Ira Nayman & The Dance
Ira Nayman & The Dance
By Angelique Fawns
Ira Nayman has a few claims to fame, one of which is being the editor of Amazing Stories, the very first science fiction magazine started in 1926 by Hugo Gernsback, from 2017 to 2020. He is a film producer, comedy writer, and has created a series of speculative fiction novels in the “Transdimensional Authority/Multiverse” series. One of his most recent projects is editing an anthology called The Dance, which focuses on how the choices you make influence your life. Submission close for this speculative short story collection on August 1st.
I sat down with this fellow Canadian creator to learn more.
AF: You started your career with comedy and then veered in the dark world of speculative fiction. How did that happen?
IN: Generally, I had been a fan of speculative fiction since I was a kid, so combining it with humor was a natural thing for me to do.
Specifically, I have a website called Les Pages aux Folles which features weekly social and political satire. About five years into the project, I thought it would be a good idea to collect some of the writing in print. The first collection, No Public Figure Too Big, No Personal Foible Too Small was a general collection of articles that got no appreciable public notice or readership. Around that time, one of the features that emerged from the website was the Alternate Reality News Service (ARNS), which sends reporters into other universes and has them write about what they find there. When I prepared to publish a second collection of pieces from the website, I decided to go with ARNS articles. The first book was called Alternate Reality Ain’t What It Used To Be. I have now self-published thirteen books in the series, most recently When the Soft Sciences Get Positively Runny.
I was happy writing for my website, with no interest in writing novels, but twelve years ago I heard of a contest for first novels that featured humorous science fiction. I thought: I can do this!Even better: the contest was sponsored by Terry Pratchett, who was also one of the judges! Say no more! I wrote my first novel, Welcome to the Multiverse (Sorry for the Inconvenience), to enter the contest. I didn’t win. However, a couple of years later, I was fortunate enough to find a publisher, Elsewhen Press. Over the years, they have published eight of my novels, most recently The Ugly Truth: The Multiverse Refugees Trilogy: <INSERT THIRD REPETITION WITH VARIATION OF PIE JOKE HERE>.
AF: Tell us about your time and involvement with Amazing Stories?
IN: It was – dare I say it? – amazing.
I had volunteered writing for the Amazing Stories website for a year and a half when Steve Davidson, the publisher, had to take leave of the project for personal reasons and asked me to run it. I said I would under one condition: if discussion of reviving Amazing Stories as a print magazine ever became a reality, I wanted to be part of the editorial team. Steve agreed. I edited the website for another year and a half; when Steve came back to it, he, Kermit Woodall and I began the process that would start up the magazine again. I wasn’t expecting to be chosen as editor, but I obviously didn’t decline when the invitation was made to me.
Enthusiasm for Amazing Stories was high, both among the public and within the writing community. I was able to work with some of the best writers in the field, which, as you can imagine, was very exciting. We may have only published seven issues in the almost three years that I was editor, but I cannot fully express how proud I am of them; it was a wonderful, lively version of the historical magazine. At the same time, I edited several Amazing Selects, which gave me the chance to work on longer projects with Allan Steele, David Gerrold and John Stith. It was delightful, and I couldn’t be happier with what we produced.
I will always be grateful to Steve for giving me this opportunity.
AF: The Dance is a very thought-provoking and interesting concept for an anthology. How did it come about?
IN: I had been writing stories about alternate realities for roughly fifteen years. I had used the form of fake news articles and novels for many of those years. To keep my writing from getting stale, I am always looking for new ways of expressing myself; I had the idea for a series of short stories that take place in three universes: multiverse triptychs. What would be the similarities and differences between stories set in unique universes? The triptych “When the Call Comes In,” which tells the story of an encounter between a Black man and three different configurations of police, was published in No Police = Know Future. The triptych “Goddess Given Advice,” which portrays a young woman asking a Goddess for advice and, depending upon the universe in which she lived, being helped by the Maiden, the Mother or the Crone, appeared in Dreaming the Goddess. And so on.
A few months after I left Amazing Stories, I started feeling regretful that I wasn’t able to continue editing. I am primarily a writer, but I enjoy working with other people’s words almost as much as my own. Since then, I have developed a variety of anthology projects at different publishers. This is the first one to become a reality.
