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SFFWRTCHT: A Chat With Editor John Klima

Hugo award winning Editor John Klima is the founder and editor of Electric Velocipede, a former print zine now transitioning to electronic format. He’s also edited numerous anthologies, such as Logorrhea and the forthcoming Happily Ever After. A former book editor/slush reader, he has worked for Tor, Dell Magazines, and Prime Books and been a panelist at several cons. Active on Twitter, John can be found online at  www.electricvelocipede.com and blog.electricvelocipede.com.


SFFWRTCHT: John, how did you come to start Electric Velocipede? Where did the idea originate? And how did you decide to become an editor?

John Klima: I interned with Jim Frenkel (of Tor Books) in Madison, WI while I was in college and cut my editorial teeth there, that was 1993-4. After graduating from UW-Madison with degrees in English & Philosophy, I moved out East to work in New York publishing. At Frenkel’s we did all sorts of things from shelving books to filing to writing copy to editing, etc. I worked at a number of places and ended up at Dell Magazines working for Asimov’s/Analog. Shortly after starting that job, my old college buddy/former co-intern Jim Minz (now with Baen) told me there was an opening at Tor.

While at Tor, I worked on about 100 books/year (new, reprints, mass-market editions of hardcovers, etc.). I loved my job, loved working with authors, loved making great books, loved going to conventions and meeting fellow fans. At Tor I worked mostly as editorial assistant, so I made sure all the pieces of the book came together for the depts to make a final product that could be anything from photocopying a copyedited manuscript to mailing out ARCs to writing flap copy and eventually co-editing. But the pay in publishing isn’t so great, so I left Tor in 1999/2000 to become a computer programmer.

Unfortunately, in 2000 the computer programming market collapsed but I got a job with a company that made software for publishers. While the pay was much better in the computer world, I missed working with authors and making books. It was at a fateful Readercon in Boston where I met Gavin Grant of Small Beer Press/LCRW, who had a panel on making zines. Gavin’s contention (and I agree) was that every person in the room could make zine and should. That seeded the idea for me. From that panel we got Electric Velocipede, Trunk Stories, Rabid Transit, Say…, and Full Unit Hookup (most of us gone now alas). I knew a whole bunch of authors, I knew a whole bunch of publishing, I knew about making books, it seemed like a good idea,  you know? Making a zine was going to be the road to riches. Gavin Grant is a very good motivational speaker.

SFFWRTCHT: How many issues have you put out and how often?

JK: I knew that the zine would lose money initially, but I wanted to make something I enjoyed and would work towards breaking even. Electric Velocipede started in 2001 and we just had issue #21/22 come out; about two a year, give or take. This year is our 10th anniversary and we will potentially get to issue #25 by the end of the year . Watch the blog, @EV_Mag on Twitter, or the Facebook page for announcements of new issues!

SFFWRTCHT: Is it a one-man project or do you have slushies and other staff?

JK: Through issue #10 was done entirely by me, no readers, nothing, the first 5 issues were collated by hand! After issue #10 I added some readers, but did the rest of the person on my own through issue #15/16.

SFFWRTCHT: That sounds like a lot of work for one guy. I see from your website that Electric Velocipede is currently closed to submissions. When do you expect to reopen?

JK: That depends on a lot of factors–mostly how/when issues #23-25 come out as those are already full. I don’t like to hold stories hostage, so until we publish everything we’ve accepted, we can’t reopen.

SFFWRTCHT: Mike Resnick told me the ideal Analog story is a problem w/ a solution while the Asimovs story is a problem w/ complications. How would you describe the ideal EV story?

JK: The ideal EV story is a little hard to explain, and I think that’s what makes the magazine so appealing. I like things that are a little different, I like to see people try things outside the norm for them. I like it when what’s really happening isn’t what looks like is happening, when there’s something hidden, something off. Sort of the David Lynch equivalent of fiction, but not always creepy.

SFFWRTCHT: For me, one of the best examples was a story about a bouncing boy Ken Scholes did for you. It was a departure of sorts.

