This summer, my wife and I realized that we’re making enough from book sales that we can start using that money to fund new creative projects. One of those ideas that I’ve been cooking up for the past year or so was building a modern publishing company for other sci-fi/speculative fiction authors like me. So that’s what we’re setting out to do: we’re building Proton Reader. Our first submission window will begin January 1st, 2022, and our first anthology is set to hit the digital bookshelves just in time for summer.
We went back and forth a lot about whether we should start a zine or a book company, and in the end settled on a sort of hybrid of each. When we considered only a magazine, we ran into roadblocks like distribution challenges, the fact that a print version would likely not be justified in the sales revenue, and our collective lack of business experience around magazine markets. When we considered only books, our collective publishing experience gave us the confidence to map out a production and marketing strategy that is tried and tested (and the product of multiple sequential past failures on my part), and all that was left was to figure out a development cadence.
We decided to go with short stories because that’s what we both like to read and write, and we decided to go with anthologies because out of all the books we read together, anthologies are the ones that bring us together the most–both anthologies compiled by others and the ones I put together with my own stories. And so Proton Reader shall be a publishing company of short speculative fiction stories that delight and wonder, a home for my own fiction as well as fiction by other authors from all walks of life who are excited to be part of a new publishing space that puts authors front and center. I’ll be writing more about what we’re building and sharing how you can be part of it in the coming months.
The first time I was exposed to a science fiction anthology was Harlan Ellison’s (1972) Again, Dangerous Visions. I remember this book in hardback, curled up at night in my bed around six or seven years old, reading about how some guy was on some kind of acid trip and holding on to his erection to feel safe. It was such a shock to my tiny brain that it kickstarted a whole bunch of weird stories about shape-shifting monsters, trees that grew people, and a man who killed people and put on their skin and lived their lives until he killed again. I wrote a lot of stories that creeped people out when I was younger, but I never really understood what an anthology was until I was an adult and started getting back into fiction.
Recently I finished Escape Pod anthology has been my favorite as of lately.
I really miss game development. I love designing gameplay mechanics and goofing around with editors and code. When I learned about Unreal Engine’s blueprints system, I had an existential crisis about my chosen career path. It was so easy to whip up an idea, to prototype a whole game from start to finish in a weekend that actually looked really polished, that I began looking for jobs as a gameplay developer. (I learned more about the culture at game development companies, and decided that I would only go that route in life if I could control the company, because I would never let a toxic environment like that exist for my creative family; that is such a violation of their trust in you as a leader that it makes me sick).
Isn’t it interesting how when we think back fondly on the parts of our relationship with development that there’s always something about it that gives us the opportunity to reimagine ourselves as having followed a different path. For me that’s game development. It was the first thing I learned to do on a computer, and it was how I got started tinkering with computers. I wanted to create games. To do that, I had to learn how to code. When I learned how to code, I abandoned it to join the military. It’s funny how being poor ensures you only have a few good options to keep a roof over your head.
Over the next four months that are the end of 2021 I have a feeling that life is going to be changing quite a bit. Stay tuned!