Every now and then, I pester my creative colleagues with a few questions about their work. Most of these folks are friends, a few are secret enemies, and one has been blackmailing me for years.
I first met Melanie Meadors at the Writers Symposium at Gen Con, where she also connected with Marc Tassin and joined the Mechanical Muse team. Her entrée into Ragnarok Publications was more adorable, as both she and her husband secretly bought the other the privilege of a death scene in the Kaiju Rising, Ragnarok’s first anthology.
Both as a publicist and as editor, Melanie is one of the rising stars of independent publishing. Her latest project is Hath No Fury, currently raising funds on Kickstarter. The book is well on its way to initial funding and features an exciting list of stretch goals.
When you choose a theme like “kaiju” or “mechs,” are you looking to upcoming film and television and hoping for a boom? Or is there just “something in the air”?
When I was little, one of the local TV channels had Creature Double Feature on Sunday mornings. I loved these movies more than anything, except maybe Star Wars. At four years old, I was glued to my old Quasar set, watching Godzilla and Ghidorah and Jet Jaguar, Gamora, Gorgo, Mothra… I loved them all. Well, except for Rodan. He was kind of lame. I loved the stories, how humanity came together to try to defeat these monsters. My favorites were when Godzilla would come to help the planet, though. I think I kind of wanted to be the Monster Mistress or something. I used to imagine that I was alone on an island with these kaiju and would send them off on missions. Then, when I started watching Voltron, I felt the same way about giant robots. There is a power there that I think resonates with people. Humans may be small physically, but we have big brains and can build out way to a better tomorrow. We can build mechanical protection for ourselves.
When I saw the Kickstarter for Kaiju Rising, I knew I had to get involved with Ragnarok as a publisher. Not only did they have a Kaiju anthology, but they chose Bob Eggleton to do the cover. That to me showed they just knew the genre and would offer something special. And my instincts were correct!
So for me, at least, the excitement Ragnarok has for these kaiju and mech books isn’t about the current movie trends. It’s about a lifelong passion.
Voracious readers often move on to adult fare quite early. With that in mind, what’s the real difference between YA and adult fiction—especially since so many adults read YA?
I read both YA and adult fiction. When I was little, YA was just starting to become a thing, and really, I didn’t read much of it. When I was 12, I was reading Dean Koontz, Terry Brooks, Weis and Hickman, and Douglas Adams. I started reading more YA after the Harry Potter craze started, when I was in college (I’m sorry, nothing is sexier than seeing a college guy reading Harry Potter in the library…). I find that YA often—not always—reads a bit faster and deals a bit more with coming-of-age issues. But having said that, plenty of adult science fiction and fantasy deals with those issues as well. Look at Tad Williams’s Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series. Simon grows up in those books, and we as readers grow alongside him. The same with Robin Hobb’s Farseer series, or Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game (which is now shelved in both sections!). A lot of lighter fantasy books, like Anton Strout’s Spellmason books, are in the adult section but appeal a lot to teens as well because of their fast pace and humor. One could say length might have something to do with it, or voice, but really, I think that the major thing that separates YA from adult fiction is where it’s shelved in the store. I’ve been trying to answer this question myself for some time, because my own novel is on the line. I’ve found there is no clear-cut answer.
Why is important for men to read stories featuring women as protagonists?
To be absolutely frank, because they would be missing out on a hell of a lot of awesome fiction if they avoided it! I’ve heard a couple comments from people, when they see that Hath No Fury is an anthology of female protagonists, that it’s just more feminist crap with an agenda. This is so far from the case. When Joe Martin first presented me with the idea for this anthology, I said, “Yes, I would love to be your co-editor. But I want to choose the stories in here on the merit of quality—not just having female authors.” I know there are guys out there who write really awesome female characters, just like there are women out there who can write great men. I wanted to find the next Furiosa—a character I loved because she kicks ass, takes no names, yet is three-dimensional. She is also caring and nurturing of the young women in her care.
I am not going to go out and insult my male friends by answering this question with, “Oh, because men need to understand that women can be strong, too!” Any man worth his salt already knows this—all women can be strong, just like all men can be strong, in their own ways. It’s important for men to read stories featuring women because slightly more than half the people on this planet are women, and why would you want to miss out on their stories? However, less than half of the protagonists in fiction are women—far less. Google for some statistics, go to the book store and check it out, and you’ll see. If more men—and women—read books with female protagonists, then perhaps more publishers will publisher more books with them.
Men and women are equal but different. They have different hormones, they have a different way of dealing with things (and that range is broad and overlaps, of course). So by reading books with both male and female protagonists, a reader will experience the adventures in different ways. And that will help them solve problems in real life more efficiently as well, by being exposed to different ways of thinking.
Geek culture often seems glorious and horrible in equal measure. How does the toxic element of our people influence your publishing decisions?
I am answering this question on behalf of myself, and not speaking for Ragnarok as a whole in any sense—though I do speak about our process a bit when these things arise.
There is a lot of crap happening in our genre. There is also a lot of good stuff happening, and I would argue there is more good than bad. The bad often is louder and attracts more attention, but so many awesome things are coming about, sometimes even as a result of the bad things.
That being said, I do not want to welcome some of the foul aspects into my “home.” Because I do work one-on-one with our authors, I have a direct interest in keeping life pleasant, and that means not interacting with toxic people as much as possible. If I see that Ragnarok is talking to someone I know is a raging bigot, or if it’s someone who was involved in plagiarism or some big scandal that the other members of Ragnarok might not be aware of, I speak up. If it’s someone I’m having doubts about interacting with, if I know them as a diva, I say something. From there, we have a discussion and figure out what is best to do. There are so many wonderful, talented people in our industry. Why would a company want to work with jerks or with someone that would bring them down?
This is cautionary to all authors. Editors, agents, publishers all talk. They talk to each other. If you are a complete jerk, if you have tried to cheat, chances are that word has gotten around. Black lists exist, and it can be very hard to get off of them once they are on. So just make sure that when you are about to take an action, you’ve weighed the consequences. You can do whatever you want, but be sure you’re prepared for the ramifications.
So, toxicity does affect things. There is definitely discussion behind the scenes, whatever the end result is. We at Ragnarok have not always agreed on things, but there is always discussion and in the end we do what is right for the company. We make conscious business decisions. I don’t think that any business can really ignore a lot of the issues out there without alienating a section of their audience. For me, I’d much rather keep the awesome side of our industry going strong rather than risk pandering to the toxic side. Communication goes a long way to make that happen.
Booksellers label shelves and in that way also label readers. Using as many book-shelf labels as you think appropriate, what kind of reader are you?
I’d have to say I’m a Young Fantasy Science Adult Humor SciFi Gift.
What are your ten desert island novels?
The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien
Alchemystic, by Anton Strout (which really did help me in a desert island type situation)
The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
Neuromancer, by William Gibson
Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton
Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Watchmen by Alan Moore
Follow Melanie on Twitter and keep apprised of her latest projects at Ragnarok and Mechanical Muse.