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Editor Interview: Fafnir: Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research

Q: Describe what you publish in 25 characters or less.

A: speculative fiction study

Q: What other current publications (or publishers) do you admire most?

A: I admire all publishers and publications that encourage rigorous, creative, interdisciplinary research and are committed to making it as freely and easily accessible as possible. This is difficult, of course, because producing a high-quality journal requires resources. But I would argue it is not impossible during the age of online publishing, and with the help of such supporting structures as academic societies, like our FINFAR. Scholarship-funded researchers should also be encouraged to make editing such journals part of their work plans. This will enable us to move towards more equal-opportunity, less exploitative models of academic publishing.

Q: If you publish writing, who are your favorite writers? If you publish art, who are your favorite artists?

A: We publish scholarship on SFF writing, art, and related phenomena. So, I'm not sure if this question is applicable to us. It would be a bit embarrassing to name my favorite scholars since I have worked (or might hopefully one day work) with many of them!

Q: What sets your publication apart from others that publish similar material?

A: Our scope is, in a sense, more specific and, in another sense, much wider than that of most other academic journals. Unlike most journals publishing literary scholarship, we are focused on a specific genre or group of genres: speculative fiction. In our understanding, it is an umbrella term for science fiction, fantasy, horror, magical realism, and all adjacent or hybrid genres related to them. That is, we do not publish research on realist or mimetic fiction at all, because most literary journals already have an unspoken bias for focusing that. We're here to level the playing field! On the other hand, we are not only a literary journal, but welcome scholarship on speculative works in all media: graphic novels and comics, films and TV series, digital and other games, fan writing, or even visual art. Speculative fiction is a very transmedial phenomenon, after all!

Q: What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?

A: To check the submission guidelines before submitting! We only publish twice a year, so some of the authors have to wait for a rather long time until we have a chance to look at their texts. It is such as shame if, after a six-month wait, the only comment we can offer is that the paper is much, much too long, and we have to reject it just because of that. I would also encourage scholars of all levels to find new, fresh, original points of view. We can only be, at best, lukewarm about a well-written text if it puts forward an argument we have come across before. Personally, I like to champion the articles that are a bit more "out there" - but unfortunately, the co-editors and peer-reviewers don't always agree. So, it's important to strike a good balance between innovative but rigorously argued viewpoints!

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: I am mostly just going to repeat my previous replies here, but for me, an ideal submission offers something completely new and exciting to the field of speculative fiction research, is a pleasant, thought-provoking to read, and follows the submission guidelines to a T. These are difficult asks, though! It's not every issue I get genuinely excited about a manuscript, but when I do, those are always the papers that get through the review round and make a good addition to the next issue.

Q: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?

A: The slow publication schedule sometimes comes as a surprise to the writers, even though it is clearly announced on our website. We, indeed, only publish twice a year, around Midsummer and Christmas, and the papers for the following issue are due around the same time - at the end of June and December. This is mostly because the peer-review takes a lot of time, and our editorial staff is mostly made up of volunteers. It is rare that any of us can dedicate full workdays for Fafnir alone. We also get a rather astonishing number of submissions that are not related to science fiction, fantasy, or other speculative genres in any way - in spite of us declaring ourselves the "Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research"!

Q: How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?

A: We don't require cover letters and do not check the writers' academic experience. But we do screen for plagiarism from time to time. The quality and integrity of the scholarship is all that matters, and we are proud to have published texts by established professors and PhD students alike.

Q: If you publish writing, how much of a piece do you read before making the decision to reject it?

A: I'd say I read 80 % of submissions from beginning to end. I only reject manuscripts at a quick glance if they are clearly outside the scope of our journal or have so many language mistakes it makes the argumentation completely incomprehensible. A couple of times, I have also encountered a submission that is blatantly offensive to some group of people. Of course, I don't want to waste my time by reading something like that - and neither does any of our readers, I'm sure.

Q: What additional evaluations, if any, does a piece go through before it is accepted?

A: The most promising article manuscripts are subjected to double-blind peer-review, which is ultimately what we base our publication decision on. It is a bit of a coin-flip - only about half of the papers sent to reviewers get accepted, or perhaps a bit more than that. But we also publish other types of texts: book reviews, essays, conference reports, public lectures, interviews, and more. These are not peer-reviewed; we only offer our editorial comments, which usually concern the structure and the language for the most part.

Q: What is a day in the life of an editor like for you?

A: Like I mentioned, Fafnir is not a full-time job to any of our editors. I am a scholarship-funded postdoctoral researcher specializing on speculative fiction and cognitive literary studies. Editing colleagues' work on speculative fiction is just a natural side-track to that. The nature of the job is also very different in different phases of the publication cycle. First, it's a lot of reading, when we go through all the submissions. I think the most we've had for one issue has been 50; usually the number is around 20. Then, there's a long period when the work is pretty slow - all we need to do is to communicate with the reviewers and the authors about the edits. The final stages of putting the issue together is, again, pretty work-intensive - that's when I might have to dedicate several full workdays just to proofreading and checking for other mistakes. And then, once the issue is out, we have to advertise it, and start on a new cycle as quickly as possible.

Q: How important do you feel it is for publishers to embrace modern technologies?

A: I think online publishing is absolutely the key to making a wide range of research accessible to all - to colleagues, to students, and to the wider public. This is especially crucial to fields that might have been considered more marginal for a long time. In the context of literary studies, this absolutely includes research of such "commercial" or "popular" genres as science fiction and fantasy. The internet makes it easier and quicker to spread new research, but it also enables archiving and finding swathes of older research. So, for the academia, these technologies are a big time-saver and equalizer.

Q: How much do you edit an accepted piece prior to publication?

A: It depends a lot on the manuscript! Some researchers are brilliant writers and only need tiny little spell-checks and polishes here and there - but those are pretty few and far in between. We also publish a lot of work by non-native English-speakers, and in those cases, fixing the language often requires significantly more work. There is a line in the sand, beyond which we rather ask the author to have their piece language-checked by a professional, and only start working on it once it has been resubmitted. In general, the less there is to edit, the better odds the paper has to get published quickly. The authors are always in charge of checking the page proofs for themselves, though, so the final word and the final responsibility lies on them.

Q: Do you nominate work you've published for any national or international awards?

A: No, our authors retain rights to their works, and so, it's up to them to nominate and publicize their own writing. We are happy if they do!