Fictionwise is a company that sells electronic books over the Internet. The Reality Break Interviews (Volume
#0) is one of their few free products, and can be obtained simply by registering with them and dispatching an order. The
idea, presumably, is to whet the prospective reader's appetite for more e-books, and secure future orders for paying products.
Whether it is a good choice as a loss-leader is questionable.
Regrettably, but understandably, Fictionwise deals only in reprints of work by established authors. There
is no point submitting your unpublished manuscript to them, because they employ no editorial team to assess it. It's easy
to see how they make their living. The list of titles available is long and impressive - which makes it all the harder to
see why they picked on a book like this as a representative sample.
It consists of transcripts of a series of radio interviews which American DJ Dave Slusher conducted with
such well-known science-fiction and horror writers as Poppy Z Brite and Michael Bishop. Each interview is preceded by a potted
biography, by Slusher, of its subject. It's surprising to find that, in many cases, he knew little about the authors before
talking to them - but he admits that his radio show was something that grew from the germ of an idea, which was itself based
on his personal ambitions rather than his experience of interviewing.
"I'm proud of each and every one of these interviews," says Mr Slusher, with an endearing self-deprecation.
"I owe a great debt to everyone trusting and foolish enough to waste an hour talking to me."
According to him, the interview with Michael Swanwick is the first that was conducted with one eye on a future
book. This makes it all the more remarkable that he admits to knowing nothing about Swanwick beyond the content of the interview.
When you read the interview and discover that its content seldom strays outside the trivial, you begin to understand that,
notwithstanding the intention to publish in book form, this has never been any kind of literary project.
The author is a radio presenter, and writes like one. That's not meant as an insult. His style of interviewing
is not designed to reveal any dark secrets or to probe into the psychology of his subject; it is simply to pass the time pleasantly
talking about their books - an opportunity for self-promotion which few writers can afford to pass up. Speaking of Swanwick's
latest book, Dave Slusher comments, "I've read it and enjoyed it but I find it almost impossible to explain to anybody else
such that it does it justice what the style is like." There's no answer to that.
What follows is much of the same. The people who will enjoy this book are the people who enjoy reading magazine
interviews with their favourite celebrities (assuming that they count science-fiction writers as celebrities or in some way
interesting). The question is whether anyone will pay to read a whole volume of interviews when there is nothing to vary the
content - no photographs, no quizzes, no articles on other subjects. I'm afraid I don't think there are many such readers
outside hard-core sci-fi fans. That doesn't mean that this isn't a worth while project. Dave Slusher's introduction leaves
us in no doubt as to his motivation for doing it. I'm not so sure about his publisher.