Interview made online on May 2 2003 by Sophie Ferragne and Évelyne Bussière (coeds in 5th secondary [High-school] at the Beaubois College) for a student report. [This is a quick computerized translation from French]
1) Where did you get the idea of creating a magazine? If it is a passion, how did it start?
Clodjee Pelletier: Indeed it is a passion. I was already publishing a French-speaking fanzine on the Québécois science fiction titled Samizdat. In 1987, a friend made me discover the animated series Robotech. As I found this series excellent, I made some search which made me discover that it was in fact a series (or rather three series combined together) of Japanese animation. I also discovered that the very great majority of the TV series that I watched as a child were also Japanese series: Prince Saphire, Léo The White Lion, Sally The Witch, Marine Boy, Maya the Bee, Démétan, Vicky the Viking, Caliméro, etc. I found Robotech so cool that I decided to make a fanzine (in English) on the subject. Under the threat of a lawsuit on behalf of the holders of the rights of Robotech, Harmony Gold, we legalized the fanzine to make of it the Official Robotech Fanzine (in return for the payment of a very expensive license). After ten numbers, I had the impression to have exhausted the subject, so Protoculture Addicts became a magazine (instead of a fanzine; we judged our work professional enough to consider ourselves as a full fledge magazine) dedicated to Japanese animation in general.
2) Why did you chose to make a magazine rather than another project?
CJP: As I already mentioned, I was already publishing a fanzine on the Québécois science fiction and it is this experience which justified my choice. We had planned to make a parody of the Robotech comics at first, but it was too much work.
3) In which domain did you study to become a magazine publisher?
CJP: The studies which I made then did not have any relations to publication or journalism. I was doing a Master degree in ancient history at the University of Montreal. I continued with my PhD in the same subject (my original plan was to study Library Science, but my Roman history teacher convinced me to remain in history) but, at the end of three years, I decided to give up for financial reasons (end of my loans and grants), because of a dissension with the department of history (which made me waste my time on useless tests) and especially because the magazine was starting to need my full attention. I then [in 1991] devoted myself full-time to Protoculture Addicts.
4) Is this your only work or have do you have other occupations?
CJP: It is my only work. I live relatively meagrely, but it is enough to pay the rent and to eat twice per day (and my wife also has a job).
5) Are you many people to carry out this marvellous projects? If so, how the tasks are distributed?
CJP: We are three people working on the magazine. I am doing the planning, coordination, layout, shipping, promotion (publicity, Web page) and all the administrative tasks (i.e. accounting). I also write some articles (or, generally, corrects and supplements the articles of the other members of the team). My wife Miyako translates and writes the majority of the articles. Martin Ouellette writes the majority of reviews (manga, video, model kits, etc) and some articles. Some articles are written by outside collaborators (paid by the word).
6) Since how long Protoculture exists?
CJP: Since Fall 1987, which makes a little more than fifteen years.
7) How many magazines do you have to your credit?
CJP: Only two: Samizdat and Protoculture Addicts. I also collaborated with Solaris (one article), published a collection of poetry, some short stories (in Samizdat), and published (as publisher and anthologist) anthologies of short stories of Québécois science fiction (Sous Des Soleils Etrangers [Under Foreign Suns] and the series Orbite D’approche (4 vol.; [Orbital Approach])). I also published (as publisher) some short stories collection of Daniel Sernine (Boulevard Des Etoiles [Boulevard Of Stars], A La Recherche De Monsieur Goodtheim [In Search Of Mr Goodtheim] and Sur La Scene Des Siecles [On The Scene Of The Centuries]).
8) Is Quebec the only point of sale or your magazine is sold in other countries?
CJP: In fact 85% of the sales are made in the United States and 10% elsewhere in the world (we have a distributor with the United Kingdom, copies are exported outside America by our principal American distributor (it is going, among other places, in the Philippines), and we have subscribers in France, Japan, United Emirates, Kuwait, Singapore, etc). Only 5% of the sales are made in Canada (and of that less than 1% in Quebec). It proves that it is true that no one is prophet in his own country…
9) Did you have any difficulty to find success in Quebec?
