An interview on the ESFS issues with the italian writer Debora Montanari

Debora Montanari

Cristian Tamaș : What’s your opinion on the new ESFS Board ? Is it a feminine or feminist ESFS Board with a male minority ? Putting ladies in charge equates automatically with “problem is solved” ?

Debora Montanari : I do not think so, the names are not enough to make a difference. Need confidence in the people behind the names and the desire to follow their work.

Cristian Tamaș : There was and there is an horizon of expectations concerning the new ESFS Board. Cheryl Morgan was keen and swift to mentioned it, “there appears to have been something of a revolution… for as long as I can remember, the European Science Fiction Society has been run by the same small group of people. Now we have a new committee…That’s a much more diverse group than before, and one I expect to be a lot more open and proactive”. What is your opinion ?

Debora Montanari : There is no doubt that good ideas come from a proactive team action, but I think that collaboration and get-in-the-game are the real strength of the action. Get-in-the-game means for me being able to recognize the openness and have the ability to apply it.

Cristian Tamaș : EUROCON was founded in 1972 by european professional SF writers and becamed a fans organization. What do you think the results are after 40 years ?

Debora Montanari : It is a bit lost in time. I do not see a new propulsive force, but in truth I can only speak about what I’m seeing in Italy and in short I’m seeing that Eurocon missing the lure.
I’ve seen the 2009 Eurocon in Fiuggi (Italy) there was few people, maybe the choice of location was wrong from city to hotel and probably there was not a good organization.
It is also true that in Italy the SF is a literature that does not produce a big business and everything that is part of it remains relegated to the so-called “niche”.
Anyway, Eurocon is losing the lure and lure should not be a whisper it must be a shout.

Cristian Tamaș : Do you think that a strategy concerning ESFS will appear ? Or everything is just perfect as it is, once a year some SF tourism and some Eurovision type awards ? Do you think we’ll see an assumed ESFS Board’s agenda, with clear objectives, with terms and priorities ?

Debora Montanari : I hope in a new strategy. Some SF tourism and some Eurovision type award are not enough. Many people working together to make the event memorable, but this is about the single events. I’m talking about the impact of the events in total their importance not only at European level but at the international level, need to increase the appeal. ESFS needs more publicity and greater emphasis on awards. I explain it widely at point 7 of this interview.

Cristian Tamaș : What could be the responsibility of the ESFS Board ?

Debora Montanari : Create an agenda with not just clear objectives, but also workable quickly. I can imagine the problems, but you can stand down to earth and at the same time renew.
I might add a very important thing for me supervision. Why? Because and now I speak according to what going on in Italy, it happens that the fans have been ousted by events on SF from organization and decision-making power, and some publishers have monopolized the direction of events. In Italy we have no more events made by fans for the fans, but events managed for personal gain, everything is in function of these publishers that set the events for eliminating competition, for belittling the work of other publishers, the work of fans, and all the experiences that can be transmitted in similar events. They want to be the protagonists and Science Fiction, events like Eurocon and others becomes just an excuse for fuel their attention-seeking. Those facts brought down the quality of the events and their cultural significance.
Perhaps, supervision could help block these power games at least for what concerns Eurocon in Italy.

Cristian Tamaș : Is such a thing as european SF&F ? If, yes, what is and what should be the input of the ESFS Board ?

Debora Montanari : Absolutely yes! European SF&F is a form of art that has always existed in all European countries, a personal Speculative Fiction with personal origins and now with a getting stronger contemporary SF&F with an identity that characterizes and enhances this art form.
The ESFS Board must make more heterogeneous European SF&F and I underline European because there a widespread mistake, think that there is the Anglo-Saxon SF&F and then there is what’s left. I think the new ESFS Board could have a more open thought because this mistake is a really BIG mistake! The ancient literature from all over Europe handed down to us, bears witness it. One of the guidelines of the ESFS Board could be to give a real value to the work of all European countries without exclusions, seek and involve new authors from all places of origin without bias.
I can at this point highlight my experience at Worldcon 2012-ChiCon 7 in Chicago; Italian publisher Luigi Petruzzelli (Edizioni Della Vigna) and me have been invited by event’s Guest of Honor Mike Resnick to deliver lectures. We chose different arguments linked to SF&F in Italy, art, fringe-science, publishing, and we were surprised by the attention that gave us the insiders and by the appreciation and curiosity of all people. I saw a real opening and a search of the new. In short, now the attention of Americans towards the Europeans is higher than the attention of Europeans towards… Europeans.

