Nalini Haynes has always loved science fiction and fantasy because her extended family brought her up in the way she should go by reading to her and terrifying her with Doctor Who. Nalini was selected for Adelaide Fringe Festivals’ upstART program in 2007/2008 and won the Dawn Slade-Faull Award (2008) for her artwork prior to moving to Melbourne. In 2010 Nalini founded Dark Matter Zine, now an online magazine focusing on pop culture, literature and publishing. In 2013, Nalini won the Chronos Award for Best Fan Writer in addition to being shortlisted for several other awards (2012-2014) in recognition of her work on Dark Matter.
Nalini is one of the contributors to Jim C Hines’s Invisible anthology discussing representation in SF and fantasy. Her contribution, ‘Evil Albino Trope is Evil’ can be found here for free but proceeds for the anthology go to Con or Bust.
Dark Matter Zine can be found here:
1. You have been running Dark Matter Zine since 2010; as a PDF-based ‘zine originally, then becoming an online entity in 2012. What are some of the challenges you’ve run into in growing a project as large as DMZ has become? Do you have any advice for other people who are looking at starting ‘zines of their own, in any medium?
Um. Where to begin??? Challenges I’ve faced:
- Layout of the PDF zine took FOREVER even though it was quite a simple format; individual posts in a website are much easier and less time-consuming.
- Website design and maintenance
- Software challenges; these are Never Ending Stories
- Time management; what to do and what to leave out; managing other people’s expectations
- Sleeping at night because I HAVEN’T FINISHED ALL THE THINGS
- Look at what you like and don’t like before deciding on your format and style. Make your creation true to you; you’ll have more energy to sustain your project long-term.
- Be prepared for people to flame, troll and bully you. The first hundred times this will take you by surprise so having a set process/plan is good; this way you won’t react, you’ll respond according to your plan. Remember: if you haven’t been flamed, trolled or bullied, you haven’t made an impact yet.
- Avoid sites/writers/podcasters who slander, libel or give unfair criticism. Constructive criticism is excellent but exposing yourself to diatribe that is really just people shitting on you is pointless self-flagellation AND A WASTE OF TIME. Rolling in toxic waste will NOT turn you into a kick-ass turtle.
- Be prepared for requests. At first no-one will send media passes or books for review. When you become established, you’ll receive lots of ‘Hi, review my book’ and ‘Will you interview me?’ This is fabulous then the issue becomes battling burn out. Most zines, online or offline, only last a year or two. If you want to make an impact, you must plan for long-term survival in the midst of the zombie apocalypse.
2. As well as organising a staff of reviewers, you write a lot of reviews yourself. What are your opinions on the responsibility of reviewers, especially in a relatively small community such as Australian speculative fiction? Do you feel that people who volunteer their time as reviewers are valued enough by the community?
Here at Dark Matter Zine we do so much more than just reviewing: we do interviews, cover launches and other events, we publish articles on various topics as well as publishing the very occasional fiction story. I love and adore all Dark Matter Zine’s readers, of whom there are over 1100 per day on average for July 2014; readers are snowballing. The shattering of breaking records is music to my ears. 🙂
We have reviewed some Australian works from Ticonderoga Publications, Clan Destine Press, Allen & Unwin, Scribe, Hachette, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Penguin and HarperCollins – aren’t they fabulous for sending review copies? Overseas publishers also post books from New York and London because a large part of Dark Matter’s readership is global, with US readers usually outnumbering Aussies alongside a huge chunk of other traffic from countries like Canada, UK, Turkey, China and the Rest of the World (Goodies reference). I am in awe of our global readers!
In my opinion reviews need to be honest to respect both authors and readers. Reviews should take into account personal opinion, target market and what the author is trying to achieve while endeavouring to avoid reviewer/author conflict. I also try to assign books to a reviewer who is, most likely, going to enjoy that book – or at least enjoys that genre. For example, Bec Muir is a devout Christian who enjoys magical fantasy but has negatively reviewed books with ‘New Age’ tropes and challenging relationships; thus Dave Freer’s Cuttlefish and Steam Mole were perfect for Bec while I have discouraged her from reviewing Kim Falconer’s trilogies with pagan witches. CJ loves horror, from Stephen King to cheese (e.g. Sharknado). CJ enjoys Charlaine Harris but dislikes paranormal romance. Evie and Liz enjoy paranormal romance… You get the idea.
Reviewers are not valued enough within the SF author/editor community. I see people complain about lack of reviews and yet when we write reviews, some authors feel free to violate reviewers’ copyright by copying and pasting entire reviews to their websites! Isobelle Carmody, consummate professional that she is, asked permission to post an excerpt – a portion of a paragraph – before posting that with links to my website. Kudos to Isobelle and others like her.