JK: The Ken Scholes story is a perfect example of a writer going outside their comfort zone.

SFFWRTCHT: What are some of your favorite stories EV published?

JK: Do I have to pick? I would say everything on the Free Fiction page is something I like pretty well. Of the things on that page, the Caroline Yoachim story didn’t get as much attention as I thought it should, and, of more recent material, the Cyril Simsa piece is amazing (reminds me of Hal Duncan ) and the Darin Bradley piece also.  The Jeff Ford story “The Way He Does It” is the example I give for EV stories.

SFFWRTCHT: Is there anything you’d like to see in EV stories and haven’t?

JK: I don’t really have anything that I’d like to see and haven’t seen yet. There’s some amazing stuff coming in future issues. EV stories have so much different wild stuff happening it’s hard to imagine what I would want to see that I haven’t. The great thing is when I get a story that does something new and different; Darin Bradley and Keffy Kehrli surprised me. But I don’t see many stories that feature cooking.

SFFWRTCHT: Your day job is as a librarian, and, in fact, you’re just starting a new position. Do you do all of your editing after hours?

JK: It’s hard to say what sort of effect becoming a librarian has had on my editing. For the most part, it’s stolen time. I really enjoy being a librarian so it’s hard to find time for the editorial/publishing work. Hopefully I never have to choose. At the same time, I’m hoping to bring some of my knowledge/expertise in genre into the library. My editorial work has had a greater influence on my library work than the other way around. My knowledge of publishing and the book industry has a direct impact when I order books; my connections to the industry help make interesting programming (bringing in authors), and my editorial work brings some cachet to the library as one of their members giving back to the library world at large.

SFFWRTCHT: What can you tell us about the transition EV is making?

JK: Our transition to being an online publication has been fraught with a slow deliberate pace that we can’t hasten. We wanted EV 21/22 out end of 2010, then 23 in May as the first electronic issue, with 24 in Aug and 25 in November. 21/22 was at the printer at the end of November 2010, but only just recently got paid and sent out into the world. Since it’s April, and we haven’t started work on EV 23, it won’t come out in May (and there’s my whole new job and moving). We have to revisit our schedule; I still would like to get out issues 23-25 this year; that might mean content in July, September and November.

SFFWRTCHT: You also edit book anthologies as well. How is editing an anthology different from editing EV?

JK: An original anthology isn’t too different from an issue except it’s longer and you likely have a bigger budget. You still get the submissions, review them, accept them, edit them, copyedit, proofread, publish, cross fingers. A reprint anthology is different. It requires research into a theme and deciding if there’s enough content to make a book.

SFFWRTCHT: Do all of your anthologies originate with you or have publishers recruited you for their own ideas?

JK: So far all of my anthologies have originated with me, and then I’ve taken them to a publisher.

SFFWRTCHT: What process is involved in researching a themed anthology?

JK: Researching a theme is reading lots of anthos and then seeing a common thread among stories (with some big names!) Some time this Summer I have a reprint antho of fairy tale stories HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

SFFWRTCHT: Does having a lot more electronic zines to pull reprints from make it easier to find stories on a theme?

JK: Electronic zines haven’t been around long enough to give a theme at this point; but it won’t be too long before they do.

SFFWRTCHT: Is it easy to buy reprints for anthologies?

JK: They came pretty easily. It’s free money for the authors, so even the big names are pretty easy to work with.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you have any new anthologies planned we can look forward to?

JK: I’m working on a YA Logorrhea proposal, and have some other ideas (including…ulp…writing!)

SFFWRTCHT: Speaking of writing, you’ve sold stories before, right?

JK: I sold one story more than 15 years ago, but haven’t done much writing until recently; now I can’t say “I don’t write” when asked, and a story at Doug Lain’s Diet Soap a few years ago. My story was told from the point of view of the Trix Rabbit who was kidnapping kids and eating them instead of cereal.


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the forthcoming space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter.

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