(Via Galactica #7, february 1998, translation: Tatjana Iveges)
We believe that Mihaela Velina, editor
of Futura, doesnt need a special formal introduction. Since she cant be
reached by phone, and number of Futura office is, in fact, the number of the
publisher Bakal, this interview has been done by e-mail. We thank Boss and the
others who sent our questions to Mihaela.
A several years have passed almost unnoticed since you became the
editor of Futura, third in a row. Tell us, how this change came about, how did
Krsto left, and you took over? (Please, with lots of spicy details, just for starters.)
Im sorry, theres no spicery about it. From the beginning of
our cooperation Krsto used to say Some day youll inherit my editorial
chair. When it came to some misunderstanding between him and Boss (details find out
from two of them), it seemed logical that I go on from where he stopped. Before (during
his editorial mandate), Krsto gave me free hands and often let me choose and translate
stories I thought could (or should) be published in Futura. In the beginning, that was
connected with Zelazny and recent SF production, and in time it turned into whole
foreign part of Futura.
Explain to us a minor dilemma: are you editing Futura
professionally, or is it a second job to you?
In fact, things are like this: for the last year and a half Im in
Bakal d.o.o. as a steady, although I work at home, and shortest description of
my job would be girl for everything, because it contains lots of stuff
(editing, reviewing, printing preparations, translating, corresponding with
readers etc.). Since my fee as the editor (400 KN) wouldnt even be enough to pay my
electricity and gas bills, I live from my translating (mostly for Futura and publishing
How many people are in fact working for Futura and who are they?
In Futura there are: Boss (front page, commercials, subscription, web
pages) and me (editing, translating, printing preparations, reviewing), with help from
several collaborators. Those collaborators are our columnists: Goran Bonjak
(movies), Zdravko Damjanić (hes been reading) and guru Krsto (fandom + Glambrlja).
How are you choosing stories to be published in Futura?
As I have recently stated in Futura, there are a few things I take care
of: 1) that I think that story has a certain literal value; 2) that I think that lots of
readers would like it. Off course, it would be most wonderful and easiest to do if I could
edit in Futura only stories that I like, but choices are different and I must have that in
mind. Personally, Im not a fan of the space-operas or (as Boss calls them)
zap!-bang! stories, but Im aware that there is a certain number of readers who like
them, so they also have their place in Futura.
Do you prefer SF or fantasy?
I prefer SF. Maybe because Ive been reading it longer than
fantasy or maybe because fantasy for me just doesnt have that sense of wonder
which attracted me to SF twenty-or-so years ago. I was twelve when the first issue of
Sirius was published and I discovered Rull; although I probably didnt understood the
point of the story then, that was the fatal moment which, I can freely say, marked my
life. No, I havent decided then someday Id be the editor of SF magazine, but I
stopped dreaming about king Arthur and started to stare intensively at our smog-free sky
and make plans what to tell the aliens when they land. Its not that I dont
like to read a good fantasy - Zelaznys Amber" is on high place of my
favorite books top-list, and I read with great pleasure, for example O.S. Cards
Alvin Maker serial, Williams Memory, Sorrow & Thorn, Kays
Tigana etc. And, off course Asprins Myths.
Recently you became a reviewer of Croatian stories too. Is it hard for
you, and how many of them do you get monthly?
Answer to both of your questions would be it differs from time to
time. Sometimes I regret I took over the reviewing, though sometimes reading
Croatian stories makes me feel like a real editor (cause, lets be realistic,
choosing of foreign stories from worlds famous magazines or anthologies is not an
art at all). The hardest thing of all is to send a negative reply to some writer,
especially to someone hopeful with his first work. On the other side, recently I got three
short stories which literally swept me off my feet (in that case I even sent an offer to
the writer to translate them to English and send it to the foreign magazines). So there
are good sides after all. Unfortunately, less Frogs, more those where Sun
becomes supernova, or nasty aliens from Andromeda galaxy who are sending to Earth
indestructible robots which kill whole mankind because they dont understand
were intelligent. How many stories, that is hard to say. Sometimes we get ten,
sometimes five, but important thing is that were getting them. I already have
in stock Croatian stories enough for the whole year, and that is encouraging,
Can you give some advice to the young writers about writing stories?
How should a story look like to be published in Futura?
Its important that story is good and well written (I think
stylish, not grammatical). Unfortunately, very young writers often rewrite prehistoric
stories and use well known ideas or they dont check out scientific basis
of their story, or instead of narrating they retell, or the whole thing sounds like
Independence Day or 007 in space. But every beginning is hard and writer
shouldnt be discouraged with that. A negative reply doesnt mean that the
writer has no talent. So, my advice is to write, write, write. Give up only when they
refuse all of your 20 written stories. After all, you could always be an editor,
We know you got at least one story published in Sirius. Do you write?
Listen, man can make a story or two, but I dont think its
my destiny to be a writer. Yes, I still write occasionally, but mostly to satisfy my soul.
Though, two of them have been published in Futura, before the time of my editorial tyranny
and under a silly pseudonym. In fact, I thought that the pseudonym was so obvious, but it
seems that it wasnt after all. Hmmm
maybe I should publish some more.
Warning - a bit tougher questions. In November 1997. Futura declared
that there will be no more paying off Croatian stories with money. We know authors
royalties were pretty symbolical anyway. Dont you think this move is a bit frivolous
for a monthly magazine which costs almost 10 DEM?