I urge authors, editors and publishers to think twice about copying and pasting reviews without permission. For sites like Dark Matter, our reward – our PAYMENT – for our countless hours of work is traffic. If you’re copying reviews to your website instead of just posting links, you’re robbing us of our ‘payment’. Traffic can open doors to media passes, interviews, more review copies etc. In contrast, denying us our traffic removes incentive to spend hours writing those reviews. If you ask permission, a suitable excerpt can often be negotiated with links back to the full interview on Dark Matter Zine.
3. What are your plans for the future of Dark Matter Zine?
I’d like Dark Matter to become a pop culture & literature icon, a platform to feature creators and creations, facilitating discussion and more. In my wildest dreams Dark Matter earns enough or fan funds decide to support creators by sending me to various conventions to interview authors, report on conventions, photograph cosplay…
It’s a dream.
At this point I’d be happy if Dark Matter paid its own bills and I could buy a decent camcorder for interviews.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
Jo Spurrier’s Children of the Black Sun because it features all the social justice issues: race, gender, class, sexual orientation and disability by an author with a disability. So often people talk about ‘White Male Privilege’ but fail to acknowledge disability because disability is even lower on the sociological ladder than gender, race, religion, LGBT et al; disability remains invisible. Likewise, I enjoyed Alison Goodman’s A New Kind of Death. Both works exhibit excellent writing from talented authors.
Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan is absolutely adorable, revealing more with every reread. I’ve also enjoyed Isobelle Carmody’s Red Wind SF/F series for children.
5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work?
RMIT has recognised changes in the publishing industry, recognising the value of online skills and experience; this meant Dark Matter Zine’s analytics helped win my place at RMIT. That’s right – all you gorgeous people who visit Dark Matter Zine helped me gain entry into the associate degree of Professional Writing and Editing and you’ve helped me impress my lecturers since. I LOVE YOU ALL.
I’ve learnt HTML code for Dark Matter alongside a lot of other, more basic, attributes of Word Press and installed various plugins to help users access Dark Matter. Having received high distinctions for 2 IT subjects at RMIT, I’m embarking on a 3rd – Advanced Desktop Publishing – where I will, once again, create a paper magazine as one of my assessment pieces. It could be argued that these developments aren’t part of publishing industry changes per se but they directly affect Dark Matter as a published magazine.
What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
I’ll be reading more diversity in literature; there’s a current trend to publish more diverse material, even in the Big 5 publishing companies who tend to be risk-averse. I suspect that the current Australian government’s policies, reverting Australia back to the early 20th century, will cause a backlash locally and internationally. Ripple effects will include more diversity and more tolerance from some with more bigotry – possibly even violence – from others. Those ‘at the back of the bus’ and those refused entry to the bus will become martyrs once more while passive bystanders record incidents on their phones. When the dust settles, we’ll take 2 steps forward then one step backwards, but there will be some progress.
I have a few stories percolating right now. One is an urban fantasy where a woman is in an abusive relationship; think Being Human crossed with Ilsa Evans’s Broken. As a former counsellor with a focus on domestic violence I feel I’m peculiarly suited to write this one, which I’m working on for the Building a Strong Narrative subject this semester. Another story features a vision impaired person forced – by the government – to accept bionic eyes. This woman is forever changed, affecting her career, her marriage and her very being. Again, my psychology and counselling studies, as well as my disability, give me unusual insight into this story. If anyone reading this says “I’ll pinch those ideas”, imagine how embarrassing it’d be if you did, only to have a crip do it better. 😛
In 5 years time… I don’t know. I imagine Dark Matter will still be rolling but it will metamorphose. Dark Matter is like a child, always growing, changing and surprising even me. I’d like to have a paying job in 5 years but a mentor in a disability mentoring program informed me no-one in the publishing industry will give me a job due to my bad eyesight. L I’d like to publish anthologies of short stories but, without a job to financially back a publishing venture, I’m too nervous. I think I’d be a kick-ass editor, though. I read stuff and want to edit it – CONTINUITY! POLISH! – but I’d have to do it independently if no-one else will employ me. I’d like to write stories and be published; I have LOTS of ideas for stories. As a child I used to tell myself stories when I couldn’t read because BOREDOM but I was told women didn’t get published unless they pretended to be men (e.g. Henry Handel Richardson). Boy was I surprised to discover Andre Norton and Ursula le Guin were women. (Seriousy!) Now I’d like to join the other side of the publishing divide.
This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at: Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.