Carmelo Rafalá has journeyed across the globe, and has lived and studied in both the US and South Africa. His own fiction has appeared in Neon Literary Journal, Jupiter SF, Estronomicon, and the British anthology, The West Pier Gazette and Other Stories. He lives on the south coast of England with his wife and daughter. He is the editor and publisher of Immersion Press.
Charles Tan: Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, what made you decide to start Immersion Press?
Carl Rafala: Hi! You’re welcome. And thanks for asking me!
I was sitting with some friends in the field and we were lamenting what appeared to be the near extinction of the small press. Small presses are the life-blood of the genre, they are places where you can find good stories that bigger houses are afraid to touch. Moreover, bigger houses insist their titles be outrageously fat. In reality, some of the best speculative fiction has been of the short novel variety, and it was time to help bring some of that work out there today into the world.
CT: One of your initial releases is The Immersion Book of SF. Why start with an anthology? What’s the appeal of the format for you?
CR: I love the multi-author anthology. It’s a great cross-section of what’s going on across the genre today. The different approaches and forms taken by the authors is exciting and so each story potentially offers something different for each reader. I also put this anthology together because I wanted an ‘in house’ anthology to be a representation of the type of fiction Immersion Press offers.
We actually didn’t start with “The Immersion Book of SF”; our first title was “Fun With Rainbows” by Gareth Owens.
CT: In your introduction, you stated that you wanted a themeless anthology. What were the difficulties in creating a themeless book? What did you look for in the chosen stories?
CR: The only real difficulty in a themeless anthology is the placement of each story. What story you open the book with is just as important as the story you end it with, and then threading the other stories through the book in an order that created a sense of flow…that took a bit of doing. And lots of beer!
What I was looking for when soliciting work was simple–I wanted stories that knocked me flat, took me places I’d never been before and then brought me back, ready for another journey. I wanted to be emotionally engaged as well as wowed by ideas and technology. I believe I got that.
CT: What was your criteria in selecting the contributors?
CR: My initial criteria was simple: ‘Who’s out there? Right now?’ I’ve read some of the authors before, and loving their work made some of my choices simple. I also received a few strong recommendations by authors and friends in the field. I wanted, most of all, diversity. Each author had to be doing something different.
CT: What was the editing process like?
CR: *Bangs head on desk*
CT: As a publisher, what are the challenges in launching your own imprint? How does this complement and conflict with the other duties you have to take on, such as being the editor of The Immersion Book of SF? Do you prefer simply being the publisher, or simply being the editor?
CR: Well, both roles offer different challenges. I took on the role of editor as there really was no one available. Many colleagues were involved in other projects. But I am glad to say that author Gareth D Jones is, at this moment, compiling and editing our next anthology, “The Immersion Book of Steampunk”.
However, having thought about it, being only the publisher would free me up to do more administrative duties that need doing. But there you have it. No situation is perfect.
CT: How have your experiences traveling around the world influenced the way you read/interpret/edit a text?
CR: I believe it has. Growing up in a Sicilian family certainly makes for an interesting world view. So has living in South Africa and England. I love cultures and cultural perspectives. Each group of people look at fiction and its forms and uses in different ways, and each way is based upon that group’s history and identity.
CT: Why science fiction?
CR: Science fiction, in all its forms and sub-categories, is the perfect medium for exploring the human condition. If you want straight-up adventure, nothing wrong with that. And if you want reflective, introspective viewpoints of Self in regard to community, or if you want external examinations of greater humanity as a whole, science fiction does that in a way that–if done correctly–can touch upon such issues that might normally make one feel uncomfortable.
Science fiction, while fun and exciting, is also an excellent microscope.
CT: Anything else you want to plug?
CR: A novella by Lavie Tidhar, so stay tuned.
The Immersion Book of Steampunk
And Gareth Owens, Gareth Owens, Gareth Owens!