Congratulations are due to Mark Siegel, whose story "Ghost Writer" in issue 4 of This Way Up was picked by Dan Damon of BBC Radio 4 to illustrate a point about the authenticity of artistic works. Anyone who tuned in to Broadcasting House on Sunday 11 August will have heard Mark reading from his story on air. (To read the story in full, go to our archives page.)
The Broadcasting House piece was sparked off by an argument on another Radio 4 programme, The Message on 9 August, about Tom Clancy's recent hit novel Breaking Point (and others, it turns out) being written by 'unknown' writer Steve Perry -- who has in fact written many novelisations, in addition to other works on behalf of Tom Clancy, as an online search of Amazon.co.uk will confirm.
Maybe the point was badly made, but it's a valid one nevertheless. Should publishers try to trick readers into thinking they're getting a novel by Clancy, when in reality it's written (however convincingly) by someone else? In my view the answer is no, but such dissembling is, I'm sorry to say, part of commercial life.
Whatever the publishers insist, this is a typical ploy to fool less discerning customers. Some years ago I happened to be in a discount electrical goods store, and I noticed a pair of hi-fi loudspeakers on display. The manufacturer was at that time well known for producing good value budget consumer electronics. These loudspeakers were two-way units: a bass/midrange driver taking up most of the cabinet, and a small tweeter placed above, behind an aluminium directional extrusion.
The speakers looked impressive, and conformed to the current styling of their competitors. But on closer inspection, the aluminium extrusions were revealed as just that, stuck on the front of the cabinets with nothing behind them. These loudspeakers were in fact one-way units, with cheap aluminium heat-sinks applied cosmetically to fool customers into thinking they were buying something they weren't.
If suppliers, manufacturers, publishers, advertisers, etc., were honest, they would not try to trick people in this way. In the case of Tom Clancy's publishers, if their argument is that the product is just as good as the 'genuine' article (which, according to The Message, it is), there's no need to conceal its true provenance.
That's it folks, rant over. Enjoy TWU5; Issue 6 will be online around January 2003.
Paul S. Jenkins, September 2002
They say that the fourth issue of a magazine is the turning point, that many well-intentioned publications fail at or after issue 3. To outsiders it might seem as if TWU is following this pattern, what with delays to the publication schedule, lengthening response times and lack of maintenance of the website. Not to mention that reader-responses -- by way of the rating form for stories -- have not yet been passed on to authors, not even from issue 1 (though I hope to rectify this shortly). Payment for authors, however, has always gone out within a week of publication.
This Way Up is, currently, a sole endeavour, apart from the initial design of the website itself, and the title-graphics accompanying stories and articles (both courtesy of my web designers, Phantom Graphics). Everything else is done by me, ye editor. But I have a life outside TWU, as well as a day job, and so there's a limited time I can devote to this project.
Nevertheless TWU is ongoing, and I intend to keep it so for a good while yet. I enjoy reading submissions, though this is time-consuming. I have received offers of help in this department, but I believe that to keep TWU as a showcase of the kind of speculative fiction I personally enjoy, I should continue to read all submissions myself.
I'll also continue to respond to all submissions personally, something I find most authors appreciate. My reasons for rejecting a story may sometimes be perverse or inexplicable, but I feel that an author should be given some indication why a story is rejected, however vague, rather than a bald and uninformative 'no'.
As for reader responses, I'm considering adding a forum of some kind for readers to comment publicly on TWU and its contents, possibly using one of the free mailing-list providers such as Yahoo Groups. This would allow authors and readers to engage directly with each other if they so wish. Anyone with views on this idea, either for or against, please email me here and I may include a selection of letters in issue 5, due online in July.
Meanwhile, enjoy the stories in TWU4, which in my opinion are some of the best TWU has published. The issue may have been delayed, but I hope it's been worth the wait.
Paul S. Jenkins, April 2002
We're into September already, and only now is the third issue of This Way Up -- originally due in July -- online and available. To all readers who have constantly checked the website to see if TWU3 was actually going to happen, and to all the authors who may have wondered if their accepted work would ever be posted -- I can only apologise. TWU3 is up now, and all I can say is that I'll try to do better next time. TWU4 is scheduled for January 2002.
At present online fiction seems to be undergoing a shakedown. Several webzines have closed, or been put on what's euphemistically termed 'indefinite hiatus.' It's regrettable, but having edited three issues of TWU I can now appreciate the work involved. Digital Catapult (which published a story of mine) has closed. Eggplant Productions, publisher of Jackhammer (which published an article of mine) is undergoing some kind of transformation. It's all part of the current downsizing of internet enterprises, as people struggle to find out how to capitalise on the World Wide Web.
