Well, well, well, its been a good month since my last Cosmic Mutiny column (Its a long story involving a nefarious entity known as Charter Cable.), I’m thrilled to be back providing provocative interviews of creators. The comeback interview is with the super intelligent Michelle Gallagher. She co-created and edits the terrific SciFi magazine, SCIFIA. We spoke for a good minute about her life and dealing with both writers and artists. Enjoy.
Who are you, where are you from and where do you live now?
Who am I? That’s a big question! My name is Michelle Gallagher and I am originally from New Jersey. By profession, I am a philosopher out of UCLA and am currently finishing up my PhD.
I live in Los Angeles for the moment.
I ask that question first in most interviews, and I’m always fascinated by the answer. Did you read comics or sci fi as a kid? If so, do you remember what first got you hooked?
I started reading Scifi almost as soon as I could read. I started reading kind of early and my mom and dad were both trying to push different sorts of literature on me because nothing in school was challenging. My mom wanted me to read “Foundation” and dad wanted me to read “Lord of the Flies.” Asimov won and since then, I’ve been a voracious reader of SciFi.
I didn’t read any comics until high school, when my best friend and I both became attracted to a gentleman with a fantastic comic book collection. So we started picking up Batman comics.
Then it turned out my dad loved comic books and over the years he has become a serious collector. So we have ended up connecting over literature after all.
I love Asimov, discovered him shortly after reading the Narnia books and it blew my young mind. Its always interesting to find the commonality with a family member. Did you want to or did you create your own stories?
I have written a number of short stories and I have a draft of a novel, but I am very hesitant to send them out there. I am pretty self-critical. Nothing I write measures up to my own standards, I would say.
You sound like a natural born artist! Besides Asimov, who are some of your major influences both as a creator and as an editor?
As an editor, I would definitely say that my experience teaching and doing philosophy is my primary influence. Of course, I am used to papers, so there are some skills that transfer. More importantly, I think there is a deep connection between philosophy and science fiction. In philosophy, we often use thought experiments to test the limits of this or that concept. But I think that, sometimes, the very context of a philosophical discussion imposes limits on the thought experiments that philosophers should create. That’s why, I say that Scifi is the perfect laboratory for philosophy. Science Fiction not only has a long tradition of testing the limits of ideas, but it’s ideally suited for it.
(Sorry, I thought that would be shorter!)
That’s a thesis I’ve never thought out before, but it does make perfect sense. This is why you’re a PHD candidate and I interview creators. And yes, I find it hard to pinpoint specific influences for my writing as well, its more of a smorgasbord. So tell me about the creation of SCIFIA, how did that come about?
I think I should change the topic of my dissertation because I think I could write a couple thousand words on that! I always wanted to do a magazine of publishing entity. I kept putting it off because it didn’t seem realistic, or because there was no money or time. It seemed like a childish pursuit. Inefficient. An obstacle to what I should be doing. I don’t think like that anymore.
Now I think it’s sort of an obligation to myself to do things that make me happy. Also, I really think that philosophical ideas are communicated best, not necessarily in the classroom, but through practical experience and fun activities like reading. So being a philosopher in the way that I want to be a philosopher sort of means that I had to do SCIFIA.
Are you the sole creator of the magazine?
I am the main person involved in it, but I do have steady helpers. My sister and I are technically both the creators and members of the LLC. Alex Dalton has played a huge role as well.
I do most of the work, that’s for sure! (Sorry guys!)
Okay, tell me about the process of putting it together, how did you find storeis, how did you find artists?
Finding stories is easy. First off, there is duotrope.com and ralan.com. These are websites where you can post listings to attract authors. Other writer-oriented websites scrape off of those main sites. Most importantly, the community of SciFi writers online is fairly well established and I can tell from looking at the web statistics that they talk to each other.
Did you get a ton of submissions? Was it difficult to sort though the amount you did receive?
The art has been harder. I always ask our writers if they have an artist in mind. Sometimes they have worked with someone in the past and already have an established relationship. I think writers should really be happy with art produced on the basis of their work and that this is sometimes a problem in publishing. Sometimes though, it’s not so easy. I have spent many hours trying to scout out people. I have had to become almost a stalker of artists. I find them on digitalwebbing.com or other websites and look at their work before contacting them. If they do live streaming of their process, I will visit and take a look before even sending an email. Hopefully, as we get to know more artists, this process will become more streamlined. I would say we have gotten a couple hundred submissions. It’s not difficult at all to weed through them. It’s the most fun part of putting together the magazine. I go through first and veto any I don’t think are suitable, before any of the readers have voted. Then I give a grade and so do a couple other people. There’s a second round of weeding, maybe some debate. What survives then has to pass the test of whether it fits well with the stories we have on hand. Being able to grade 100 papers of a weekend really helps speed the process up.
Our guidelines are also very specific, so we tend to get the sorts of stories we want.
It does sound like a fun time digging through all sorts of stories. I’m sure it’ll be invigorating to “discover” some great unknown. Is there any authors that you’ve worked with that you foresee a bright future?
Now you are going to get me in trouble. I like all the stories we publish! I don’t know how to answer that!
Ha ha, sorry I tried.
I see that you are expanding into a print version. Was this always your intentions or are you filling a demand?
Originally, I wanted to do digital and print and sort of test out where we should focus. Scifia No. 1 has a print edition and people seem to prefer it to the digital editions. The way I approach things is that if you have no experience in something, you shouldn’t think you know what you are doing. Instead, you should endeavor to become as informed as possible and try out different things. Do what works, not what you think will work. Demand for Science Fiction short stories? Surely you jest!
You are too funny. So what are your plans for the future of SCIFIA? Where do you see the magazine in 3 years?
My main goal is for the magazine to exist in three years. That would be an impressive accomplishment for a start-up magazine. Apart from existing, in the near future I would like to see art with every story. We pick the stories with an eye towards what might be visually interesting, and that was the original intention. Funding is a problem though, and I think the magazine should be self-sufficient before we try doing that.
I would also like us to have a regular comic feature, a la “The Twilight Zone.” I think that, eventually, the right first project along those lines will come along, and hopefully that will get things rolling.
Groovy. Lastly, where can the fans find SCIFIA and how can they contact you for submissions?
Hurray! I’m funny!
SCIFIA is online at http://www.scifia.com and on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/scifia. Our main twitter is @Scifiaed. Stories can either be submitted directly to firstname.lastname@example.org or through our submission manager http://scifia.submittable.com/submit . Artists should contact me directly at email@example.com .
Great. Thanks for your time, it was fun.
Thanks Andre. It’s been a pleasure.
Andre Owens has been hiding in Los Angeles for over 15 years, a former Director of Photography, he now writes and publishes the cosmic comic, Force Galaxia. He is currently writing and plans to produce a webseries, The Psychedelic Detective. In his free time he enjoys long form television, sushi and a celebration of all things 420. His name’s not Supergreen!
By Andre Owens
“An Interview with Michelle Gallagher, Philosophical SCIFI Editor”