Archive for September, 2009

Short fiction anthologies come in many flavors: some contain original fiction and some are comprised of reprints; they can be themed or non-themed; they may restrict themselves to a certain sub-genre of speculative fiction… But one thing they all have in common is that it’s Editors that put them together.

Continuing from Part 1 and Part 2, we asked a handful of Editors the following question:

Q: Can you describe what goes on behind the scenes – from conception to publication — when creating a short fiction anthology?

Read on to see their illuminating responses…

Rich Horton
Rich Horton is the editor of a best of the year anthology series from Prime Books: The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy; and also a collection of the best online fiction, from Wyrm Publishing, Unplugged. His reviews and essays appear in Locus, Black Gate, Fantasy Magazine, SF Site, and many other publications.

My experience to date in anthology editing is rather thinner than that of most of my colleagues, as I have edited only “Best of the Year” collections. That makes my job easier on several grounds. Compared to an original anthologist, I don’t have to commission stories, nor wade through slush, nor work with authors to improve their submissions (either by line editing or by suggesting more dramatic changes). Compared to many reprint anthologists, I don’t have to look through nearly as many stories, and the authors I reprint are likely to be pretty accessible. (I have heard some harrowing stories about difficulties with finding out who controls the estate of dead authors, and also of difficulties working with authors’ heirs with unusual ideas of the market potential for reprinting old short stories.

The story of the conception of my books is simple enough. For many years, as an offshoot of my reviewing work for Locus (and prior to that, Tangent Online), I have prepared a list of the best stories of the year, organizing them (on occasion) as “virtual” best of the year books. A few years ago I had the thought that one market segment that was underrepresented in anthologies of this sort was online fiction. I suggested to Sean Wallace at Prime Books an anthology of the best online fiction of the year. Sean was unsure of the sales potential of such a book, but shortly later he suggested that we simply do a pair of more traditional Best of the Year anthologies: one for Science Fiction, one for Fantasy. (As of this year, those two books have been combined into one – and, happily, I am finally doing a Best Online short fiction book, Unplugged, for Wyrm Publishing.)

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Short fiction anthologies come in many flavors: some contain original fiction and some are comprised of reprints; they can be themed or non-themed; they may restrict themselves to a certain sub-genre of speculative fiction… But one thing they all have in common is that it’s Editors that put them together.

Continuing from Part 1 last week, we asked a handful of Editors the following question:

Q: Can you describe what goes on behind the scenes – from conception to publication — when creating a short fiction anthology?

Read on to see their illuminating responses (and check out Part 3 when you’re done!) …

James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel
James Patrick Kelly is the author of a slew of novels and short stories including Burn, Look Into the Sun, Strange But Not A Stranger, Think Like A Dinosaur And Other Stories, and The Wreck of the Godspeed. His numerous short works include the Hugo Award-winning “Think Like A Dinosaur” and “Ten to the Sixteenth to One”. He is also co-editor with John Kessel of three anthologies: Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology, Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology, and the upcoming The Secret History of Science Fiction. He also writes a column for Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine.
John Kessel teaches literature at North Carolina State University. He has published numerous books and short stories over the years and he is a Nebula Award winner for his story “Pride and Prometheus.” His latest book is the short story collection The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories. John is also co-editor with James Patrick Kelly of three anthologies: Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology, Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology, and the upcoming The Secret History of Science Fiction.

We have edited three reprint anthologies; the genesis of each was different. Jacob Weisman at Tachyon Publications approached Jim to do a slipstream book and he enlisted John as his co-editor; the result was Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology. We proposed a book about post-cyberpunk and Jacob greenlighted Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology. And it was Jacob and the perspicacious Bernie Goodman who suggested the idea for The Secret History Of Science Fiction; the book is due out next month.

We’ve a long history of collaboration and we’ve shared a similar vision for these reprint anthologies. In each of them we were trying to put forward an argument about the recent history of the genre. So we first had to gather our thoughts about slipstream and post-cyberpunk and the divide between mainstream and genre sf. Creating reprint anthologies like these involves figuring out what we think about a subject, or what we can credibly say about it. Selecting the stories has involved a couple of methods: (1) we decided on who we wanted in the book and then read intensively for stories that best illustrated our thesis, and (2) we decided what kind of stories we wanted and then cast the net widely to see who might have written the sort of thing we needed to support our thesis. In each of the books we have had some disagreements that have involved negotiations between us, and the final table of contents has been affected by practical considerations that made the end result different from our initial intentions.

