I started a new job last week, in an office in the city, all proper-like. Six years I've been freelancing, with little personal contact to the people I work with. And three years I've been publishing, with constant online-only contact to my team. So I'm having a truly wonderful time interacting with people day to day.
In the bus on the way home, before leaving the city centre, I can see a number of office premises for lease. Full or half floors, they say. Open plan with some partitioning. Newly built, newly decorated, newly renovated - there are quite a few options available to a company wanting to set down roots in downtown Auckland.
As the bus rolls on, to the motorway and over the high harbour bridge, I stare at the sea and dream. If I could lease one of those office suites for my own purpose...what would I do with it? Well. First off I'd haul in all my co-workers at Splashdown, and perhaps the teams of some other small presses as well. Might as well use the synergy, eh?
They come from all over the world. If we're to gather in one place, New Zealand is as groovy a spot as any, right? Everyone would pin up their family photos over their desks along with their choice of Trekkie/Whovian/Narnian/Lord of the Rings posters, and there'd be huge prints of all our book covers on the walls. Hours would be completely flexible, since everyone's a volunteer, but we'd all be there pretty much all the time because we love it and I reckon we'd rent apartments above for all the family to be near. While we're at it we'd rent the ground floor retail space to sell our books.
There'd be a massive amount of mind-meld style brainstorming as authors write, designers design, editors edit, salespeople sell, readers read, artists draw and paint, and everyone keeps the world updated on our progress via social media. Can you imagine the fun to be had in a shared office like this?
Then it occurred to me: we've already got the next best thing. We may not be in physical proximity. We may sleep and wake at different times. We may never have actually met. But we're colleagues of the highest order.
We chat whenever we can get online. We bounce ideas around. We show off our families and fan memorabilia. We sell books in a virtual space. We run to each other with questions and requests for input or help. We write, edit, design in parallel, driving for a common goal. We commiserate and celebrate, joke and jabber.
There's just one thing I'm waiting on...a virtual reality setup to bring the actual experience closer to the felt connections.
Grace Bridges is a freshly hatched office translator, writer and publisher at Splashdown Books. Her calling is the weird and wacky arena of science fiction, fantasy and horror, driving for constant innovation and quality in the small press scene. See www.splashdownbooks.com for more.
She also runs the Avenir Eclectia fiction project at www.avenireclectia.com, currently works with Team PYP as a short story mentor, helps oversee the Lost Genre Guild, and very much enjoys living in New Zealand where the date is mostly tomorrow for her American colleagues.