Five questions for SF Club of Athens

Interviewed by Hephaestion Christopoulos

Instead of introducing you to one or two artists, interviewing them thoroughly, I chose to present here a number of them, as I think they are all noteworthy and you should definitely get to know them. Besides, their work speaks for itself. So I gave ten authors plus one visual artist a limited space to answer the same set of questions:
  1. Name one of your works that is special to you and briefly explain why.
  2. It’s often said that artists have a central theme their work revolves around. Can you spot such a theme in your work?
  3. What do you consider your greatest success in your creative career and what was your greatest frustration, if any?
  4. What have been the challenges in getting your work known? What are the pros and cons of your local market vs getting your work abroad? Do social media really help?
  5. Finally, please tell us what your next plans are.
I sincerely hope their answers will intrigue you enough to check them out.
Lina Theodorou. J-scape, 102 cm X 222 cm, acrylics on canvas, 2021.

Atalanti Evripidou

It would have to be “Social Psychology”, a flash fiction piece published in Dream of Shadows. I wrote it at work, in about an hour, and emailed it to myself because I didn’t have access to writing software. It was the very first story I sold. 

I’m interested in various themes, but I always find myself returning to aspects of identity and trauma – particularly transgenerational trauma. Fraiberg calls this the “ghosts in the nursery”, which is an excellent metaphor for inheriting trauma and also a fantastic title for a story that may or may not be. 

Only one answer, and it is this: making myself vulnerable. At times, the mere thought of it has terrified and frustrated me to no end. But I’ve also been incredibly proud whenever I managed to harness these emotions and create art in spite of them – or, perhaps, through them.

The local market is small and close-knit; the chances of getting your work out there are slim. Publishing abroad is more rewarding, but hard for different reasons, including market expectations and language. Social media definitely helps promote one’s work to a degree. It can also be incredibly toxic and stressful.

So many plans. I’m working on several things simultaneously – short stories, longer stories, a commission I can’t really talk about at the moment. But I also want to play around with other forms and mediums in the future, especially comics and podcasts or audio dramas. 

Atalanti Evripidou is a social psychologist and a speculative fiction writer who occasionally dabbles in poetry too. Her short stories can be found in several Greek anthologies and in venues such as StarShip Sofa, Speculative North and Flame Tree Publishing. Her work has also been featured in Onyx Path’s “Gods and Monsters”.

Avra Margariti

I am especially fond of my Lackington’s short story “Kairo’s Flock”, in which I re-imagine the myth of Icarus, combined with elements of Frankenstein. I had a lot of fun researching falconry, as well as writing fake scientific passages to include in-between scenes. 

My work tends to be introspective. I prefer to focus on my characters’ inner struggle with identity, grief, and isolation. However, on a larger scale, my work also features recurring themes of found family, unconventional relations, and community, set within various speculative universes.

So far, my greatest accomplishment has been an indie press accepting one of my horror poetry collections, to be published sometime next year. Rejections can get frustrating, especially when they come from dream magazines, but I usually submit a new piece and move on.

I don’t have a lot of experience with Greek publishing, but when it comes to English-speaking international markets, social media such as Twitter can be helpful in promoting your published or forthcoming pieces, and discovering more authors whose work you enjoy, as well as new writing opportunities.

I’m mostly focusing on horror and dark fantasy at the moment, since I find the genre therapeutic. One of my works in progress is a short story collection about allegorical and anthropomorphic animals. I am also getting a couple of poetry manuscripts submission-ready.

Avra Margariti is a queer author and Pushcart-nominated poet with a fondness for the dark and the darling. Avra’s work haunts publications such as Vastarien, Asimov’s, Daily SF, Space and Time, and Flash Fiction Online. Avra lives and studies in Athens, Greece. You can find Avra on twitter (@avramargariti).

Eleftherios Keramidas

I worked intermittently on my fantasy trilogy, The Sons of Ash, for fifteen years. So, although I produced other fiction during that time, for much of my adult life those three books were tantamount to writing for me.

From a rejection letter I received: “I like the protagonist’s mixture of cynicism and goodwill.”

I write about reluctant heroes. People who trust institutions but distrust those who wield power. People who can spot the flaws of others but believe in humanity’s potential quite enough to sacrifice themselves.

