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Five for Andrew Stevens

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Contributor to Love Hotel City and occasional 3:AM reviewer Richard Marshall (centre) spoke to editor of the soon to be published collection Andrew Stevens (left) about it:

3:AM: You’ve already done two anthologies, under the 3:AM banner, but this one is both devoid of that identity or any preface. Why is that?

AS: As far as the imprint is concerned as it were, it’s relatively straightforward. In the first 3:AM anthology we set out to ‘capture’ the mere fact that we’d entered a fifth year of existence and certainly didn’t envisage another five, or at least I didn’t (and we very nearly haven’t, several times.) So the 3:AM badge was the thread that held it all together. The second was a largely commercial premise in that we were offered an anthology slot by Social Disease and gladly took it and I think they wanted to consolidate their relationship with us by continuing this style, so again it was integral. This time though, I just wanted to do something different.

I didn’t feel a preface was necessary, though some, possibly including yourself, appear to be at odds with me there. I figured the stories spoke for themselves and didn’t need putting in any kind of context. I don’t think it’s false modesty to say that I wasn’t looking for any kind of platform with the book. Besides, the publisher didn’t query it.

Can we please call them collections, at any rate? Anthology makes me think of landmark ‘Greatest Hits’ compilations, like the Ramones’ one and we can’t compete there.

3:AM: What’s your own interest in/knowledge of Tokyo?

AS: I’m interested in all cities, doesn’t matter if it’s London, Paris, New York, Berlin or Nairobi, Shanghai, Jakarta and Montevideo. I’ve never been one for the bucolic life or rural idyll. But in this, I thought the narrative was already present in just the name Tokyo and what it signifies to the world as a brand in itself.

Recently I came across another collection of Tokyo-based short stories, but one which was predicated on the basis that the writers were all ex-pats living in the city. It’s a durable concept and one to some extent I have some direct sympathy with, but in terms of this collection I strived to include voices of people who hadn’t actually stepped foot in Narita airport and believe the result was rewarding enough.

I’ve been to Tokyo several times, business and pleasure. I’ve enjoyed corporate hospitality in Ginza’s finest and been splashed by some guy hosing down a jizz-encrusted grate outside a Shinbashi peep show. I’ve fought for my right to use chopsticks against two-bit hoods in a Shinjuku noodle bar at 4am. It is, to borrow the cliché, a city of contrasts and I’ve taken them all in. But you’ll usually find me in the Golden Gai when I’m there and I think that holds for Steve Finbow too, who’s also in the collection.

3:AM: It’s a bit of an all-male thing: why are there no female contributors to the collection? What were you looking for in the stories submitted?

AS: That wasn’t really a conscious decision, I mean I’d rightly expect to be slapped down by society at large if it was. But equally so, I’m not one to scout around for token inclusions just for the sake of balance, a notion as patronising as it is offensive. I asked several female writers if they’d like to be involved but none felt familiar enough with the city to put pen to paper.

The stories came in either by me directly asking people or on the basis of recommendations from others. It was a mixture of intimate knowledge of the city or innate curiosity about it. Either way, I was fairly satisfied with the result.

3:AM: Why did you put it out on Creation Books?

AS: It isn’t strictly speaking on Creation Books but Future Fiction, a relatively new imprint of theirs curated by Hillary Raphael, who’s one smart cookie and something of an all-round expert on Japan, both academically and on an everyday level. The first two books were done with fairly new independent publishers but Creation are an outfit I’ve respected for over a decade now, so doing anything with them is very rewarding.

I really like what Future Fiction have done with their first few titles, with Hillary’s own, a rare translation from Brazil and now this alongside that of the estimable Stephen Barber, who is also writing about Asian megacities. It was also good to reunite yourself and Steven Wells, from the Attack! Books era of Creation, with it.

3:AM: What’s next from you?

AS: Not another anthology is what I’d like to say. Three is very much a nice round number in that sense. But there’s some interest from the Brazilian publishing community over at 3:AM Brasil in showcasing some of the younger, brighter authors from that currently overlooked country south of the equator and we’d be foolish to ignore them.

First posted: Friday, February 27th, 2009.

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