CJP: From the start, we knew that the language of publication, English, would pose a problem for the local market. Then we immediately aimed at the American market, by going directly with U.S. distributors. But in Quebec there is a big problem of attitude which makes that people does not believe that a local production can be of quality. When I introduced the magazine to fans into local conventions, often the initial reaction was “Wow, cool, an anime magazine” but when they were realizing that it was done here, the majority were saying “Yuk! No, I am not interested.” We don’t have any distributor in Quebec (the sale here is done by subscription or direct sale in specialized shops like Cosmix or the Marché Clandestin). All our Canadian distributors are in Toronto. At the beginning, we tested, without success, a local direct market distributor (for the sale in kiosks). It is only recently that we succeeded in placing PA at a magazines distributor in Toronto. Irony of the fate, it is now through this distributor that the magazine is found at local bookstores like Chapters and Indigo in Montreal.
10) Which population your magazine reaches? Quebecers, Chinese… Japanese… young, adult…?
CJP: Ethnically speaking, I believe that we reach all groups. The anime phenomenon seems to touch all ethnic groups, all the social layers, in a relatively homogeneous way. Our readership however especially consists of teenagers and young adults, though an important part is also found in the thirtysomething age group (those watch anime with their children or teenagers). Ten years ago, the anime fans were mainly boys with hardly 10% girls. With a greater diffusion of the phenomenon by television and the fact that we import more series with subjects succeptibles to interest the girls (beautiful male heroes, social dramas, and the introduction of Yaoi and shojo genres) this demographic characteristic of the market is completely changed. The distribution is now more in the order of the 50/50 and even more. Last weekend I was at Anime North in Toronto and the proportion seemed more to be of 70% girls and 30% boys!
11) Are you planning of releasing on the market a French version of your magazine?
CJP: No. My experience with the French-speaking publications (Québécois science fiction books) showed me that the market here is too small to be profitable with a niche product and that the European market, protectionist and relatively closed, is too difficult to penetrate.
12) According to you, how do you explain the growing japonisation in Quebec?
CJP: It is not a phenomenon particular to here. I believe that it is global to North America. People are blasé of their usual stuff and seek exostism, particularly from the East (and not only Japan). The East fascinates. This is why anime, cinema of Hong-Kong and India, sushi bars are suddenly very popular and have a great influence on the popular culture.
13) Last question, which is a little personal! What are your favourite Manga and anime series?!
CJP: It is not an easy thing to establish. There are so many good series (for various reasons: the history, the quality of animation, music) that it would be necessary to make my Top 50 to answer that. I have already, two years ago, establish my Top 5 as follows: Escaflowne (series and film), all films of Hayao Miyazaki with Nausicaa first, Akira (which had a major influence on the popular culture and the popularity of anime in general), Robotech / Macross (since it is the source of my anime epiphany) and Kimagure Orange Road.
But to limit ourselves to only these five is to forget Bubblegum Crisis, Megazone 23, Cowboy Bebop, Ghost In The Shell, Evangelion, Patlabor, Lupin III, Gundam, Record Of Lodoss War, Giant Robo, Big O, Yamato, Gatchaman, Golden Boy, Gunbuster, Noir, etc, etc.
Among the series that I’ve seen recently, I also must mention Macross Zero, Rurouni Kenshin Seisou Hen, Sento Yusei Yukikaze, Read or Die, Voices Of A Distant Star (for OVAs) and Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Wolf’s Rain, Rahxephon, Dot Hack//Sign, Gundam Seed, The Twelve Kingdoms, X, Witch Hunter Robin, Ai Yori Aoshi and Hikaru No Go (for the TV series). All are excellent and I recommend them.
CJP: My pleasure!