October 1993: Resigning from my role as editor/publisher of Dutch SF/Fantasy magazine Ator Mondis

This “Goodbye” was written by me in October 1993. I found this writing last week moving through my backups (August 2013). The translation is almost one-to one of the original text, with some minor edits on repetition and clarifications added.

A brief history: After the demise of “Rakis”, a Dutch short-story magazine published by Jos Weijmer (now active again for/with publishing house Zilverspoor) in 1990, there was no Dutch or Belgium magazine focusing on the genre writers in the Netherlands and/or Belgium. Feeling that the gap of the demise of Rakis was too big and the base-idea of Rakis too important, I decided to continue what Jos Weijmer had started: a magazine focusing on Dutch and Belgium writers only. Ator Mondis lasted 2 years and published 8 issues filled with short stories. It was edited, redacted, compiled and illustrated by me. In the second year, 1992, Mike Jansen joined the team as an invaluable help in producing the paper magazine. A year later, Mike Jansen became one of the driving forces of Babel, helping Babel-founder Roelof Goudriaan to produce the professionally printed books by Dutch and they would continue to publish over 40 books of over 15 Dutch and Belgium SF and Fantasy writers in more than the decade that followed.

When I started publishing Ator Mondis almost three years ago in 1991, publication opportunities for Dutch and Belgium SF and Fantasy writers were minimal. You had two magazines in the Netherlands and two magazines in Belgium which were mainly focusing on book and movie reviews, “what is on TV?” and “what is going on elsewhere in the world?” Due to a small buying market for the genre, the three professional Dutch book publishers, Meulenhoff, Bruna and Prisma provided limited to no publishing opportunities for Dutch SF or Fantasy writers.

Seeming irrelevance of Dutch/Belgium writers

It seemed to me at that time that our own [Dutch and Belgium] writers hardly received any true love from the Dutch ‘fandom’. And at that time it felt as if they were treated and seen as nothing more than background-decoration: anonymous, cute and published in the Dutch and Belgium magazines more in order to offer some variation than to stimulate a healthy Dutch community of SF– and Fantasy writers.

Recognition through other achievements

The few [Dutch and Belgian] ‘big names’ known to the audience at large within that fandom had mainly risen from anonymity by profiling themselves in other ways. For example: as reviewers, illustrators, enfant-terribles, provocateurs, or publishers of a Dutch or Belgian magazine.

For recognition as a genre-writer within the Netherlands — unless you were producing absolutely mind-blowingly brilliant — nobody really seemed to care about you if you were ‘just’ a Dutch/Belgium writer within the genre.

Objectives with Ator Mondis

Ator Mondis therefore had two main objectives: to improve the publication opportunities for writers and to show that those writers deserved the attention of the Dutch and Belgian audience.

So besides the stories I also published the bibliographies of the writers in that particular issue and I had them write short introductions about the story itself; which, for example, would tell you how it had come about.

In year two of Ator Mondis, in 1992, I requested and added writer-biographies in which each writer had a 200-word space to profile themselves and to mention their main achievements within their writing.

The formula

An important element in the formula of Ator Mondis was the inclusion of at least one illustration for each story and the illustration clearly had to represent something from the story itself.

Secondly: the first content-page of each story had to visually distinguish itself from the rest of the content and from the non-story content in the shape of articles.

A third element in the magazine was to strive for a certain, minimal level of quality of content. This goal was primarily achieved by actively selecting and approaching at least two writers who had proven themselves before for stories and– sometimes quite intensive – edit the works I received from them.

The fourth element was the, already mentioned, additional information about the story and the writer.

The writers

In this period I also invested in the personal development of a small group of writers, both new and already publishing stories for longer whiles, through a set of writing assignments and the application of mutual feedback on i.e. structure, story and character-development. I tried to stimulate and activate the mutual cooperation and exchange of experiences, contacts and reviews between those writers.

One result of these activities was a small group of writers, including Jaap Boekestein, Paul van Leeuwenkamp, Mike Jansen, Michael del Pino, and myself who previously had written in isolation and now started to loosely collaborate: “the writers collective”.

The organization of a Writers Week, in the first week of August 1993 strengthened the bond between the various writers in that collective and was the source for several new forms of cooperation between them.

Change in perception

I like to think that the fact that Ator Mondis took the writers seriously as a writer might have also brought about another type of change. While many [Dutch and Belgium] writers  previously might have been perceived by their audience as ‘fans writing SF and Fantasy stories’, that same audience might now regard them much more as real writers to look out for.

I think this change in perception is incredibly important for [Dutch and Belgium] writers and for the self-consciousness of the writer, regarding him/herself and his/her work.

Change in position and recognition of writers

I think the position of the writers in the Netherlands has moved through a slight and positive change since the beginning of Ator Mondis positive. To what extent Ator Mondis has been playing a role in this exactly is hard to tell.

To summarize: at the beginning of this year, Jannelies Smit (editor of the Dutch magazine: ‘Holland-SF’) has made a very strong case for a Dutch honorary guest at the Dutch SF/Fantasy convention Con-Yak. The previous editions of this convention only honored foreign / translated writers. Furthermore, in 1993 several interviews were published in that same Holland-SF centering on Dutch writers. Even though these were mostly writers of the “older stock”, it is a very commendable initiative. SF-Terra started placing information about the writers themselves, lifting them out of their anonymity: which hopefully will become an ongoing tradition in the future.

Babel Publications, stories of King Kong Award 1992 and 1993

Babel-publications, with Roelof Goudriaan en Mike Jansen, has started in 1993 with the book-publication of a number of Dutch writers, beginning with Paul Harland. And the stories of the King Kong Awards of 1991 and 1992 (the most prestigious short-story contest in the Netherlands since the 1970’s) were collected and compiled in a private edition by Mike Jansen. Stories which – under the reign of the organization would never have been published or made available to a larger public.

Closing

My farewell to Ator Mondis is a decision that comes from changes in my personal situation [a burnout], that already started to slow down year 2 of Ator Mondis. I am quite delighted that in the relatively short period of two years of publication still so many  things have changed and several new things have been achieved.

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