I am only hired work force here, Boss is the financial minister of
Futura, so this question should be answered by him but Ill try to answer it, at
least partly. Futura monthly sells about 1800 copies, and the rest are unsold copies
(circulation until recently was 3500 copies, and from now on 2000 copies). From the
selling cost of Futura Bakal d.o.o. gets hardly a bit more than a third, the
rest has been taken by the state and the distributor. So, Futura monthly earns a bit more
than 20.000 KN, from this has to pay the printing (until now about 14.000 KN), copyrights
(about 500$ a month, often more), my translations (unassuming 15 KN per page) + a bit of
change for preparations, films and postage expenses. So you can see that in the end we
have, how Boss would say it, zero money. Futura is truly purely
unprofitable.Tisak (the distributors) and the state are sharing the profits.
If the financial situation gets better, that is, if readers start to
subscribe and stop giving 11,40 KN to Tisak just to buy Futura on the kiosk,
then will Croatian writers get their fees. So, its not about Futuras
frivolousness, nor about appetite for money.
Dont you think that its destimulating for quality domestic
I hope that is not so. As I said in one of Futuras, what kind of writer
is that, if you have to yield to his wishes or beg him to write the story? Writers write
because they have something to say or at least I think of it that way. I dont
believe that any of Croatian writers write for financial cause and I think that domestic
stories wouldnt be any better if wed pay them (let say) 500 kn. Here we must
have in mind one more thing: for 100$ (a bit more than 500 KN) we could get a shorter
story by Silverberg or Resnick or someone like that. If I have to choose between Robert
Silverberg and some Croatian John Smith
Somewhere we read the statement, yours or Bojans, that a
published Croatian story for you is a loss, because it reflects on less sold copies of
that issue. It doesnt seems logical - does that mean that reader first takes a good
look at Futura at the kiosk, so he wont buy it if he sees domestic story, or we have
a creepy, fatal voice about domestic story in new issue running around by
mouth? And how the reader knows in advance if the story is bad, or good? Experience
Bojan gave that statement, so you have a question for him. My opinion?
No, more domestic stories doesnt mean less sold copies, at least not right away, but
when we had more than 30 pages of domestic stories we got letters from certain part of our
readership with something like this: I have no intention to give 26 kunas for domestic
stories. It seems that good deal of our readers sees domestic stories as something we use
to fill up the issue when we dont want to spend dollars on foreign big and
You are publishing relatively small amount of illustrations in Futura.
Is it because you aint getting them, or
Yes, its because illustrators are not sending them, and we
cant afford to pay copyrights to foreign illustrators.
Why Bakal stopped publishing Pratchett? Oh, we know,
theres no money, OK. Are there some plans for something similar in the future?
We stopped with Pratchett because book didnt sell the way we
expected. But well proceed with Asprins Myths. This year, on my
great pleasure, well probably publish three of the Myths.
Heres another why: whys Futura weak in so called
magazine part? Here we think about serious theoretical contributions about SF,
essays, keeping the notes on recent moves in SF literature, regularly fresh news etc. Just
dont say that you dont have $ - you have Internet!
Take a look at intro of Futura nr.64. Its something that gets me
despaired. Contributors are disappearing, new ones arent appearing, and I simply
have no time to do that too. But I hope, I do hope, that someone will appear to write a
permanent column for Futura. We cant rewrite from foreign magazines (copyrights
etc.), I have no access to Net (I work for Boss, remember? Not to mention small kids,
hungry cats etc.), and Boss has no time to surf. But all the volunteers are more than
No offense, but we think that Futuras web pages are pretty badly
maintained and out-of date. So why paying the provider if youre not updating them.
Same again - Boss has no time (motivation too, because Futura is not
profitable), and I dont know how and have no access to net (except from
Bakal, but Im there about five times a year).
Give us a short comment of recent statement about SF of certain mister
minister responsible for newest 22% for brain tax. What is the number of subscribers? Will
I think that his statement doesnt deserve to be commented. It
seems that high officials of this state are not interested in getting population to read,
because WE KNOW what couldve happen then. Get a formal education and literature with
adaptable prices and soon some ungrateful souls would be asking for true democracy. And we
cant allow that to happen, do we?
We have about 300 subscribers for now, but I hope that this number - now when Futura is
off from kiosks - will significantly increase.
Will Futura survive? That depends only on you, the readers. People in
Zagreb will probably still financially help Tisak and the state, but we hope
that people from the rest of Croatia will come to conclusion that its better to pay
Futura 18, 20, or 21 kn. (+ tax) and kill two flies with one stroke; that is to save the
money and insure in further editing of Futura.
And before the end a bit lighter subject. Will you and Bojan this year
finally appear on SFeraKon? After all, without flattering, you are the first lady of
Croatian SF, and Bojan is the publisher of the only Croatian SF magazine. Dont you
think there is a lot of fans whod like to meet you?
I hope that well come. If people from SFera dont say again
Who do you think you are, buy a ticket like anyone else!. Dont get me
wrong - as I said in the intro, its not about few bucks, its about principles.
Futura is the only SF magazine in Croatia and I think it deserves two free tickets. Would
you let us pay the tickets for your EsseKon?
No, we wouldnt. We wish you and Futura all the best in future,
and thanks for the interview!
It was my pleasure.
(c) 1998. Via Galactica