Genre Chick Interview: Edmund Schubert

In October of 2005, Orson Scott Card launched Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show—an online magazine featuring spectacular science fiction and fantasy tales, gorgeous professional artwork, and an original story from Card’s Ender universe in every issue. Less than a year later, he named SF bad man Edmund Schubert editor of the now-quarterly ‘zine. A new anthology compiles a selection of fantastic stories from IGMS (written by Tim Pratt, David Lubar, David Farber, among others), as well as all of the scenes from the Enderverse.

I honestly don’t know what else to say. I’ve been waiting for an interview like this for four years. Enjoy!


Alethea Kontis: How did you meet Orson Scott Card?

Edmund Schubert: In the summer of 2004 we were both in Antarctica, at McMurdo Station. Orson had been invited down by the American commander to do a reading and signing, and I happened to be in the area researching the mating habits of snowflakes for a BBC documentary. At dinner that first night, it turned out we both had a taste for fire-roasted penguin. But there was only one left in the station’s larder so the commander made us arm-wrestle for it.

AK: How did you get the gig as IGMS editor?

ES: I won the penguin arm-wrestling contest. Orson really wanted that last penguin pretty badly, so he said, “How about I make you the most powerful man in the world and hire you to edit my online magazine?” I was tempted. Being an editor had been a lifelong dream of mine for almost four years. When I found out just how extensive the god-like powers of being an editor were, I knew that penguin was as good as his.

AK: What are the best and most challenging parts of your job?

ES: At first, the biggest challenge was learning to read. But once I realized I didn’t have to know how to read in order to be an editor, I just settled in and had fun with it. At this point I‘d say the most challenging thing is figuring out what to do with all the money. You wouldn’t believe how much money editors make, especially in the field of short fiction. When my wife and I had to build a new room over the garage to hold all the money, I thought I was going to go crazy. It was terribly inconvenient.

The best part of the job? I’d have to say doing interviews like this. The opportunity to open up and share my innermost thoughts without having to worry about being judged is exactly what my therapist says I need.

AK: How does IGMS work?

ES: You buy it, you read it, you love it. Pretty basic, really. Probably you should start by logging onto the Web site. It also has pretty pictures (no extra charge).

AK: How do you choose the stories for the magazine?

ES: It starts with my cat, Patches. We call him Mr. Patches now because people always assume that cats are female and he was getting a little gender-confused, showing up in evening gowns and that sort of thing. The other cats were starting to make fun of him and when the mice started mocking him too, I knew we had to take action. But to get back to the point, Mr. Patches is in charge of the first round of decision making. I print out all of the manuscripts, fling them across the floor, and then he plops down in the pile and starts gnawing on them. At first I thought it was random, but it turns out he was chewing up the bad ones at a prodigious rate, so I put him on the payroll.

The second round of reading is done by my children, Roweena and Uganda, who are 164 and 99 (we started counting in months when they were born and it was so cute that we just couldn’t bring ourselves to stop). Anyway, they take the rest of the stories to school and let their friends pick out their favorites. This tends to slow down the process in the summer months, but we live in an imperfect world and have to make the best of what we’ve got. It’s either that or I to learn how to read, and nobody wants that.

AK: What are the pros and cons of having an online magazine?

ES: The pros are the people who write for the magazine. There is an organization called the SFWA, which sets certain minimum levels of pay and distribution to qualify as a professional magazine, and IGMS meets those criteria, so the writers are considered pros.

The cons are the weekend-long meetings that take place in cities across America where people go to meet their favorite writers, buy editors drinks at the bar (my favorite part), play games, and dress up in costumes. I think the official term is “conventions,” but somewhere along the line somebody decided it was too big a word so they shortened it down to “cons.”

By the way, this was an odd, one-off kind of question. What’s up with that?

AK: How were the stories chosen for the print anthology?

ES: At first I was going to try to balance things out; you know, a certain number from each issue, a certain number of SF stories and a certain number of fantasy stories. But then I got this box in the mail. All it contained was a freshly roasted penguin and the business card of one of the authors from issue four. Once word got around that he was going to have two stories in the anthology (you’re welcome, Mr. Eric James Stone), suddenly the penguins started coming out of the woodwork. At that point it simply became a question of who could season the penguin the best, who used the most creativity on concocting penguin-based meals (who knew penguin ala mode was best with rum-raisin ice cream?), and who simply could get their hands on the most penguins (high tally was 16, by James Maxey, who would have never made the anthology otherwise).

AK: Tell us about Side Show Freaks.

ES: Wow, talk about a loaded question. I think I’m going to go for the unexpected and reply with a straight answer. Side Show Freaks is my blog. Usually I write about things related to either IGMS or writing in general, but once in a while I’ll also delve into personal things. For instance, I rode the length of the Sky Line Drive and part of the Blue Ridge Parkway on my bicycle last summer and posted a few photos from the trip.

I think my favorite thing on Side Show Freaks is running essays from the authors in each new issue of the magazine. I invite them to write about the creation of their stories (much the way I did in the IGMS anthology). I have always been fascinated by the stories behind the stories. Plus, it was a good way to trick the authors into writing extra words for me with out having to pay them extra money get extra exposure for these valued authors and their brilliant stories.

AK: Will this be a yearly event?

ES: I try to post to Side Show Freaks about twice a week. No one would read a blog that only had one post each year. Again, an odd, one-off kind of question. Where do you come up with these?

AK: There are certain authors you’ve published more than once or twice…do you have a “stable”?

ES: Wow, that’s really sweet. It’s been a long time since anyone called me “stable”–or even used that word in a sentence that had anything to do with me…

AK: If you could be any superhero, who would it be?

ES: Penguin Man, Penguin Man,
Does whatever a penguin can
Swims in seas, full of ice
Catches fish, just like Japanese fishing trawlers chasing whales in clear violation of international law but hiding behind the flimsy veneer of “science”
Watch out

Here comes the Penguin Man.