Cristian Tamaș : EUROCON is not a service mark as “Worldcon” and “World Science Fiction Convention” (“World Science Fiction Convention”, “Worldcon”, “World Science Fiction Society”, “WSFS”, “NASFiC”, “Hugo Award”, and the distinctive design of the Hugo Award Rocket are service marks of the World Science Fiction Society. These names are owned by the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS), an unincorporated literary society whose purpose is to promote interest in science fiction. The most important standing committee is the Mark Protection Committee (MPC), which is responsible for maintaining the society’s trademarks and domain names.“ – http://www.wsfs.org/). The result is that the EUROCON acronym became generic and it’s used by anyone who wants to use it, religious organizations, technical organizations, etc. What do you think about it ?

Debora Montanari : Eurocon must need higher visibility and increase of the prestige, just as Worldcon or maybe better than WorldCon. I agree, it absolutely needs a distinctive and attractive marks, above all a personal and original name, a trademark not a generic acronym that does not help to increase prestige, but helps to lose it in the mass of names and acronyms in particular on web.
Why are not there personal logos for each Eurocons? This would give personality to any event and at the same time it would create a connection. Is very important to emphasize the event through all particulars.

Cristian Tamaș : There are 24 official languages of the European Union, 25 with the croatian starting with the 1st of July 2013 (“The European Commission employs English, French and German in general as procedural languages”) and 38 official languages in Europe. A real linguistic Babylon ! The European Union supports the inter-EU literary translations via specialized programmes. What about any ESFS translation projects to EU for the inter-european languages SF&F texts ? What about the non-EU languages as russian, ukrainian, etc. ? ESFS is a pan-european organization with an EU majority, isn’it ?

Debora Montanari : All the people with whom I spoke writers and editors told me about a common problem the translation, especially because it is too expensive and science fiction is a job that does not create big earnings. I do not believe that EU translation program can solve the problem. Maybe there should be a translation program inside the ESFS, it’s also deleted the obstacle about non-EU languages.

Cristian Tamaș : What about a possible individual ESFS membership open to anyone who adheres to the ESFS rules ?

Debora Montanari : I think it would not work not at this time.

Cristian Tamaș : Should ESFS be reformed ?

Debora Montanari : Not just reform better modification. More visibility and increase the prestige, I think these are the first steps to take and what I said at point 7 of this interview.

Cristian Tamaș :  Do you think that it will be possible to bring back the european SF&F professional writers within ESFS ?

Debora Montanari : Only if ESFS can create his own exclusivity and personality, now you may have guessed this is my favorite point!
Anyway, I think it is important to have famous authors, but I think it’s more important to involve authors from all countries. There are many talented but not famous authors, debutants, and not-debutants. All of these writers do not live with the gain from this work (in Italy if you write SF you must have another job) but they work for science fiction; it could be nice for them to see that science fiction works for them.

Cristian Tamaș : The ESFS site (www.esfs.info/) is completely outdated. Should ESFS try to improve it ?