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Stargate SG-1 Watchathon – ‘Double Jeopardy’ (S04E21)

Description: SG-1 returns to Juna, formerly known as PX3-989, a planet they – or rather, robot duplicates of them – helped free from Goa’uld enslavement.

“Double Jeopardy” starts out with a really nice bit of misdirection. We’re lead to believe, after a bit of thought, that the robot duplicates of SG-1 had come to Juna, led them in a rebellion and then left them. Which confused me as I don’t remember that happening in previous episodes, but okay. Then we realize, when Daniel is de-craniumed, that what we though was SG-1 was, in fact, the robots. Well played Mr. Cooper, well played.

Harlan then comes through the stargate into the SGC and pleads with the real SG-1 to help out his robot buddies. After a bit of discussion, it’s decided SG-1 will return to Juna to help free the people from Cronus.

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SF Tidbits for 9/30/09

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REVIEW: Interzone #224

MY RATING:

It’s easy to forget that the numerous “Year’s Best” anthologies don’t paint the whole picture in terms of what’s getting published. The stories have to come from somewhere, right? One of those places in Interzone magazine, now up to issue #224 and under the Editorial leadership of Andy Cox and Andy Hedgecock.

This is the first issue of Interzone I’ve read [smacks self on head] and I’m surprised by how strong an issue this is — surprised because an average anthology is not usually this good. Why? The quality of fiction is subjective, of course, and some stories are thus less entertaining — this is the nature of the anthology, or any collection of stories. That’s not a bad thing, mind you. Such variety is useful in expanding reading boundaries. What’s remarkable is that this particular collection of stories tickles my brain in all the right ways.

Following are my reviewlettes of the stories contained in this issue…which also contains several other articles and features to round it out.

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Geek With (Lots of) Books: St. Sandi

Soon my wife, Sandi and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. No one, particularly our folks, ever felt we would get that far. There were many days when I wondered about it myself. But, somehow we have managed to trudge forward.

Sandi is a saint. There are many devilish aspects about her. She told me on our second date these fateful words, “I may burn dinner but that’s not all I’ll burn!” Fortunately (for me) she has never burned dinner. For that matter, she has never made dinner. She also told me on that same date, “My momma taught me to be a Home Wrecker not a Home Maker.” Not quite true either. I, however, got through college on my cooking abilities and had regularly cooked at home for 5 years by the time I graduated from high school. I discovered in college that, if you worked for a restaurant, you might not get a lot of pay, but you generally got one hit meal a day.

Back then (the forgotten early 70′s) I frequently went with less than $1 in my pocket for days. Austin, where I attended school, was regularly considered to be the cheapest major city to live in. When working for the state, I was paid once a month and, after my bills, would live from the 5th to the end of the month on about $20. Somehow I survived and managed to acquire a few books.

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Get ready…the series premiere if Stargate Universe is this coming Friday, October 2 at 9/8c.

Here’s an extended sneak peak to whet your appetite.

Free Fiction and Stuff for 9/28/09

Free Fiction and Stuff [courtesy of the unstoppable QuasarDragon]

Stargate SG-1 Watchathon – ‘Entity’ (S04E20)

Description: Stargate Command is infected by an alien probe that uploads its program into the base computers, where it accesses sensitive data on Stargate program and its personnel.

For the first half, this episode does a decent job with the ‘alien program in the computer system’ thing fairly decently, aside from the obvious how in the heck an alien program would be able to run at all on Earth based computers. Things progressed nicely with the program doing what you would expect up to, and including, building itself a ‘safe house’ to reside while the SGC tried to clean out their systems. That’s all well and good. Plus the question of whether to try and communicate with an unknown, possibly hostile, alien or wipe it out is a good one.

However, the episode jumps the shark when Carter is infected by the alien via electrical pulses to the fingers. Right. That’s even worse than a virus, created on a Mac can infect and blow up an alien spaceship. Then toss in the ‘speaking in Hawking’ idea and they lost me. Yes, the idea the alien would try to preserve itself in any way possible feels right, but the execution is just rather lame. Sigh.

