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gadesSmall press, big heart

By J.J. Rahn

Being a science fiction and fantasy publisher was—literally—a dream of University of Calgary alumna Gwen Gades. Now, with her upstart imprint Dragon Moon Press, she’s making that dream a reality.

It used to be that serious Canadian science fiction and fantasy authors had very few choices for getting into print. For years, the only noticeable Alberta publication was Edmonton’s On-Spec magazine.

Since the early -’90s, however, the genre is finding a home out west, with Edmonton’s Tessaract Books merging with Calgary publisher EDGE, and Canadian science fiction guru Robert Sawyer choosing this province for his own imprint—Robert J. Sawyer Books—in collaboration with Red Deer Press. Thus, Gades now finds herself in good company.

Dragon Moon Press came into being in 1993, when Gades opted against law school after finishing her BA in history. At the suggestion of one of her professors, she decided to incorporate her love for science fiction and fantasy into a career as a publisher.

The name for her publishing company came in a dream. Gades recalls being struck by inspiration in the middle of the night, by the image of a dragon—an archetype of fantasy—and the moon—a standard of science fiction—coming together as one.

She started off by attending a publishing workshop at the Banff Centre for the Arts and it was then that she realized Calgary had little employment to offer a fledgling publisher.  While developing the Dragon Moon vision, she paid the bills and honed her management skills by progressing from a clerk at an independent bookstore, to one at a chain bookstore. She worked her way up from being an assistant manager, to a manager and then a regional buyer.

Eventually, Gades found herself buying books and magazines for a national chain and thus developing a very clear idea of what was popular in the current market.

Things really took off when, after printing some book covers at Two Printers, she was offered an opportunity to help them get into the short-run book printing business.

Together, they started Blitzprint, which provides Gades with the printing expertise and facilities she needs, in return for her knowledge on how to publish a really fantastic book. She refers to their synergy as “a form of divine intervention.”

The next big boost for Dragon Moon Press was the arrival of author Tee Morris on the scene. Gades refers to him as one of the best things that has happened to Dragon Moon since it was launched.

Morris has authored three of Dragon Moon’s 19 novels, including MOREVI, Legacy of Morevi, and Billibub Baddings and the Case of the Singing Sword. He has also co-authored Dragon Moon’s The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy, and The Fantasy Writer’s Companion.

“He’s been a nagging—I mean, driving—force behind Dragon Moon Press since he came on board,” Gades laughs. “He brings energy, talent and a determination that makes him an unstoppable force of nature.”

Morris refers to Gades as a woman bent on world domination. Gades says her goal is somewhat smaller—to capture enough of the market to expand to a mid-sized press. Finances remain one of her biggest challenges.

In the short term, “I’d like to walk into any bookstore and find our books on the shelves, have a few breakout authors make the leap to big presses and be able to say ‘Oh, I discovered him/her’!” she says. As for the future, Gades remains realistic.

“Some of the things we have going on right now, I think may help us to make becoming a larger press a reality. We’ve teamed up with Lumos Publishing to release a whole line of Dragon Moon Audio Productions.

“We’ve got one of the strongest lineups of podcasting authors. We are looking at some foreign right sales and are starting to feel like we’re being noticed. We don’t really need to be a big press, just a small press with a big heart.”