“Espiral Ciencia-Ficción” (“Spiral Science Fiction”) is an amateur publishing house that edits science fiction books in Spanish for more than 18 years. Currently its portfolio consists of 52 titles, which include renowned Spanish authors (as Domingo Santos and Gabriel Bermúdez Castillo,…), new writers, and some others which began their literary career with “Espiral” and they’re well known nowadays. The awards won by the “Espiral Ciencia-Ficción” collection are including 6 Ignotus Awards (the Spanish “Hugos”) and the honorary Gabriel Award (the prize awarded by Spanish Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror Association).
We’re interviewing Juan José Aroz, the “Espiral” ’s editor, resident in Bilbao, and a regular at the Bilbao’s science fiction literary meetings since the beginning.
Ricardo Manzanaro : “Espiral CF” (Spiral Science Fiction) was first published 18 years ago. Tell us about the beginning of the publishing, why you launched the project, which was the conception of it, what are the characteristics of the books ?
Juan José Aroz : I´m fond of science fiction because it was in my veins. I began reading when I was a child, and I’ve moved as usual from young adult to adult books, including the Russian and American classics. I found out the works of H.G. Wells, Mary W. Shelley, and essential to consolidate my addiction, the veteran and now mythical spanish SF magazine “Nueva Dimension” (New Dimension). Thanks to it I heard of books, movies, other magazines and people who enjoyed science fiction. It was a tide revolt era. We’re talking about the period between 1975 to 1980. At that time we used to like electronic music, we read “Nova Expresion” texts, magazines as “Ajoblanco” and “Star”. Besides Brian Aldiss, we use to have books written by Jack Kerouac or Kropotkin. There was much political ferment… “Time changes” would say Robert Silverberg. I keeping fanzines of that age, like “Zikkurath”, “Blagdaross” or “Space Opera”. Other fanzines were edited in cities like, for example Valencia. I knew the editors, and then I was encouraged to do something on my own in Bilbao. It was a creative age. I wrote reviews, articles, comics and movie scripts. And I thought that it was possible to do more. At that time there was a very motley group of people, called the “Chaos Group”. We met oftenly, talking, exchanging books… Then I start editing a fanzine entitled “If”, that took the title from a Malcom McDowell’s film, in which some british students rebelled against their teacher. Working for the fanzine, I was helped by two friends of mine, with whom I created the “Caos Group”. During the four edited issues, the fanzine changed three times it’s title: “If” for the first three, “Caos” for the fourth, and then we’d announced “Clon” for the fifth issue, but finally it becamed an anthology titled “Cuasistatic Process”. So it was a very busy time. Later came the military service time, and I leave it as a active amateur, but I continued watching movies, reading novels in a more relaxed way. In 1991 I was injured in a traffic accident (my spinal cord), and after my rehabilitation, I had a lot of free time. Then I wanted to return to the fandom. I saw what it was being done then, basically the “Cuadernos UPC” which edited novellas, and the BEM magazine, some literary awards granted and some bit more. In 1994, I went to a Hispacon (Spanish SF Convention) at Burjassot (Valencia), and I’ve contacted the SF fans. There I presented my first “Cuaderno Espiral” (Spiral Notebook), some spiral combed photocopied pages. That first issue was “Nina” a novella written by Eduardo Gallego and Guillemo Sánchez.
Ricardo Manzanaro : Throughout these years, has the “Espiral CF” improved ?
Juan José Aroz : When we began in 1994, there wasn´t a current digital media. Initially we quarterly published six notebooks, mainly novellas submitted to the UPC Award (the Polytechnic University of Catalonia Award). When we achieved more awarenness in the fandom, we decided to move to the book format, in which we improved. From 100-150 glued pages, xerox printed, our current books have 400-450 pages, with professional quality and color book cover, important factors in order to provide, both readers and authors, high quality books.
Ricardo Manzanaro : You began editing new authors, but later you changed that choice, including also known writers, some of the classic spanish science-fiction authors ?
Juan José Aroz : “Espiral CF” philosophy was and is to show what is being written in Spanish. Throughout our 52 titles are included all kind of stories and various authors. Our usual readers know that we don´t thereby categorize in a subgenre in order to reach more fans. Given our veteran status, we steadily receive manuscripts in Spanish and other languages and we keep on our diverse publishing policy : famous authors and web scene active writers, and we also like to publish new values. That´s the advantage of being non-professional: we try to discover new talents. Sometimes we hit, and sometimes we dont, but someone has to venture with them, and we are glad to knowing that we’ve discovered many of the actually popular authors which are frequently published. We have published “heavyweight” Spanish writers like Domingo Santos, Angel Torres Quesada or Gabriel Bermudez, and also new literature values, for example Martín Gastón Chilean, a spanish writer based now in Paris.
