The future is a bad path – Interview with seven writers

On the occasion for  the anthologies publications, “The bad road” (Delmiglio editions) and, “The future’s price” (La Ponga Editions)- both edited by Gian Filippo Pizzo, we met the staff who supervised the books: the two editors, Emanele Del Miglio and Stefano Tevini; the curator; Silvia Castoldi, the translator, and the four authors Italo Bonera, Piero Cavallotti, Marco Passarello and Dario Tonani. The interview was led by Irene Panighetti and Heiko H. Caimi.

Irene Panighetti (IP): “The bad road” and “The future’s price”, are two novel anthologies edited by Gian Filippo Pizzo. I’d begin this interview talking about him. What does editing an anthology in Italy mean? What does receiving all these novels mean? Which criteria are used to select them, and why are they refused, if that happens?

Gian Filippo Pizzo: When I create an anthology, I get in touch with some authors, I inform them that I’m about to start a project about one specific topic, and that I’d like to have one of their novels (I’ve been in sci-fiction field for around forty years, so  I know, more or less, all those who deal with the genre in Italy). Then everything happens. The reasons why a novel doesn’t convince me can be numerous. My idea is to build some anthologies dealing with subjects of generic interest; that’s why I edited some about politics, society, economy, music and one about religion, to be published. My purpose is to make the reader curious; that pushes me to prioritize solid novels, from a literate point of view. The first thing I look for in a story, is that it must be written magnificently.

Heiko H. Caimi (HHC): In the anthologies you edited reaching the generalist readers,  works containing  sci-fictional stories seem to have become a constant project. Why is that? 

Pizzo: My aim is to bring the readers, the ones who read everything, or just the so-called “normal” narrative, to appreciate sci-fiction and fantasy. Not because I think that those two genres have something more than the other narrative, but because it’s a kind of neglected narrative, and I’ve never understood why.
Likely, cinematographic aspect is influential. The common idea related to this subject is spaceships and star wars: nobody thinks that science-fiction could be- and this, count on me- is another way to criticize society. Utopian literature is a strong genre and that’s why I’ve always chosen topics which could be of general interest.
I started with a political anthology, then a noir sci-fi, one about happy decrease, one about fantasy economy, and one relating to religion that will be published soon: I look for themes of generic interest, as I said before, so that sci-fi and literature with a fantastic start are to be appreciated. I’m referring to another aspect of sci-fi, such as social critique, which deals with humanity’s possible future, from Herbert George Wells to George Orwell’s utopian 1984. What kind of society there will be in the future, and how it will be organized? By creating an anthology it is possible, moreover, to present different points of view about the same topic.

HHC: Let’s talk about “The future’s price?” The title already gives a good interpretation of the novels here gathered. How was the project born?

Pizzo: The anthology was born from Vittorio Catani, the creator’s suggestion, one of the greatest in Italian sci-fi field. He’s a quite well known and appreciated person in the field, who confessed to me his desire to create a fantasy economy; unfortunately, at that moment I was working with Bietti, and I wasn’t available.
Later, we got in touch, we looked for the authors and, when the first editor refused us, Italo Bonera introduced us to La Ponga Editions. I proposed to them an anthology, they liked the idea, and now the book is on sale. The writers, considering nowadays premises, imagine and describe the tomorrow’s economy.

IP: As a creator, how much does it affect- if it does- the thought and the role of the editor? At the same time, as a publisher, what does creating a novel anthology mean in Italy and at this time?

Pizzo: In general, when I create these anthologies, I already have an agreement with a publisher, interested in the subject, who then gives me carte blanche on the novel’s choice. In this particular case, I wasn’t free to decide because, as I said before, this work was born casually,in the same way things happened with, “The bad road”. Considering the authors and the way in which black novels are told, I thought it would have been extremely easy to publish it, au contraire, many editors refused it, all with the same motivation: they didn’t have the adequate book series (an excuse which left me perplexed). Then I had the chance to find people like, Del Miglio who liked the idea. I’m really glad because there are many valid novels. Moreover, as a curator, I do have my preferences.

HHC: Emanuele, you often present publications of typical issues, as a matter of fact is quite rare to find this level of anthologies written by different Italian authors. Beyond mere quality, it’s a difficult market: why did you accept this challenge?

