Galactic Sybil Sue Blue, by Rosel George Brown — tough-as-nails woman space cop (is Charlize Theron booked?)
September 2021: Sirena, by Gideon Marcus — second in the Kitra saga
December 2021: Clairvoyages, by Gideon Marcus — a collection of my short stories
March 2022: Rediscovery 2: Science Fiction by Women (1953-1957)
We’re also starting to evaluate manuscripts by other new authors, and we are planning on more reprints, a la Tom Purdom’s excellent I Want the Stars, just re-released in August. An anthology of all new stories is also in the works.
Thank you so much for interviewing me! It was a pleasure. 🙂