Lies for Fun and Profit: Unidentified Funny Objects

Welcome to the first interview in my “Writers tell Lies for Fun and Profit” series.  The long explanation for what’s going on is here.  The short version is this: I ask boring questions and get entertaining lies in return.

This time around we’ve got an interview with Alex Shvartsman, the man behind the upcoming Unidentified Funny Objects anthology.  The table of contents already includes Jake Kerr, Mike Resnick and Jennifer Pelland.  I have to confess, I’m a little frightened of what a humor piece from Pelland looks like, but in the “going to have to get my hands on it and see for myself” sort of way.

That’s it for intro.  Make sure to taunt harass interrogate Alex further in the comments.

What sparked your interest in putting together an anthology of humorous fiction?

There I was, juggling a full time job, family, and a fledgling career as a science fiction writer, but something was still missing. So I wondered – how can I commit myself to an insanely time-consuming project that is extremely unlikely to turn a profit and yet is guaranteed to cut deeply into my long-standing hobby of sleeping for at least six hours a night? Launching a pro-paying indie anthology was the obvious answer, so I went ahead and did that.

Why were you the right person to spearhead this project?

Why, what have you heard? Is this about me ruling over a death panel of Nazgul-like associate editors with an iron fist? Retaliating to the really bad submissions by sending the writers my own trunked stories? Sending out personal rejections in three codas and a poem? Allowing slush readers to compose epic poetry about the submissions? You shouldn’t believe all the things you read on the Internet.

No, I only became an editor because I met all the qualifying criteria: chiseled good looks, ability to read at or above fifth grade level, a +3 modifier to a saving throw roll against brain damage caused by reading the worst of the slush, and the mean streak required to crush so many hopes and dreams of aspiring writers on the daily basis.

What’s the most unexpected thing to happen since you started work on UFO?

People gave me money.

A couple of weeks ago I launched a Kickstarter campaign for Unidentified Funny Objects, hoping to raise an additional $5,000 in order to buy more stories, spend some dough on advertising, and avoid eating Ramen noodles for the next year in order to cover all the costs of putting together this book on my own.

And people actually gave me money. Turns out, I am not the only one who thinks that an anthology of humorous SF/F is something the world needs. As of the time I’m typing these words over 60 amazing individuals pledged nearly $1800 toward funding UFO.

Of course, Kickstarter is a harsh mistress. The way they have things set up is, if the project doesn’t reach its funding goal then I get nothing. Not even a consolation prize. So here I am, asking people to pre-order the book via Kickstarter (or check out other fine rewards I’m offering). Because I really dislike eating Ramen noodles.

What advice do you have for other people who might be interested in doing similar projects?

Lie down. After a little while, your desire to do this might go away.

If it doesn’t go away then make damn sure that you surround yourself with awesome people who can help you before you start, because it’s too great an undertaking to carry out on your own.

Treat writers well by offering them a courtesy of reasonable pay, fair contract, and fast response times. There are many awesome anthology concepts out there, but some publishers don’t want to pay much of anything, want podcast and movie rights thrown in for free, and expect each of their contributors to make them a sandwich. Me? I pay pro rates, respond to submissions in a day or two, and use a clear, short contract that favors the writer. I still want the sandwich though.

Make sure you’re able to fund the project ahead of time. In order to obtain sufficient monies you could release a jinn from the bottle, use alchemy to convert led into gold, build a time machine and bet on yesterday’s horse races, or merry and subsequently divorce a Kardashian. But if you really love your project idea, go for it. I can personally vouch that editing an anthology is an absolute blast. Even if it is expensive. But you know what’s not expensive?

Supporting an awesome anthology you will want to read anyway on Kickstarter. Go on, try it. I will even make it easier for you by giving you a large button to click:

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7 thoughts on “Lies for Fun and Profit: Unidentified Funny Objects

  1. Alex, is it true that Jake Kerr wrote something so funny that you had to take out a special insurance policy in case someone died from laughing while reading your anthology?