My first story published in English was one of five picked up among over seven hundred submissions for a pro-rate anthology. Pretty good for a virtual unknown.

On the frustration front, I believe most authors have too many of those to single any one out.

Getting published is easier than ever, it’s getting noticed that’s become hard. So, many of us pursue attention on social media, with varying results. Greece is small enough for word of mouth to work, but speculative fiction readers are few, and some will only read in English.

Testing the waters with a couple of sci-fi stories.

Bio: I’m a software analyst moonlighting as a speculative fiction author. In Greek, I’m best known for my fantasy trilogy. In English, my short horror fiction has appeared in anthologies by Zombies Need Brains and Third Flatiron. My story “Toxic” is also available as a podcast from Third Flatiron.

Dimitra Nikolaidou

My short story “The Crack at the Border”, published in Retellings of the Inland Seas. It’s set in Cyprus and it overflows with things that happened to my parents and grandparents. Many editors found the true events in this story more implausible than its fantastic elements (trenches in cities? Saints in military uniforms?), but they have always been part of me growing up.

War. Love. The quest to fill the “God-shaped hole” in all of us. Flowers in the wrong places.

Getting my story “The Honey of the World and the Queen of Crows” published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies was exhilarating. On the other hand, I’m often frustrated by how hard it is to find a market for my horror stories.

The immense competition in English-speaking markets means you need to get accustomed to rejection, but as long as you keep up with trends and work on your writing, you’ll get there. In Greece, a small country with a tight-knit speculative community, it’s much easier to tout your horn and get people to read you but this way you have less of an incentive to keep improving.

Having edited our first Greek speculative fiction anthology, we’re now hoping to make it a biannual thing. I’m also working on publishing my thesis on the conjunction of speculative fiction and role-playing games. Perhaps these projects will distract me from the fact that an alternative history, retrofuturistic novel is brewing inside my head. 

Dimitra Nikolaidou is a Greek author. She researches RPGs and speculative fiction at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and teaches creative writing at Tales of the Wyrd. Her fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Andromeda Spaceways, Metaphorosis, See the Elephant, Starship Sofa, and Gallery of Curiosities as well the anthologies After the Happily Ever After, Retellings of the Inland Seas and Nova Hellas. 

Vasso Christou

My short story Όλες οι Γεύσεις του Φωτός (The full flavour of light). The main idea was that something that hurts you is not necessarily evil. Despite the simplicity of the idea, the writing has proved quite challenging. I loved this story the way you love an unruly child. 

A recurrent theme is about information and/or knowledge, often hidden or lost, that comes to light. Most often this is connected with the danger associated by the lack of critical information and sometimes with the abuse of it by a certain tiny elite (priests, rulers or even researchers). 

Several years ago, I entered and won a science fiction contest with an unpublished novel.

Ironically, the greatest frustration came from the same novel. For a long time no publishing house would accept it because it was “a rather long story coming from an unknown female author.”   

Greek authors are often not appreciated by their peers, and speculative fiction is sometimes rejected on the spot by publishers. As for getting my work abroad, the greater problem is the translation, which requires time and money. Social media help but it’s hard to devote the time required for promoting my work.

I have a finished fantasy novel on its way to be published next year and I’m halfway through the editing of a science fiction novel. I have a few ideas about a future fantasy book, but I always sincerely hope that I’ll able to engage more in science fiction writing. 

Vasso Christou was born is Athens. She has studied Information Technology and works as a teacher. She has published the fantasy trilogy Λαξευτές and a short story collection. Her short stories have been published in Greek magazines and anthologies. Her short story “Roseweed” is translated in English and Italian. 

Antony Paschos

In English, my short story, Pinebark, is a personal favourite; it has a deep connection with nature and it talks about the sea in a way that is really special to me. I was delighted to see it in Channel magazine.

I find that I’m drawn to forests and trees and nature in general. Perhaps it has to do with my childhood years; summers spent in my parents’ cottage, which is built close to a forest full of pine trees.

I don’t consider myself successful in any way whatsoever. My second novel in Greek, Μετά Βίας, published by Bell Publications, which is a major Greek publisher, was probably the biggest thing that has happened in my creative career.

I’m still struggling to get my work known. Definitely, learning to write in English was the greatest personal challenge. I wasn’t fluent, I wasn’t speaking and I wasn’t reading books in English so the beginning was frustrating.