The demise of fiction, and in particular speculative fiction, is often talked about in similar terms, but I believe there's no need to fear. Witness the world-wide phenomenon that is Harry Potter (see review in this issue). J. K. Rowling's exciting tales set in a very English boarding school (aside from the fact that it's co-ed -- and the small detail concerning the subjects of study at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry) have taken the world by storm. And not just children; I've seen adults on trains reading Harry Potter with no trace of embarrassment.
Last Christmas, on Boxing Day, in an unprecedented piece of scheduling, BBC Radio 4 broadcast the whole of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, unabridged. Stephen Fry's masterly reading lasted over eight hours without a break. For readers, speculative fiction is a special kind of escapism. J. K. Rowling has ensured that such escapism is not lost to the next generation.
I commend to you this issue of This Way Up. We have some horror, some fantasy and some science fiction, as well as some non-fiction, from the United States, Canada and Scotland. We welcome back Edward Morris and Colin Harvey, both of whose work has appeared here before. We have more stories lined up for the next issue, but there's still a shortage of non-fiction and science fiction from anywhere, and a shortage of stories of any kind from the UK.
Paul S. Jenkins, September 2001
The second issue of THIS WAY UP : Speculative Fiction Online has a fantastical and horrific bent. This is more by chance than design. The seven stories presented here are simply the best, in my opinion, of those submitted. My original intention for TWU was that it should favour science fiction (because I do), but these stories just cried out to be published. The guidelines remain the same, however: TWU will give preference to science fiction.
This issue TWU publishes its first commissioned non-fiction article. Colin Harvey's A Sea of Voices looks at the plight of the aspiring author, and the benefits, or otherwise, of participating in a writers' workshop. (I don't necessarily agree with everything Colin says in his piece, but I'd like to endorse his recommendation for Critters, an excellent online speculative fiction workshop run with astonishing efficiency by Andrew Burt.)
If you'd like to air your comments on Colin's article, please write to email@example.com, and with luck the Letters page will have something in it.
The first issue of THIS WAY UP : Speculative Fiction Online was available for over four months. It showcased five stories by authors from the UK and across the pond.
At the end of each story was a link to Rate this Story, which took the reader to a mailform for comments to be passed on to the author. There was also a request that the reader include a number, from 1 (dreadful) to 5 (excellent). The server that hosts TWU doesn't provide the facility to add thumbwheels, drop-down boxes or radio buttons, so the reader was asked to type the number into the text box, along with his or her comments.
The rating and comments form has been hardly used. Whether this is a reflection of the number of page views the stories receive as a whole, or the unwillingness of readers to comment, or any unfriendliness of the form, I don't know. There are no webstats installed in TWU.
What I do know is that most authors appreciate feedback, and this is what led to the rating form. But the results so far haven't produced sufficient data to give a meaningful overall rating to each story, so no ratings appear with the stories that have been archived. All comments received will, however, be forwarded to the authors.
At this point I'd like to express appreciation to those readers who did rate and comment: thank you, you know who you are.
I'm considering removing the rating form from issue 3 onwards, unless I can find some way of encouraging its usage.
But for now, read these seven stories -- I hope you enjoy them. You could, if you felt so inclined, rate them and submit your comments.
Issue 3 will be online in July 2001.
Paul S. Jenkins, March 2001
When I decided to edit my own fiction magazine, I had little idea what an inspiring and encouraging experience it would turn out to be. The response to This Way Up's entry into the fiction market has been positive -- as a relative newcomer to the world of short fiction, I found this a pleasant surprise.
Our submission guidelines have appeared in numerous market listings, including several to which they weren't submitted. All this interest seems to have created some expectations; I hope that this, our inaugural issue, will begin to fulfil them.
It's been a pleasure working with authors and selecting what I consider excellent speculative fiction. The stories that make up most of TWU's first issue are stories that I genuinely admire. I sincerely hope that you, the readers, derive as much pleasure and satisfaction from them as I have.
I also hope you'll rate the stories for our authors, and leave your comments. The total rating will accompany each story when it goes into our four-month online archive, and the comments will be forwarded to the author.
If you have comments or queries about This Way Up itself, feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org -- from issue 2 onwards we hope to have a page for readers' feedback.
And one last plea for authors: you may notice that the non-fiction in this issue has been produced 'in house'; that's not how it was intended. We're keen to have non-fiction contributions, even though the main focus of This Way Up is speculative fiction. See the guidelines for our requirements.
But for now, get reading -- and let us know what you think.
Paul S. Jenkins, October 2000
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