Debora Montanari : It needs a page more dynamic and contemporary not complex but that stands out.
When I saw for the first time the page I thought it was a business-card not a site. I don’t like logo and colors I think they are not adequate to a Science Fiction Society, but this is my personal point of view.
The home-page should be more attractive and contemporary with description of Society and upcoming Eurocon, but only the next one and with all news possible about it. ESFS’s work, its representatives, its organization, etc. should stay in a section like About-ESFS not in home page. Home-page should have the most important and updated news and not too much informations, it should be short and incisive.
About ESFS Awards, I looked for photos but I did not found them, why? The Awards are important and must be in the site.
Only the two last events should stay in the dedicated page, for the other you could create a link to a list.
Speaking of lists, I saw that each page of the site has got a list. A list in ESFS Awards-page, a list in the Fandom-page, a list in Eurocons-page, but lists are boring and should be just an integration not the contents of the site.
The site is bare. It’s a Science Fiction Society site but there’s no creativity, no images, no news only the news in the individual Eurocon websites, that is why I thought it was just a business-card, because there is nothing more.
With creativity and free CMS like WordPress or better like Joomla is possible for ESFS to have a contemporary site able to communicate with the public, and at the same time to increase the prestige.

Cristian Tamaș : EUROPA SF and International Speculative Fiction had launched a digital European SF Anthology in english, collecting stories from eight european countries. Why isn’t ESFS launching its own brand of yearly european SF anthologies ?

Debora Montanari : It’s necessary to demonstrate that ESFS is working for SF&F with little but important things. Above, I talked about the web-site here I think could be a good idea to launch an anthology with its own brand. In almost all questions of this interview I answered about the importance to have a distinctive brand, to have a particular personality for to come out from mass and at the same time for to have lure on the mass. This suggestion may be a way.

Cristian Tamaș : EUROPA SF, the European SF Portal, had been awarded by ESFS with the occasion of the 2013 Eurocon in Kiev, The Best European Website Award. How could EUROPA SF help ESFS and the European SF&F fandom ?

Debora Montanari : First of all my congratulations! A right reward for a really good job. Second of all, I could answer to the question saying continue to love SF&F, but is clear that this love exists and it’s very strong. At this point I say that for to help ESFS and European SF&F fandom European SF Portal must keep an open mind and must keep a complete vision of all arts, because all arts not only literature and cinema can talk about SF&F. This kind of point of view is perfect because gives to the public innovation and originality without prejudice and with the greatest freedom. Don’t be afraid by originality and oddity, they are part of your work and your work is SF&F.

Cristian Tamaș : Kindly address some words to our european and worldwide readers. Thank you !

Debora Montanari : My love for SF & F is huge not only as writer but also as fan. I’m very happy to be involving by Europa SF in the European SF&F; this permitting me to look over the Italian borders with hope and to work with enthusiasm, because now I can reach European fans and not only. I hope to have an interaction with European fans as I had it with American fans. I’m going to continue share my passion for Science Fiction and Fantasy with you, not only through my works but also through dialogue and confrontation. Thanks to Cristian Tamas for giving me the opportunity to show my thoughts, and thanks to readers for sharing my point of view reading this interview.

© Cristian Tamaș & Debora Montanari. All rights reserved.

Debora Montanari was born in Bologna (Italy) in 1969, she’s a radio journalist – an expert in American movies – and writer. She grew up sharing the passion for the cinema of her mother and her father’s passion for science fiction and sharing the passion conveyed by both her parents: reading.
Her own curiosity and an innate propensity to study, they pushed me to my current interests which have become a job.
After graduation – Teachers’ Training College -, came the opportunity to work as a Journalist in a Radio: she deals with movie reviews, her radio show aired weekly. She works in Radio since 1998.
Debora debuted professionally as a writer in 2007, with the techno-fantasy novel “The Dragons of Chrysos” and in 2009 she published her second novel “The Moon of Chrysos”, both novels had received Premio Italia (Italy SF Award).While working on the novels she wrote and published several SF short stories.
The innate love for the SF on all art sides – literature, movies, television – has taken her, since childhood, to study with passion the Fringe Science, particularly the Paranormal, Ufology and Quantum Physics.