Ricardo Manzanaro : How many manuscripts do receive in one year? How many copies are sold ?
Juan José Aroz : Isn´t always the same. There are times with more copies sold and times with less. Given that we publish every six months, and we don’t have troubles to have bespoken titles with advancement. This help us working without stress and allow us to carefully edit and deal with our uthors. We read every manuscript and we try to figure out if it can fit into our science fiction collection, and we always give our feedback to every applicant. I´m an amateur and I’m trying to be a friend with my collection’s writers and with my readers, because I´m doing this because I like it, not to earn money. Our titles have a print run of less than 500 copies. Be aware we are non-professionals, non-profit and we’re not active in the books’ distribution. Because of this we publish the novels that we think we’re able to sell and, thereby we haven´t surpluses, that would fill our shelves. In fact, from 52 published titles we only have copies of nine of them. The average run is between 300-350 copies – sometimes more, for example Domingo Santos’ last book. Because it’s a personal initiative, without any economic benefits, I’m just paying my expenses without thinking too much about the long hours devoted by my wife and myself to this collection
Ricardo Manzanaro : How may awards has won your collection ?
Juan José Aroz : You can imagine that I´m very encouraged to obtain such a success. I spend many hours doing it, without any economic benefits, but yes, I’m very satisfied seeing my two cents contributing to the Spanish science fiction. Our awards list includes six Ignotus Awards (3 consecutive years in the “Novel” category), the Gabriel Award (recognizing our special contribution to the Spanish science-fiction), the BEM and Gigamesh magazines’ honourable mentions, the TerBi Award (the Bilbao Science Fiction Literary Circle)… When I won the Gabriel Award together with Luis Vigil (the editor of “Nueva Dimensión”) during the excellent 1997 Hispacon in Mataró, you can imagine our very pleasant surprise sharing that award (I bought and read “Nueva Dimensión” in the 70s). Relying on the fandom in order to support your initiative is very important. The overall rating of the collection, despite some opinions and better or worst titles, it´s satisfactory, and that’s exactly what we felt after these awards. But I want to say something else, essential to understand the reason of our turtle race pace, when we’re editing. Relationships with authors, their involvement and the satisfaction with our edited novels, all this is very satisfactory. I’m spending many hours, reading, correcting, editing and distributing, but all this it is worthing when you see the author´s happiness having their novels published in a serious and dignified way. Books you can show to anyone without any hesitation. Also maintaining close relationships with your readers, it’s very important. They’re also the ones which give us energy with their diverse feedbacks.
Ricardo Manzanaro : What are your future plans? Which will be next titles ?
Juan José Aroz : The e-book’s take off and the digital platform sales, that’s the current time. Professional publishers are being influenced by all these circumstances, and we have to change and to adapt. We are minority editors, with well finished books for a specialized audience, we use the new technologies, but we don´t give up the paper books reading and collecting. We will continue this way, betting on new authors if their books seems interesting. We want to be, and already we are a mirror of what is written in Spanish now. When someday in the future, someone wanting to study how was our science fiction, I hope that a inevitable reference it will be to the “Espiral Science Fiction” collection, and it´s large portfolio will stand for the most relevant and diverse titles of our spanish SF genre.
Ricardo Manzanaro : Your next title, intended to be launched for October 2013, it will be the first time that two novels will be includes, a “double spiral”: “Zaibatsu” written by Diana P. Morales and “La edad del vuelo” (Fly Age) by Alberto Moreno Pérez. There are two entertaining novels from two interesting authors !
Juan José Aroz : Indeed. Allow me to address greetings to “Europa SF”’s readers and thank you very much !
More information about “Espiral Ciencia Ficción” in its web: http://aroz.izar.net/index.php
©Ricardo Manzanaro & Juan José Aroz. All rights reserved.
Ricardo Manzanaro Arana, a medical doctor and an university professor, is the President of the TerBi Asociación Vasca de CF Fantasía y Terror (TerBi Basque Association of Fantasy & Horror) from Bilbao, Spain. Ricardo has published over forty stories in various media and he’s a contributor to EUROPA SF and Amazing Stories.