I had the occasion to meet Noel Chidwick during one of the events Shoreline of Infinity organised here in Edinburgh. Noel was so kind to answer some questions for me.
1 . Describe what your magazine is about. What makes it special / different compared to others?
Shoreline of Infinity publishes new short stories, poetry, artwork, articles, reviews, columns and the occasional puzzle.
We proudly call ourselves a science fiction magazine, but our strapline is: “Reality with a twist of lemon.” We like to stretch the definition of science fiction to encourage a wider readership who are keen to explore all forms of imaginative writing. We are a semipro magazine, which means we do pay our writers and artists, and makes us eligible for the prestigious Hugo Awards (hint).
We publish quarterly, in print and digital formats, and we are read throughout the world.
- Why / how did you decide to start it?
A number of factors collided at once. I’ve read science fiction (and written some) for donkey’s aeons, and over the years I’ve built up skills and experience in publishing, including editing a fanzine, a Folk music magazine, running a small music publishing company, and teaching computer-based graphic design and page layout in Further Education. The Scottish Independence referendum, no matter on which side you stood, generated a vast amount of creative energy over the summer of 2014. After the result, I felt I just wanted a way to use that energy positively. The referendum was asking us to look at the future of Scotland, so I continued with that thought.
Our children were at university and away from home, so suddenly a whole expanse of time seemed to appear from nowhere. Mark Toner, my artist friend and partner in all sorts of weird projects was of like mind, so we both came to the logical conclusion: let’s publish a science fiction magazine. We researched to look at feasibility, costs, and what was already out there (I also read a lot of SF magazines). We confirmed there wasn’t a Scottish based SF magazine, and hasn’t been one for some years. That settled it. We published issue 1 in July 2015 as a pilot. We received a lot of positive feedback, and now we’re at Issue 8 and growing.
- Which particular brand of fiction do you publish in Shoreline – if any in particular?
We publish science fiction from writers from all over the world, new and old hands. This is important to us: we like a mix of story styles and viewpoints. At the same time we are dead chuffed by the stories we’ve published from Scottish writers. In fact, we are going to showcase the Scottish SF talent we’ve published so far in a special issue of Shoreline of Infinity we’re producing for the Edinburgh International Book Festival, to be launched at the Festival in August. We also have a series called SF Caledonia which features stories from Scottish writers of the past. We were delighted to find – and publish – science fiction stories by the likes of John Buchan and Lewis Grassic Gibbon.
- Tell us something about your target audience.
We didn’t really think about a target audience at first, save for publishing a magazine that we wanted to read. But over time, we are seeing who is or isn’t reading science fiction. It has been rewarding to see that our magazine is being picked up by readers of all sorts. We’re delighted to that Shoreline of Infinity is read by younger folks (Mark and I are in our 50s). This has seen a growth in submissions from that group too, and keeps Shoreline of Infinity fresh and exciting. We also have writers such as Eric Brown, Ken MacLeod and Gary Gibson in the mix too – something for everyone!
- Which qualities /characteristics you are after in the pieces you accept for publication?
As we explain on our submissions page on our website we like stories which give reality a tweak on the nose – make you stop and think. We’re keen on well drawn characters in our stories, real people we can believe it. By making your using that writer’s workshop cliché: show don’t tell. Put your characters in a science fictional setting, but avoid that exposition to camera, the info dump. Readers like to be challenged to work things out for themselves.
And we do prefer a story – a beginning a middle and an end – quite a task for a short story writer! One thing I would say is that we were surprised at how few stories by women writers we were receiving – it was around 10% of submissions in the early stages. This has increased over the recent months, but it’s still not reached parity. With more female SFF writers being published, we would love to see this reflected more in our submissions. We positively encourage new writers; like all editors I hope to claim that we published [insert name of hugely famous and talented writer here] first!
6. Which ones among the pieces you have published you would recommend to people?
Not saying. Like children, they are all my favourites. I will however retain a special place in my hear for Clean-up on Deck 7 by Claire Simpson. It was the first story we received when we opened the submission page, and we loved Claire’s story and published it in Issue 1. We knew immediately that Shoreline of Infinity was going to be good.
7. Anything else you would like to say?
Shoreline of Infinity is becoming more than just a science fiction magazine. Russell Jones joined us as poetry editor and deputy editor as we were working on Issue 1 and he arranged a great launch event, featuring music, readings, poetry and art. So much so that folk asked when we’d do the next one. So began our monthly live science fiction events which we call Event Horizon. It’s a little science fiction festival in Edinburgh every month, and again we’re delighted to attract an audience of all ages. We’ve been touched to by the people who have come forward to help and offer their skills and enthusiasm for the magazine. This gives me a chance to shout out for Monica Burns and Iain Maloney especially, as well as the aforementioned Russell. Monica edits the SF Caledonia series, and Iain has taken on and does a great job with out reviews section. They’re both talented folk, and we’re humbled to have them working with us, and a range of folk who help out with the editing, reading and other tasks.
We’re experimenting too with creating audio dramas from some of the stories. We have teamed up with actor/writers Debbie Cannon and Jonathan Whiteside and have adapted some Shoreline tales. Debbie adapted the aforementioned Clean Up on Deck 7 and performed it in front of a live audience at a Hidden Door Festival event to great applause. Look out for an Autmn/Winter release for this series, which we’re calling Infinitesimals.
And there’s more – but you’ll have to read Shoreline of Infinity to find out!
Many thanks to Noel and grab your copy of Shoreline of Infinity!