July 2013

Hill Home to Scifi Publisher

Ryder W. Miller

Tachyon Publication — an award winning publisher of science fiction, fantasy, and horror — is located on a quiet corner of Connecticut and 20th streets. Jacob Astrov Weisman, 48, founded the company in Potrero Hill in 1995, and still serves as its editor and publisher. He’s lived in the neighborhood since he was three years old. Weisman’s parents were drawn to the community’s artistic vibe; his father worked as an actor and director with The San Francisco Mime Troupe.

Growing up Weisman remembered the Hill as a sleepy blue collar neighborhood “before the East Coasters arrived.” The community changed during the dotcom boom, and after the “freeways went down…It was a depository for East Coast settlers” who formed an “old artistic community,” said Weisman. “Most people in the City didn’t know where Potrero Hill was, and it still has a small town feel to it.”

A successful journalist and fan of genre fiction, Weisman launched Tachyon with Ganglion and Other Stories by Wayne Wightman. In 1997 the company found success in The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche, by fantasy legend Peter Beagle. Since then it’s won many of the major science fiction and fantasy awards — including The World Fantasy Award and the Nebula  this year— steadily getting bigger. Along the way the field has changed, with many of the City’s book stores moving or folding, felled by the Internet. “Everything is really consolidated,” said Weisman, over bottled water. “Amazon is now a major player.”     

Tachyon’s small size enables it to adapt, said Weisman. “Most people don’t pay attention to which publisher they read,” he admitted. Tachyon titles are sold at many outlets, including Christopher Books. The company sponsors a monthly science fiction author reading — SF in SF — organized by Weisman’s wife, Rina, and moderated by Terry Bisson, which serves as a fundraiser for The Variety Children’s Charity. Tachyon also hosts a monthly movie night, recently presenting Doctor Who. “We are more interested in being interactive than most science fiction publishers tend to be,” said Weisman. “Sci fi has always been an open dialogue. It is more than just commercial.” Among Weisman’s current favorite authors are Michael Swanwick, Frederick Brown, and Philip K. Dick.

Tachyon, named after a hypothetical particle that can travel faster than the speed of light, suggests the embrace of a science fiction dream of interplanetary travel, time travel and intergalactic communication that hasn’t yet materialized. For some sci fi fans the fact that this vision hasn’t come true is one of the biggest disappointments of the new millennium. “We didn’t get contacted by extraterrestrials. We didn’t blow up the planet. Not all the tropes are good,” said Weisman.

Weisman noted that science fiction is not as popular as it once was. “Traditional science fiction is not as vibrant as it’s been,” said Weisman. “It is not going away, but obscured or hidden under the surface.” Genre publishing has increasingly switched to fantasy and dark fantasy. And Tachyon has had to adapt to the rising popularity of Steampunk, Swords & Sorcery, Epic Fantasy, and Urban Fantasy. Tachyon’s staff likes to bring publications out of obscurity, as well as meet current sub-genre demands. “Preserve old stuff and push the envelope on what is being done now,” explained Weisman, who studied journalism and creative writing at Evergreen State College, and interned at Asimov’s and Locus Magazine.

 

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