Interview with Ion “Nuke” Newcombe,
Founder of AntipodeanSF, an Online Speculative Fiction Magazine
Ion Newcombe is the editor and publisher of AntipodeanSF, Australia’s longest-running online speculative fiction magazine, regularly issued since January 1998, and conceived back around November 2007. He has been a zealous reader and occasional writer of SF since his childhood in the 1960s, and even sold a few stories here and there back in the ’90s.
“Nuke”, who it turns out loves editing more than writing, lives in the New South Wales North Coast holiday destination of Nambucca Heads, where he is self-employed in IT training, computer support, desktop publishing, editing, writing, and website implementation. He is also the resident tech-head, skeptic, and board member of community radio station 2NVR, where he produces a number of shows including The AntipodeanSF Radio Show.
When I came upon your website, I was blown away! And curious. How did this idea of an online magazine come about for you?
I had not long finished an undergraduate Arts degree in communications at the time, and I was interested in publishing in general, especially of speculative fiction. More specifically, AntipodeanSF was born out of a notion to use then fledgling world wide web as a magazine publication medium — and to focus on Aussie authors. I taught myself some basic hypertext markup language, and laid the pages out using underlying tables, so it was a learning and coding process for me too. Similarly, since the computer screens of the day weren’t all that good, I figured that I should focus on short-short stories (now called flash fiction) of around 500 words, because it wasn’t so easy on the eyes reading text on low-res flickering screens.
In fact, here’s what I wrote for Issue 200, which tells a bit more about how and why AntiSF came about:
“Half a billion seconds ago it started. It was mid-1997 CE. A geek of a voracious, science-fiction-reading human, not much more than a gigasecond old himself, mused about the future of publication online. He considered how the fresh, shiny, slow internet might become the ultimate leveller. He hoped that it would eventually become widespread on faster computers, better than flickering displays, and wider than plain-old-telephone-system data pipelines. He’d been using computers since 1974. They were tools — surely to be put to good use. And what better use than radical reading?
This bespectacled man also mused about the great speculative stories and ideas that never see publication, and the authors that write them — and added a dash of an awakening notion that resistance is not futile, that it’s refreshing and important to turn plots, ideas, milieus, and characters upside down. To make them Antipodean, if you like — and to keep it all free.”
I see that it is for stories of science fiction, fantasy, or horror. Is there a monthly theme for writers to follow?
I don’t have any monthly theme, but oddly underlying themes sometimes seem to develop of their own accord in any particular issue — and I do have a penchant for stories that have a twist or surprise ending.
Have you always enjoyed science fiction? What are the books or hobbies that molded you into who you are today?
Science and science fiction have been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. The very first book I borrowed from a primary school library was about the magic of radio, and I discovered “New Scientist” when I was around 10 or 11 years old, and had special dispensation from the local librarian to borrow those magazines and also to access the adult titles in the fiction section, many of which were the old yellow-covered Gollancz science fiction books. Often, I would forego family outings to stay at home and read. I also grew up dismantling and repairing and building electronic equipment or experimenting with radio, and I was given a newtonian reflector telescope when I was about 13 by a local amateur astronomer who’d built himself a bigger telescope.
I read somewhere that the contributors are mostly writers from Australia. Can anyone from any county submit a story?
AntipodeanSF is open to submissions from around the world, and more and more writers from places other than Australia, indeed even from places that don’t claim English as the dominant language, are now making submissions to the magazine.
When did the idea of the radio show come about?
I’ve been involved in community radio on and off over the years, and with the growing ability of computers in the late nineties to handle audio, ran a couple of experimental story narrations around 2003 as downloadable audio to accompany the stories online. The technology for delivery of audio on a schedule (podcasting) didn’t arrive till a few years later, and it wasn’t until 2010 that I took the leap to tie in the narrations with a show on our local community radio station, and to podcast that audio for listeners worldwide.
How did you get your nickname, “Nuke”?
That’s what people called me at school, since my surname is “Newcombe”. However, instead of spelling it “Newk” I decided to go for something different — and “Nuke” is also a description of what happens on the dance floor. I go off like a nuclear bomb, especially for mid to late seventies disco!
Do you contribute stories to your online magazine too? Are you a published author?
I had around ten or so stories published in small press magazines and online magazines here in Aus and in the USA back in the late nineties, but I prefer to edit these days — to help other writers to wrangle their stories into shape. I never publish my own work in AntipodeanSF. Everything published in the magazine is sourced from other writers.
Now for some fun.
Our Readers are dying to know:
What is Your Choice?
Movie: Alien or ET – definitely Alien, classic SF that finally depicted organic alien life in a believable way.
Book: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea — hard choice, since I fondly recall reading Jules Verne in my younger days, but “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is a classic without equal. The answer, after all, is 42, and Douglas Adams had an admirable way of weaving subversive content into his comedic literature.
Character: Darth Vader or Terminator – Terminator, again for the comedy that perhaps not many other people see in it.
Halloween Costume you’d love to wear: Luke Skywalker or Chewbacca. Luke Skywalker — it would be much too hot inside a Chewbacca suit.
Pajamas you’d love to cuddle up in: Star Wars fleece two-piece or a Batman onesie. Give me a comfortable fleece. A batman onesie would be way too tight.
Snacks: trail mix or chips – has to be chips, as long as there’s sour cream to dip them in…
Thank you Nuke. We appreciate getting to know you better.
Readers, be sure to check Nuke’s online magazine!