2013: Russell B. Farr

Russell B. Farr wins 2013 A. Bertram Chandler Award

Russell B. Farr
Russell B. Farr

Russell Who? A very collectible t-shirt from Swancon 22 in 1997 asked that question. Since then the Australian science fiction community has come to know and love Russell, his press (Ticonderoga Books), and his partner Liz Grzyb.

This is the story of Ticonderoga.

In the beginning…

Russell B. Farr’s affair with publishing began in 1996 when he was a 23 year old punk rock loving kid from Narrogin in the wheat belt of Western Australia, full of wild enthusiasm and lacking solid clues.

He was hanging around with the wrong crowd (viz. Eidolon activists Jonathan, Jeremy and Richard, collectively known as Young Ones Central living frugally at Mount Lawley near Perth) and doing the wrong things (i.e. reading stories by Howard Waldrop) when he picked up from a Waldrop manuscript of Custer’s Last Jump and Other Collaborations the telephone number of the late Steven Utley (10 Nov 1948 – 12 Jan 2013), a titan of American short form fiction. Despite the huge cost of overseas calls in those days, he phoned Utley with a proposal to publish a collection of his short stories in Australia.

As it turned out, Steven had just had a collection deal fall through, so he was happy to talk. He sent Russell a list of stories. Jonathan Strahan gave him a copy of the SFWA standard contract. Russell filled in the gaps and sent it off. Steven signed it, and the rest is history.


Why did Russell approach Utley to publish a collection of his work? Having read and loved Custer’s Last Jump, he began wondering who this Steven Utley guy was. He hit the shelves of Murdoch University library, found a published bibliography, photocopied it and then set about reading everything he could that was listed. He photocopied every Steven Utley story they had among the shelves: from Asimov’s, F&SF, Galaxy, and a bunch of science fiction magazines. He read all the stories on the bus back to Young Ones Central.

Here was an eager young fan, willing to put in the hard research yards, with the chutzpah to make a publishing deal to realise something he wanted – a single author anthology of someone he loved to read! And what’s more, he was willing to put up his money to achieve publication and put in more hard yards to distribute the finished items into readers’ hands.

Russell always has an air of calm, and a quizzical hint of humour in his eyes, if not a laugh on his face. It means that Ticonderoga book publication launches are always fun wherever they might happen and especially so among fans at a Convention.

But Russell is no ‘one shot’ entrepreneur. During Swancon 22, at which he was joint chair, his new press published anthologies of all the Guests of Honour, Howard Waldrop (with the combined efforts of the Young Ones Central/Eidolon crew), Steven Dedman and Sean Williams. Our boy wonder quickly became a publishing impresario.

The world of print was changing and Ticonderoga changed with it. Russell took his efforts online. In 1999 he established ticon4: http://ticon4.com, now Australia’s longest running semiprofessional science fiction webzine. This is currently edited by his partner in all things Ticonderogerous, Liz Grzyb.

As editor of Ticonderoga Publications, Russell has overseen publication of landmark story collections by such major Australian writers as Simon Brown, Stephen Dedman, Terry Dowling, Angela Slatter and Kaaron Warren; as well as the aforementioned anthology of best selling American author Steven Utley’s short fiction.

Print and Online forms of Ticonderoga Books coexist in healthy symbiosis.

Russell’s partnership with Liz Grzyb deserves mention, as they both channel their obvious genre enthusiasm through their editing and production skills with Ticonderoga Books.

The Ticonderoga logo has ‘four wavy lines’ on the spine of every title. Why? Those who know the wavy lines from Royal Copenhagen Porcelain may be confused... but fannish enthusiasm bubbles over and I posit that Ticonderoga Books is just one better than three wave perfection.

Just as Russell continues to be an ornament of our field and a deserving recipient this year of Australia’s most prestigious award for outstanding achievement in science fiction.

Congratulations Russell!

Grant Stone, April 2013