Interview with Charles Christian (Urban Fantasist)


My guest today is Charles Christian, the publisher of the Urban Fantasist blog, which is also the home of Urban Fantasist Publishing and the Grievous Angel poetry and flash fiction webzine. Visit www.scifi-and-fantasy.land or http://www.urbanfantasist.com or http://www.grievousangel.org – they’ll all take you to the same place! He is also the author of three SFF&H books and short story collections, as well as the bestselling genre fiction writing guide The 12 Rules.

SCy-Fy: An easy one (perhaps) to start with – tell me about a typical blogging day.

CC: This is difficult as for my day-job I run a tech newsletter and blog so my SFF blogging has to fight for a slice of my time amid all the alarms and excursions associated with the tech business. Ars Longa, Vita Brevis and all that. When human cloning becomes available, please put me down for a couple of copies, then I might also have more time to write my books.

SCy-Fy: I’ve just added you to the waiting list. What are your future initiatives for the blog?

CC: Having been involved in running websites and blogs for nearly 20 years, I’m aware that you cannot stand still but have to keep reinventing yourself to remain current. With Urban Fantasist, there has always been an element of “I know what it is NOT meant to be but I’m not so sure how to define what it should be.” Inevitably you pursue what you think is going to be a great idea only to find it is a cul-de-sac and you need to go back to the drawing board. 2014 has been a big year for redefining what the site is about and there are still some tweaks to be made.

SCy-Fy: Looking forward 3-5 years, what do you think will be the major challenges for SFF blogging?

CC: Content curation. There are way too many sites (particular review sites and Goodreads type posters) writing about the same stuff – but nobody has the time to read it all. You need to devise content that will be fresh, novel, informative – and also fun, rather than a chore – for you to write and others to read. Infotainment is the way ahead. My site has been running for three years now and when I started, I was concerned about writing material potential readers might want to read. Now I just write about stuff that intrigues me and which I think like-minded souls will also be amused by. I must be doing something right as my readership numbers are steadily increasing.

SCy-Fy: Good to hear. Any advice for bloggers, Charles? For reviewers? For writers?

CC: I’ve no advice for reviewers as I personally hate reviewing books – you have my fullest admiration and there’s nothing I can tell you that you don’t already know. As for bloggers, the danger is trying to find the time if you want to combine the two: you never finish that book, because you are too busy blogging – or you never start that book because you are too busy blogging! For writers however, the important fact to always have in mind is that the publishing industry has changed for good and you need to have a social media/blog presence to market yourself because if you don’t, nobody else is going to do it for you. But if you are too busy blogging, where do you find the time for writing? It’s a vicious circle.

SCy-Fy: Just between us – your secret list of useful resources?

CC: I’m terrible. I never bookmark anything. I just blunder along and trust to Google that I can find whatever I need. I suppose Twitter and American blogs like TechCrunch and Slate are my main go-to resources.

SCy-Fy: Dangers in SFF blogging?

CC: There are a lot of sensitive (OK, overtly politically-correct, single issue fanatic) people out there who are quick to take offence where none was ever intended. If you have read Laura J Mixon’s report on the “Requires Hate” aggressive blogging/trolling affair (http://laurajmixon.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/A-Report-on-Damage-Done-by-One-Individual-Under-Several-Names.pdf) within the SFF community, you can see how vicious blogging can get with hate mountains being built out of misunderstanding molehills. Personally, my only encounter with this was inadvertently – it really was a typo – offending a fan of Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues. (A once popular beat combo, M’Lord.)

SCy-Fy: I’ll look them up. Apart from the latest pop music, what keeps you going in hard times?

CC: Chocolate and my wife – Jane – who is not a particular fan of SFF but makes a fantastic, critical but objective editor.

SCy-Fy: Favourite novel read in 2014?

CC: I spent so much time doing research on story ideas in 2014 that I hardly read any long-form books, just lots of short stories, however my favourite novel would have to be The Peripheral by William Gibson, which sees him going back to his cyberpunk roots.

SCy-Fy: Which upcoming films are you most looking forward to seeing?

CC: Along with Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens in December 2015, the movie I’m most looking forward to seeing is the new Mad Max, Fury Road. But, there again, I’ve always been a huge fan of space opera and post-Apocalyptical urban fantasy.

SCy-Fy: Any last words?

CC: If you want to write or blog – start doing it now. Never wait for some perfect moment when you finally have the time, have escaped the day job, have completed that MA in creative writing or whatever before you start, because life will inevitably throw some crap in your direction and disrupt your plans. (Says a man who somehow let a 25 year gap creep into his creative writing career.)

SCy-Fy: I better not keep you any longer, then. Thanks for your time, Charles.

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