    • You know, I tried. I really did. I even went to those Lloyds of London people.

      They’ll insure someone against accidental death by a fallen Sputnik satellite (true story!) and other improbable things, but they won’t touch UFO with a ten foot probing stick.

      “Are you crazy?” they told me upon reading Jake Kerr’s FREE short story (worth every penny!) at http://www.ufopub.com/twitter “We would go bankrupt paying out on the claims against this thing! We’ve got half a mind to classify it as a weapon of mass hilarity and inform the authorities!”

      So I pointed behind them and shouted “Look! The Queen!” While they turned around and adjusted their monocles and top hats I got out of there, fast.

      So, no insurance. But I know several businessmen from New Jersey who will visit any surviving relatives and persuade them to drop legal action against us on account that the reader had a weak heart and really should’ve known better. So it’s all the reader’s own fault. Capiche? All at a fraction of the cost.

      And sure, they may not be considered upstanding citizens in some circles, but at least they aren’t insurance salesmen.

  2. Is it also true that you are publishing UFO in a very carefully staged release cycle, just one story at a time, as an extra precaution to ensure that that nobody accidentally sees two stories together at once? Clearly the ramifications of such an exposure would be dire.

    And what of the rumor about custom printing on polarized electronic paper, so that no innocent bystanders who might happen to glance over a reader’s shoulder will be needlessly harmed?

    Having noted the concerns above, I must say that I was pleased to also learn that the book includes a custom carboard pop-up Hilarity Containment Booth for further protection of the humorless masses.

    Clearly you are one to be lauded, Mr. Shvartsman, while vast sums of money (in small unmarked bills only, please) are heaped upon your gilded feet.

  3. Mr. Shvartsman,
    Is it also true that you are publishing UFO in a very carefully staged release cycle, just one story at a time, as an extra precaution to ensure that that nobody accidentally sees two stories together at once? Clearly the ramifications of such an exposure would be dire.

    And what of the rumor about custom printing on polarized electronic paper, so that no innocent bystanders who might happen to glance over a reader’s shoulder will be needlessly harmed?

    Having noted the concerns above, I must say that I was pleased to also learn that the book includes a custom carboard pop-up Hilarity Containment Booth for further protection of the humorless masses.

    Clearly you are one to be lauded, Mr. Shvartsman, while vast sums of money (in small unmarked bills only, please) are heaped upon your gilded feet.

    • Mr. Ainscott,

      Thank you for posting a question so pertinent, it was worth asking twice.

      Our Research and Development department has worked diligently every other Thursday between the hours of 3:47pm and 4:12pm to solve the problem.

      At first they had great success in making crash test dummies not die of laughter while reading the book. Well, almost never. Then they moved on to lab mice, but PETA intervened and they had to release the mice and resort to experimenting on “Twilight” fans instead. PETA backed off except that one guy, but what does he know? He’s on Team Jacob.

      Once it became apparent that there is no viable solution to the problem, R&D did the only decent thing they could think of: passed the headache on to marketing.

      The marketing department moved quickly to announce that uncontrollable laughter, pants wetting, and possible death weren’t side effects. They were *features.*

      Our advertising campaigns in “Soldier of Fortune,” “Assassin Weekly” and “Reader’s Digest” are forthcoming.

  4. Mr Shvartsman,

    I’ve heard of Ironman, Caveman, human…

    What the hell is a Shvarts? Do you need to be studied? Praised as a superhero? Or should we be chasing you up a belltower with torches and pitchforks?

    • I will have you know that Shvartsman is a proud and ancient name. According to my research it’s based on a wily and dangerous animal which, in the wild, is the natural predator of several sub-species of the spotted Dutkiewicz.

      Such things are surely behind us today. It is 21st century after all (in most timezones). But you should still sleep with one eye open. Just in case.

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