Geoff Brown is the award-winning Australian writer and Australian Shadows Award finalist-editor owner of Cohesion Press.
Cohesion Press is best known for its flagship military horror anthology series SNAFU, stories from which recently made up a decent percentage of the fiction used to create the Netflix series Love, Death + Robots helmed by Deadpool’s Tim Miller.
[AC] The biggest news for Cohesion Press this year was the release of its stories in Love, Death + Robots. How does a small publisher from regional Victoria in Australia end up with their stories in a Netflix series?
[GB] Hard work combined with the best product possible. That is all. The Internet made it possible for us to reach anyone if we tried, so we tried, and we reached Hollywood.
I knew right from the get-go what I wanted in SNAFU, which is the book that caught Tim Miller’s eye in the first place.
Tim has since told me he read the first SNAFU when it came out in 2014, and he went ahead and read every anthology we released after that. Tim loves the short story format.
My advice to get the right attention? Just do a proper job. No cutting corners. No ‘near enough is good enough’. Just do it as it should be done.
So many publishers these days do a half-arsed job with every aspect of their output.
Crappy cover art and design, editing done by a friend who teaches high-school English (editing is a skill in itself, and being good at English and/or a heavy reader is NOT enough), layout done by Amazon when they upload a Word document.
That was never enough for me. If I couldn’t master a skill required, I would find an industry professional to do that aspect.
Hell, some of the presses these days are started by people who are barely authors themselves, let alone professionals, but suddenly (thanks to the ease of publication as a result of Kindle Direct and print-on-demand services) anyone can call themselves a publisher and release piles of crap on unsuspecting readers. No training, no industry awareness, and no care to gain any experience or knowledge.
We worked hard to reach the audience we have with SNAFU.
I’ve read my whole life, and then I worked in the publishing industry first as a beta reader, and after that I went on to study full-time for two years to gain the skills necessary to edit and perform layout for our work. I then opened as a freelance editor with the skills from study, as well as studying for a Bachelor of Arts in Writing and Publishing, online through a university. You can’t just put half-assed crap out and then feel entitled to success.
[AC] Not to make you pick from your babies, but which was your favourite adaptation and why?
[GB] I loved them all, for different reasons.
I thought Kirsten Cross’ short, Sucker of Souls, was brilliant, both as a story and as adapted into the animation. The characters, the humour, the dialogue, all made it across the process and were adapted beautifully.
Steve Lewis’ short story Suits had a real poignant humanity about it, how family and friends will do anything for each other, no matter the cost, and that was also brought perfectly into the short film.
David Amendola’s short, The Secret War, was just brutal in nature, and again, the animation sourced by Tim (Miller) and David (Fincher) was just right to convey this brutality in all its glory. Digic Pictures managed to make the short with almost photo-realism, capturing every spray of blood and head ripped from shoulders. Loved it, but I loved them all.
[AC] SNAFU is Cohesion’s flagship series. What is it all about and what can grimdark fans find in there to like?
[GB] SNAFU is the dark horror of war, short and simple. So much horror is creeping, subtle and gothic… ours is violent, brutal, and desperate. We ask for action, violence, tension, and blood, all as a result of warriors pitting themselves against monsters. Think Aliens (the sequel with the Colonial Marines), Dog Soldiers, Predator, all that cool shit. Violence, betrayal, intestines… who could ask for more?
[AC] You’re also Tim Miller’s senior story consultant. What does that role include?
[GB] I’m one of the senior story consultants for Love, Death + Robots. There are a few of us. What we did, and still do, is read. A lot.
After contacting Cohesion and buying rights to some of our shorts, Blur (Tim’s studio) was still hunting for more stories for season one. Tim’s taste was decisive for many of the final choices, and because he believed I had a similar taste in action/horror as he did, he wanted me to read widely in my narrow area of the genre and let him know when I found a short that I would have included in a SNAFU if it had been sent in for consideration.
All the story consultants were basically sending in the best stories we found. There was a spreadsheet Blur Studios had put together on Google Docs, a list of anthologies (hundreds and hundreds of them) that potentially may have something that could be used, so we slowly read through that list, but the beauty of having so many different readers in so many different genres was that we would likely come across stuff that wouldn’t be on that list.
[AC] What’s it like working with a famous Hollywood director?
[GB] Just like working with anyone else, really. Tim is a decent, focused, driven, down-to-earth guy.
He’s not up himself, he’s not pretentious or arrogant. He’s just another guy. He and his wife, Jennifer, are both just nice people.
They do hope one day to bring their family out to Australia to see the haunted asylum I own. That would be a very cool day, I have to say.
[AC] What is the next year looking like for Cohesion Press?
[GB] With SNAFU: Last Stand coming out at the end of 2019, and with a great selection of SNAFU stories in the process of being bought for season two of Love, Death + Robots, we’re looking at a great year for Cohesion. We plan to continue the yearly SNAFU release, and leave our focus on that.
AJ (Spedding) and Matt (Summers) are the two hardworking folk who keep the vision of SNAFU alive, and with their dedication to putting together the very best SNAFU release every year, Cohesion will keep chugging along, putting out books and watching them come to life on the screen with Netflix.
[AC] Running a small press is hard. What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Cohesion in the short and long terms?
[GB] As always, marketing and reach are the challenges faced by small and mid-sized presses across the board. With Amazon levelling the playing field with Kindle, we all have to plough through the swamp of mundanity to attract the attention of readers. With thousands of books published every week, at least, there are a lot of things out there saying “Hey, buy me, read me!” And most of them are shit.
We’re lucky in that regard. You can’t get much better marketing than Tim and Netflix.
All we have to do is stay current. Adapt to the market, yet stay true to our core concept and to the faithful readers who buy every issue.
[AC] What’s your favourite part of running Cohesion?
[GB] I have to say I love seeing authors we’ve put out there doing really well in all aspects of their career.
Some of our SNAFU writers, due to attracting Tim’s attention, ended up working on Love, Death + Robots in some other aspect as well.
These are people who never would have thought they’d be working with Hollywood, yet there they are.
I love seeing these writers feel positive and uplifted rather than constantly struggling to believe they are any good.
[AC] For people wanting to check out Cohesion Press’ productions, where should they start and what’s the best way for them to support you?
[GB] Buy a SNAFU. Review a SNAFU. We sell exclusively on Amazon for now.
We have eight SNAFUs out in ebook, and the latest one, SNAFU: Resurrection, is also in print.
We’ll be bringing more and more of the previous volumes back in print over the next year, as well.
If you enjoy what you read, leave a review and/or talk about it. Word-of-mouth is still the best marketing.
[Editor’s note: this interview is also available in Grimdark Magazine Issue #19]