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SF Tidbits for 9/29/09

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[SF Signal welcomes guest reviewer Chris Roberson!]

Not Less Than Gods

REVIEW SUMMARY:Steampunk + secret history + spy thriller = spectacular read

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In Victorian England, Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax is the most promising young agent of the Gentlemen’s Speculative Society-a secretive organization of scientists and thinkers whose previous members have included Archimedes, da Vinci, and John Dee. Armed with futuristic technology-radios! cameras! balloons!-Bell-Fairfax and his fellow agents make their way across the Ottoman Empire and points east on the mysterious business of the Society, while keeping a wary eye out for rivals and fellow travelers alike.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: The spycraft is dead-on, the settings and era are completely immersive and convincing, the jokes are funny and the action is taut.

CONS: The Society is definitely a boys’ club, and there is something of the Boy’s Own Adventure to the novel, with very few girls onboard-a fact entirely mitigated by the companion novella, The Women of Nell Gwynne’s, about which more below.

BOTTOM LINE: Fans of the Company novels will delight in learning more about Bell-Fairfax and his mysterious spymasters, and readers unfamiliar with Baker’s work will find this an excellent place to begin.

I’ve raved long and loudly about my love for the Company novels of Kage Baker. Which is not to say that I don’t have a deep respect and admiration for her fantasy novels like Anvil of the World and House of the Stag, quite the contrary, but the Company novels play directly to my love of secret history, time travel, and metafiction-so much so that they might as well have been written expressly for me.

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INTERVIEW: Alex Irvine

[Editor's Note: A while back, SF Signal published a Mind Meld feature on Tomorrow's Big Genre Stars. Patrick at Stomping on Yeti has been profiling these writers and has agreed to cross-post them here.]

I first heard of Alex Irvine through my Star Wars addiction when his name was announced among the writers who were part of the next Del Rey contract. At that time, I hadn’t really heard of him so I did a little more digging into his previous work to set some expectations. Based on what I found, those expectations were set and they were set high. So it came as no surprise when Alex’s name appeared on SF Signal’s Watchlist. Like so many of the authors I’ve interview in the Keeping An Eye On Series, Alex is just beginning what looks to be a long writing career, but already has a few of the awards and honors that aspiring writers dream of. He didn’t have to wait long either as his debut novel, A Scattering of Jades, won several awards including the Locus Award for Best First Novel in 2003. Since then he has gone on to write several more novels as well as some more diverse work, including comic books, non-fiction, and even some ARGs.

I hoped that Alex would spill the info on his secretive Star Wars book but Lucas has a lightsaber to his throat. Instead I had to settle for a great interview full of rabid fans, tree-hugging pinkos, and other information not bound by an NDA. Read on for more!

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Jor-El Instructs Baby Superman On His Way to Earth

Why don’t I watch more Robot Chicken?

[via MilkandCookies]

WINNERS: Surrogates Prize Pack

The winners of our Surrogates Prize Pack Giveaway are:

  • Pat C. from London
  • Liz D. from Beckenham

Congratulations!

Thanks to everyone who entered.

Books Received: September 28, 2009

In the interest of full disclosure, here are the books we received this past week.


A quick note about the Death Troopers cover. The flipside of the dust jacket is a wall poster, and the binding of the book features a duplicate of the cover artwork. That a cool feature. Kudos to Del Rey!

SF Tidbits for 9/28/09

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Sunday Cinema: Attack From Space (1964)

From IMDB:

Benevolent aliens from the planet Emerald send superhero Starman to protect Earth from invasion by an evil alien race called the Spherions. When Starman arrives on Earth, he discovers a conspiracy involving Earth’s top scientists, and he must root out the traitors and also stop the impending alien invasion.

Trailer: Riverworld

So, whaddya think?

[Thanks to Christopher Paul Carey, who sent this in.]

SF Tidbits for 9/27/09

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So, what did you think of the Series Premiere of FlashForward?

Overall, I liked it and will watch more. I have not read the Robert J. Sawyer book on which it was based, so I’m coming into this cold. (Perhaps for the better of my viewing enjoyment.)

Here are my thoughts after a scant one episode…

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