Today I’m particularly excited because for the first time I’m able to interview on this blog something that’s not Anglo-Saxon SF. (There’s nothing wrong with the English-speaking world, just to be clear, but it is nice to be able to widen my horizons – and long overdue). So it is with a great pleasure that I host this Eight Questions with Francesco Verso, author and editor from Rome, Italy.
1. SF in Italy. What makes it different compared to other countries?
Nothing in particular. If – until a few years ago – Italy might have been considered producing more “soft SF” than “hard SF”, today, thanks to the access to information, the spreading of Internet and a better knowledge of the English language, writers such as Giovanni De Matteo, Clelia Farris, Francesco Grasso, Dario Tonani, Alessandro Vietti and Nicoletta Vallorani, just to mention a few, are absolutely comparable in terms of themes and quality to any other country producing SF at a professional level.
The only problem is that – due to translation costs – publishing industries prefer to invest in “comfort zone” authors and commercial fiction making the rest of the world almost invisible. This is where the independent publishers come into play, not (just) driven by money but by quality and cultural reasons.
2. Who is Francesco Verso? Talk a little bit about you and your work.
After eight years spent in IBM, the PC Division where I was working has been sold to Lenovo; two years later, I decided to quit working in the IT sector and dedicate my life to writing and publishing SF.
Over the last eight years, I’ve won 2 Urania Mondadori Award (e-Doll in 2009 and Bloodbusters in 2014), 1 Odissea Award (Livido in 2012) and 1 Italia Award (Livido in 2013). Livido has also been published in English as Nexhuman for Australian Publisher Xoum.
So far, I’ve published five novels, about ten short stories and I have two more novels ready, along with a bunch of stories as well. On top of that, in 2014 I started the Future Fiction multicultural project. A small press dedicated to publishing the best SF authors from all over the world.
3. Which particular brand of fiction do you publish Future Fiction- if any in particular?
We tend to publish stories preferably set on a near-future Earth, stories that face the coming issues of climate change, new media sphere, artificial intelligence applications, the ethics of cloning and bioengineering, the rise of nanotechnology, the latest views on trans-architecture, the 3D printing bottom-up revolution and in general all the aspects that will contribute to shape up the coming Post-Human Era, concepts that have a scientific and social value, as well as anthropological and therefore human.
4. Why / how did you decide to start it?
It all started some five, six years ago because, as a reader, I was tired of going to Italian bookstores and finding always (or mostly) the same kind of story, written by a middle-class, English-speaking, white-man (presumably Christian, Heterosexual and living in the US or the UK). I was missing a huge part of the representativeness of the “real” world, some kind of “literary biodiversity” which in other genres – as paradoxically as it might seem – is not so extreme.
So the project developed more as cultural small press than a commercial one and after four years – during which I’ve published more than 50 stories in e-books and seven paperbacks – I’ve realized that I was looking for the missing voices of the Science Fiction Hidden World. Some might indeed define it “diversity” (a term that is increasingly becoming popular in an out of the genre), but then I thought, “diverse from whom?” and again I was back to the original bias towards English-speaking culture. So now I tend to call it also “Science Fiction Fair Distribution”: as the Seed Vault in the Svalbard Islands preserves biodiversity from a possible environmental apocalypse, I’ve set myself on a quest to preserve Science-Fiction-Literary-Diversity from a possible cultural catastrophe. What would the World be, if there’s just one voice to talk about it, one religion, one culture, and one single economy or lifestyle to represent it?
5. Tell us something about your target audience.
Nobody in particular but anybody that is interested in the incredible transformations our world and human life is facing at the moment. We have lived through the Century of Speed, when we went from riding a horse in the early 1910s to driving cars in the 1940s to flying in planes or even in shuttles in the 1960s, and now we have just entered the Century of Acceleration and we can’t see clearly anymore where it will lead us: Quantum and Distributed Computing, Internet of Things, Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, 3D Printed Prosthetics, Climate Change, Nanotechnology and Gene Editing they’ll all have their grip on our lives and they will impose their imprint on us and the next generations even more and more in the future; that’s why I am convinced that Science Fiction is the only Fiction of our Time.
For this very reason, Future Fiction cooperates with the Italian Institute for the Future to prepare young and old generations to the “Singular Times” we’re living in and where they’ll spend the rest of their lives. I often give talks to 3D Print Maker Faires, Future Studies Round Tables and in general to any “Anticipation” events around Italy and Europe.
6. Which qualities /characteristics you are after in the pieces you accept for publication?
Basically, we’re looking for stories where the “cognitive estrangement” as it was defined by Darko Suvin comes from any highly probable and believable technology or hypothesis. I don’t limit the borders of Future Fiction to hard SF, on the contrary, I am moved by any “novum” and new idea capable of shedding light on an obscure aspect of our existence. Be it the slang of future cultural tribes, the rights of beings yet to come, the speculations on cryptocurrencies or the subverting of any reality taken for granted, I look for compelling stories with a deeper sense. Fundamentally, I believe Science Fiction is the Fiction of Transformation, and as such, I consider it the only genre capable of mingling with all others still being itself.
7. Which ones among the pieces you have published you would recommend to people?
We have published excellent stories and novellas from the whole world. Most of them were not totally new to the English market but in Italy, they were just missing.
8. Anything else you would like to say?
I’d like to thank you for the attention you’ve reserved to a small independent project like Future Fiction and also to invite all SF readers to explore – at least every once in a while – what’s behind the big, shiny billboards of big industry titles. I’ve done it myself and I’ve found there are a lot of refreshing stories coming from unexpected sources. After all, isn’t that what’s Science Fiction is all about?
Thanks to Bill Campbell, editor of Rosarium Publishing, a Future Fiction anthology called “New Dimensions in International Science Fiction” will be out on the US market in March 2018 with a selection of stories written by the best contemporary authors from around the world.
Many thanks, Francesco, for talking to us and all the best for your future projects. And yes, I look forward to meeting you in Helsinki in a few days!