Emanuele Delmiglio: Well, it starts with passion: first of all, we try to publish things the editor might like, and my philosophy here is to give some space to beginners, seen that the operation is not merely commercial. I usually notice anthologies with famous authors,  although not in the case of, “The bad road”,because it was edited by Pizzo and other best selling authors.

IP: From an economical point of view, it is a big business for the publisher?

Delmiglio: No, it’s not. I don’t know why the publishing industry doesn’t like novels. I don’t know if the editors are influenced the public, or the other way around. Anyway, publishers usually ask for substantial novels, even though we have  great traditions of novel writers like Buzzati, Calvino and so on.
What is a story? From my point of view, it is a summarized novel, lacking in thrill?, but completeThere are the characters, at least sketched out; there’s a story and a message; there’s something that moves the reader. Perhaps the readers’ imagination is required, but here’s where things get interesting. So, a volume like “The bad road”, is the equivalent of 18 novels, from my personal point of view.

Pizzo: Italian public is not used to it, due to the lack of magazines. Sticking to sci-fi field, authors like Asimov or Bradbury learned the ropes through magazines, sometimes specific ones but, in Bradbury’s case, even with Playboy.

Stefano Tevini: It is true that the publisher, on average, has a prejudice towards anthologies: many of them raise their eyebrows when facing an anthology proposal. As an author, I usually suggested fruitlessly one of my novel collections. Sure, that kind of work must have some fundamental characteristics: a high level of style, theme and genre. I want stories from authors with a certain route, even if not famous. We’re not talking about a genre which has become part of everyday life. Nevertheless, as a publisher I can be courageous; I can experiment and propose products like anthologies.

Dario Tonani: Sci-fi is a genre that big authors try to avoid; still Einaudi has“The astonishment of the contingen” in its catalogue since 1959.

Marco Passarello: Not to mention,  Cannibal Youth, a big success, and an anthology which brought together lots of new authors and interest. You take a risk, and you create a new genre.

HHC: In Italy, we have a long tradition of short stories by authors who experimented with the genre of novel. Why nowadays this has been lost? Is it a typically Italian phenomenon? Are stories, in Italy, considered not very tempting?

Silvia Castoldi: I’ve always loved novels, however, talking with some people, I’ve discovered that they’re usually reading due to laziness: you start reading something and you go on with it, you can’t change. To me, that’s a sort of mental laziness.

Pizzo: Nevertheless, I think that anthologies are more valuable than novels, because in a novel you have the author’s point of view, while in an anthology there are several, which is more interesting.

IP: Dario Tonani in an interview said that e-books will have brought internationality, especially for what concerns genres, because instead of reading a book, you download the file and you read it.

Passarello: I’m not enthusiastic about e-books, even though nowadays it’s inconvenient not to produce them: you have the file and you can transform it in an e-book, creating a decent lay out, of course. It doesn’t make sense not to create them. However, it is not that revolutionary. In Italy, few readers use it, so definitely not a revolution. Probably, slowly and due to technical innovation, we’ll all benefit of it. I think it will be a consequence of our inactivity, which won’t affect our way of reading. It does  in those surroundings which require the book as self- publishing.

IP: Delmiglio, how have e-books affected you, if they do?

Delmiglio: After all, books have been digital for a long time: I think that the e-book will have a brilliant future. Other means too, such as the audiobook. A revolution which won’t spread through the e-reader.

Passarello: It’s a matter of space: I’ve got three hundred e-books in my reader, I wouldn’t know where to put the material copy, because I’ve no space left at home.

Italo Bonera: In my opinion the e-book is very interesting, because it lets you read again and again, many books which have been out of commerce for a while, potencially for decades. If I think, for example, of a publication like Urania, in thirty years I will be able to buy books edited nowadays, and this wouldn’t be possible with paper. I think the same will be likely when a book is out of stock and no more have been printed: the e-book will remain. Moreover, there’s a huge cost difference between maintaining an on-line e-book and a paper book in the storehouse. The e-book importance, to me, is due to the possibility of looking for old things.

Here you can read the second part of the interview:

Translation by Francesca Pietroboni (edited by Amy Scarlett Holt)
Interview editing by Alice Corrò