Debora is currently working on the connection between the two contexts: Fringe Science and Science Fiction. She had participated at several panels at the Chicon 7 (2012 Worldcon in Chicago, USA), being a panelist and talked about Science Fiction in Europe and in Italy, and about the relationship between Fringe Science and Science Fiction in Italy:

Michelangelo and That Whole Crowd: Early Artists Who Dabbled in Science
Some artists from the past were also interested in science, and some among them are also characters in science fiction stories. The panel will focus on these artists, and the works in which they appear.
Debora Montanari, G. David Nordley, Luigi Petruzzelli
SF and Border Science
From a writer/publisher point of view… You in the USA are masters in this, but seeing the point of view from Italy (a country which, in the last century at least, has despised scientific culture) might be interesting.
Barbara G.Tarn, Debora Montanari, Luigi Petruzzelli

Writing and Publishing Science Fiction in Italy
Debora Montanari and Bruno Vitiello, Italian writers, and Luigi Petruzzelli, founder of Edizioni Della Vigna, Italian publishing house specializing in SF, winners of some ‘Premio Italia’ (roughly the Italian counterpart of the Hugo), will speak about the state of science fiction in Italy.
Debora Montanari, Luigi Petruzzelli, Arielle Saiber

Debora has developed a collateral activity by teaching the “Culture of Reading and Writing” in junior high schools.
Her program is designed to transmit to young people the desire to read, through recognition and celebration of the imagination and by reading books and watching genre movies, understanding with the word “genre” everything related to the Imaginary. She lives and works in Bologna, but she travels a lot and she spends the summer months in Los Angeles.
Her site is : http://www.deboramontanari.com/worlds/index.php/en/

6 Comments

  1. When Zagreb was organizing Kontakt (Eurocon 2012) I personally spent months sending queries all over the place, in ITALIAN, which I can speak and write, trying to get ANY Italian authors or fans to come participate. ZILCH.

    I was not the only one to do so, it turned out another one of the organizers, my colleages from university, where we studied Italian together, had also tried to get in touch with anyone form Italy.

    I finally met Ms. Montanari at Chicon, and it was a lovely meeting. I did tell both her and her publisher about how hard it was to get in touch with anyone interested for Eurocon in Zagreb.
    But the truth is, had I not met her there, the probability is I would not have met her at all. And not for lack of trying on my part. This I feel is significant.
    I agree with her about the Fiuggi Eurocon, although I had a great time there (and the emails the organizers of that Eurocon used to communicated with people are dead – nobody answers them) but am unsure whether she wen to any other Eurocon after that. Or tried to. (If I sound upset, it is because I geniunely regret not having had her come to Kontakt, I want to know more about Italian SF!)
    However, I do feel most of the views she expresses in this interview are highly influenced by the fact that Italian fandom and Italian publishers do not really think the European fandom and SF market are worth their time and effort. This is why a) nobody from Italy would give me the time of day when I was trying to get them participate in an Eurocon b) Ms. Montanari seems unaware of the track that Kiev so kindly decided to continue – the presentations of national SF lit and fandoms at Eurocons. PR to interested fans is a huge step forward in what both her and me feel is what the European scene should be. ;D
    I do hope Ms. Montanari will come help reform ESFS in Dublin next year. With it being held in an English speaking country and so close to a Worldcon, I do not think it should be a problem. ;D

    • Dear Ms. Mihaela, only now I read your comment. Why you did not contact me? I will be very happy meet you again in Zagreb or Dublin or in other places. You didn’t see me in Eurocon across Europe because nobody invited me! I understand your effort to find contacts in Italy and this is my advice: contact the writers directly.To speak with me you can write to info@deboramontanari.com and I’ll give you all my contacts, we’ll keep in touch by Skype, too. See my web-site, too: http://www.deboramontanari.com you can find there all infos that you need and contacts. Sorry for the late of this reply, I hope you write me very soon. Thanks a lot!
      Debora

  2. I also had a similar interview about the same topic. I am surprised that Debora answered in a quite different way, but not saying anything that would not also be my opinion.

  3. @ Webdesigner : That’s very nice, but please be so kind and translate your comment in english in order that all our readers could understand it.
    Thank you.

  4. I guess it is spam. It just says that a friend has recommended that article as he deals with that issue a lot (!) – in bad German. If he´d really do, I guess we would know this person.

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