This is how it actually came about: I was visiting my father at CummerLodge in Toronto, an elder care institution where he lives with an advanced case of Alzheimer’s Disease. Karen Dales, the publisher at Dark Dragon Press, was also there that day: as part of their Christmas celebration, bringing food to people who lived there. At this time, strict COVID protocols were in place: everybody who entered CummerLodge had to be rapid tested and wait fifteen minutes for the test results. I pitched the anthology to her in the waiting room there. She immediately agreed to publish it.
AF: Can you give us some hints as to what kind of stories are most likely to be successful?
IN: There are two elements in the call for submissions that must be included in the story: each story must explore how a choice that a character makes, or some chance event that happens to the character affects the course of their life; and, each story must take place in at least three universes. Most of the submissions have portrayed at least three universes, but some had to be rejected because they didn’t really explore the theme. You have to make sure both elements are represented in the story.
Beyond that, the call for submissions also says that I am looking for surprise (something original) and delight (something fun). We live in a dark world and we have enough dark art; I am always looking for something enjoyable. This is probably related to the fact that I write humor. This is not to say that stories can’t have a serious purpose; a lot of what I write is satire, so I am well aware of how humor can cut. It’s also true that I won’t reject a well-written story just because it’s dark, but if it comes down to a choice, light would be my preference.
Does that sound like a lot of balls to juggle? Sure! But so far it has resulted in some fantastic stories! As I try to do, I advise other writers to challenge themselves with something that looks hard: you don’t grow as an artist by always working within your comfort zone.
For anybody who is interested, the call for submissions can be found: http://www.darkdragonpublishing.com/anthosub.html. There are only a couple of weeks left, but if you have an idea you would like to write but don’t think you can in that time, contact me and we’ll see what we can arrange.
AF: You have dabbled in many realms of the creative world, including radio, film, publishing, and writing. What is your favorite and why? Any cautionary tales?
IN: I hate these “which of your children is your favourite?” questions! As I previously said, I am always trying to find new creative challenges. Film, television and radio are very different media to create in than prose, each with its strengths and weaknesses. I have loved each of them, and couldn’t really choose between them.
A caution I would give about screenwriting is that it was almost impossible to break into the industry when I was trying a couple of decades ago, and now, with the challenge of artificial intelligence, it is almost impossibler. The reason I moved away from screenwriting to prose was that, after a decade of pursuing it, I had no discernible path to a career (even though I had a Creative Writing undergrad degree that focused on script writing and I was a regular contributor to Creative Screenwriting magazine); when I look at the shelf where I keep all of the books and magazines I have written, had stories published in or edited (oh, come on: every writer has one!), I know I made the right decision.
AF: What is concerning you most for the future of publishing?
IN: In my most recent Alternate Reality News Service collection, there is a special report on Artificial Intelligence. (Yes, with capital letters.) It has already begun changing a lot of areas of our lives. It may be the final nail in the coffin of screenwriting. In the next few years, it may also challenge prose writers. I am heartened that most science fiction magazines have a strict no-AI policy. But when the technology improves to the point where AI-generated stories are indistinguishable from prose written by human beings, how will editors with even the best intentions ensure that the stories they publish were conceived and written by human beings? We may be looking at our technological obsolescence. Oy!
AF: What’s next for Ira Nayman?
IN: I will continue to write some of the things that I have been writing: the insatiable maw of my website (which turned twenty last year) will still need to be fed (I hope to continue to at least its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2027), and I have some additional novels (including my first young adult novel, Fraidy’s Amazeballs ARggles Adventure, which is currently under consideration at my publisher) to write. I will also embark upon new projects. For the first half of this year, I wrote a series of stories that take place at the Canadian National Exhibition, for example. Most recently, I finished a novella called Land of Wonders, which is a kind of 21st century Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This is the first of four novellas that will explore this fantastical realm; when I have written all of them, I hope to find a publisher for the complete series.
And I haven’t given up on film and TV. I have written two television pilots based on my novel series. These are long shots, but if a prose story I write actually gets a bit of a spotlight, some small measure of public attention, I am prepared to work with it!
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Angelique Fawns writes horror, fantasy, kids short stories, and freelance journalism. Her day job is producing promos and after hours she takes care of her farm full of goats, horses, chickens, and her family. She has no idea how she finds time to write. She currently has stories in Ellery Queen, DreamForge Anvil, and Third Flatiron’s Gotta Wear Eclipse Glasses. You can follow her work and get writing tips and submission hints at http://fawns.ca/.