The local market is small, isolated and tends to stick to old tropes. That’s why I turned my attention abroad. 

Concerning the social media, I really don’t know; I have a hate relationship with them.

I’m still bombing the magazines with submissions until I get a good grip of the language. When I’m able to write faster, I’ll start doing novels in English too.

Antony Paschos is a Greek author with published short stories in Metaphorosis, Channel, The Common Tongue magazines and several others in Greek anthologies and literary magazines. He has also published two books, the latest of which, titled Μετά Βίας, was released in 2019 by Bell Publications. He is a member of the Athens Club of Science Fiction, and lives in Athens.

Michalis Manolios

“Aethra” is by far my most successful short story. An art critic is murdered in a house furnished and decorated with clones of a famous artist. “Aethra” won the 2010 Aeon Award and was subsequently translated in four languages, reaching even the Philippines and Chinese schools and universities.

It is certainly the identity. I like to explore what it is to be some other, what makes you you, how would it be to meet with and even confront yourself in a wide range physical or virtual situations. Many of my short stories and my first novel have identity as their main theme.

Success: To create, control, play and explore a few tens of characters within characters in my first novel, “Αγέννητοι Αδελφοί”. The idea is that we can create unborn siblings of us who take over our body and act in our place. It was really tough!

Frustration? No, I somehow expected all the bad news.

The language barrier is very hard to overcome. Within Greece, the social media can help, but only to an extent, because science fiction remains a niche.

It would be great to find a decent idea for my next novel. It is always very difficult for me.

Michalis Manolios was born in 1970. He has published two novels and three collections of short stories. His short story “Aethra” won the 2010 Aeon Award. His short stories are published in magazines and anthologies in Greece, Italy, Ireland and the United States, the Philippines and China.

Victor Pseftakis

Writing “The Song of Leviathan” (Cossmass Infinities, Issue 5) was hard. The main themes of collective action, transformation and unbending love sprang out of a very deep, untamed place inside me, and the emotions at play were so intense and loud that reining them into a cohesive story felt impossible at times.

The theme of transformation has played a key role in every piece I’ve written. Also, the experience and/or feeling of being foreign or uprooted or abject. The strife for a better world, and the despair rooted in burning, unfulfilled, impossible desires. 

My greatest success is that I’ve sold “What Makes You Forget” to the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, combined with the second pro sale of the year (The Song of Leviathan in Cossmass Infinities). What stresses me out is that it took me three years. I’m a slow writer.

The international market brims with publishing opportunities, but it’s difficult to navigate, let alone get our work known, especially given the difficulties in attending conventions or festivals or writing workshops outside Greece due to high costs. Social media can help; connecting with editors, writers and agents might be hard since networking takes time, energy and honed social skills, but it’s feasible. Getting access to the Greek reading public is easier, but writers are notoriously underpaid. 

I’m writing a weird novella in the same world setting as “Sinkholes” and “What Makes You Forget,” hoping I’ll finally get this world building concept out of my system. I’m trying out a more experimental structure with this one, we’ll see how it goes. I’m also drafting a (solar punk? sci-fi? weird as usual?) short story for ALEF’s workshop.

Victor Pseftakis is a Greek writer, editor and translator. His stories can be found in Metaphorosis, Cossmass Infinities, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and in various Greek venues. He teaches creative writing focused on speculative fiction at Tales of the Wyrd, which he co-founded. He holds an MA in creative writing from Kingston University, London. You can find him on twitter as @VPseftakis.

Christine Lucas

My short story “Dominion” (aka “The Book of Genesis According to Cats) that was included in Ellen Datlow’s anthology “Tails of Wonder and Imagination” alongside writers like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman and G.R.R. Martin. Ms. Datlow soliciting one of your stories when you’re literally a nobody is the stuff of dreams. 

Greek Grandmas Punching Nazis (and bigots in general). Also, cats (in ancient Egypt, aboard pirate ships and in outer space). 

Being a finalist for the 2017 WSFA award and a finalist for our very own Fantasticon (short story/SF) on the very same weekend. Lost the first, won the second.  As for frustrations? Having stories rejected from magazines for being “too Greek.” But they all found better homes, eventually. 

For people like me, who grew up in pre-internet times, maintaining a social media presence can be a daunting task. Especially when coupled with mental health issues. However, even a minimal presence can make a huge difference in readership, as far as I’ve seen. And for someone who writes exclusively in English, there was never any dilemma between local and international.  

Finish, polish and submit the horde of half-written stories in my hard drive. Keep up with my poor neglected blog. And, perhaps, unearth the outline of a space opera novel that’s been at the back of my head for almost a decade now, and write that too. 

Christine Lucas lives in Greece with her husband and a horde of spoiled animals. She’s a retired Air Force officer and mostly self-taught in English. Her work appears in several print and online magazines, including Daily Science Fiction, Pseudopod and Strange Horizons. She was a finalist for the 2017 WSFA award and a collection of her short stories, titled “Fates and Furies” was published in late 2019 by Candlemark & Gleam. Visit her at: http://werecat99.wordpress.com/

Kostas Charitos

I’d say I feel closer to my novel Κόκκινο (Red). It started off as a contest-winning short story; then two more short stories in the same setting followed, one of them was stretched into a novel, and, if everything goes as planned, I will end up with a trilogy titled Χαμένα χρώματα (Lost Colours).

I think that one of the matters that intrigues me the most is humans and their relationship with authority; that is, how we can face authority without loosing our humanity, what means we have to resist it and how our choices influence both or own lives as well as the lives of the other members of the society.

I suppose my greatest success are the two novels I published; the first one because I didn’t know the dangers that lurked behind such a move, the second because I believe it is less rushed and more mature. I get disappointed each time I fail to publish some work of mine. However, it is of a creative nature, as it gives me motive to get better.

The Greek market is too small and a big part of the public consider science fiction a lesser kind of literature. We do have, however, ALEF (the Science Fiction Club of Athens) by our side and a closely knit fandom. Abroad, apart from the language barrier, the competition is huge. The social media are useful in order to promote one’s work, provided that one does not waste creative time on them.

I will try to complete the other two books of my trilogy. I would also like to publish a short story collection, as deep down I consider myself a short story writer.

Kostas Charitos was born in Arta and lives in Athens with his family. He is a chemistry instructor and in his spare time he writes stories, several of which have been published in magazines and anthologies. He has published two novels: Σχέδιο φράκταλ (2009), Τρίτων publications, and Κόκκινο (2020), Κέδρος publications.

Lina Theodorou

I think I will refer you to the α2525 project which was realised in 2017 in collaboration with ALEF and the club’s science fiction writers. It was sponsored by the Onassis Foundation and comprised a film and a book with the aforementioned title. This collaboration motivated me to write more often sci-fi stories and scripts.

Obsessions… My adoration of robots, man’s attempts to control nature, technology vs mythology, the absurdity of the human condition, which goes all the way from tragedy to ridiculousness, experimental narrative techniques, art installations, interactive games and movie scripts.

My success is my non-stop artistic creation in more than twenty years, inside an artistic status quo that I would leniently call morbid. I consider it a great success each time a project becomes reality, surpasses my initial expectations and communicates better with the audience.

Although I was lucky and started putting my work on display as soon as I finished Art School in Athens, it would help me a lot if I were a better manager. Many professionals have helped me, as well as institutes I have worked with. I always have to remind myself that the hard work needed to promote a completed work is crucial in order to communicate with the audience.

Regardless of the country, I believe a fertile outcome is crucial; the creator must collaborate professionally with persons and bodies he agrees with both idiosyncratically and ethically. 

Public relations and social networks help only in someone has the talent, the knowledge and the experience to use them correctly.

After three years of work, I completed in collaboration with 3D artist John Butler a sci-fi 3D animation. It is my first script in the eco science fiction genre. The story unfolds in the Mediterranean area in the future. A scientific discovery offering immortality turns the world around with dire results.

Lina Theodorou is a visual artist and a screen writer. She lives and works in Berlin and Athens.She has taken part in several exhibitions, including: the BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts (Brussels), the Vienna Museumsquartier, the National Museum of Contemporary Art (Athens), the EMAF (European Media Art Festival) (Osnabrück), the Deste Foundation (Athens), the Museum Fridericianum (Kassel), the 8th International Biennale, the 6th ev+a Limerick Biennale, the 53rd International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, the 11th International Architecture Exhibition Venice Biennale,  the Biennale of the Moving Image, (Buenos Aires), and so on.

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