Jaym Gates is an author, editor, and public relations specialist. She’s the Communications Director for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and an SF Signal Irregular. You can find her at JaymGates.com, or on Twitter as @JaymGates.
Andrew Liptak is a freelance writer and historian from Vermont. He is a 2014 graduate of the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop, and has written for such places as Armchair General, io9, Kirkus Reviews, Lightspeed Magazine, and others. He can be found over at AndrewLiptak.com and at @AndrewLiptak on Twitter. His next book, The Future Machine: The Writers, Editors and Readers who Build Science Fiction, is forthcoming from Jurassic London in 2015.
Jaym and Andrew co-edited the War Stories: New Military Science Fiction, which is out now from Apex Publications.
Charles Tan: What was the genesis of the War Stories anthology?
Andrew Liptak: Jaym and I both attended ReaderCon in 2012, and while talking about a bunch of topics, Jaym spouted: “You know, I really want to do another anthology.” I said something along the lines of wanting to do something with military science fiction, and after that, we spent quite a bit of time talking very fast at one another. Shortly thereafter, we drew up a wish list of authors, started contacting them, and came up with the idea of War Stories.
Charles Tan: What’s the appeal of military SF to you?
Jaym Gates: I have a lot of military friends and family, so it’s always been part of my life. What I like most is that it’s a great way to explore a very intrinsic part of human nature—the art and science of conflict is a thing that fascinates me.
And the military is often a leader in culture, technology, and science. I always love new things, so combine those possibilities with SF, and I’m sold.
Andrew Liptak: I graduated in 2009 with a degree in Military History, and started picking apart the science fiction stories that involved military stuff. Some of it held up well, some didn’t, and I ended up writing about it for a bunch of places. In particular, I see military history as a sort of history that touches just about everything – it’s not just the drums and trumpets, so to speak. Military SF is the same, in that it touches on a lot of themes that deal with the impact of warfare, which I feel is important to examine. Plus, it has its exciting moments.
CT: What made you decide to fund it with Kickstarter?
JG: We knew that this was going to have to carry its own weight. We weren’t going after the top MSF authors—in fact, most of our authors are known for totally different things—and we were making a run at a future that’s seldom explored in the genre. War Stories, in many ways, is as much social science fiction as it is military science fiction, and that wasn’t going to be an easy sell.
It’s also a pretty unique project, so we knew we could bring the money in. Close, but enough!
AL: Pretty much what Jaym said. Plus, it’s a new platform to fund new stories. The experimental element here was stressful, but exciting.
CT: How did Apex become your publisher? Was this determined before or after the Kickstarter?
JG: I used to blog for Apex, and have always wanted to do a project with them—I like their aesthetic, and thought that they’d be a good fit for an anthology that was as…unusual, I guess…as this one.
We knew, going in, that there would be a lot of push-back on this one, and we wanted to make sure we were with a publisher who trusted us enough to let us handle everything, but who would also push ahead if there were issues from outside.
And they did.
AL: I was impressed with their track record. They had a lot of good books and anthologies (some of which we offered in the Kickstarter), and I felt very comfortable with them putting this out.
JG: We had a bunch of authors who received invitations—largely military SF authors, or folks who’d expressed interest in the planning stages, but when it came right down to it, we don’t really have that many recognized MSF authors, and that’s kind of awesome.
Of course, we had to have a Joe Haldeman story in there, and I’m so glad we did. “Graves” is one of the creepiest stories I’ve read, and a perfect example of why Joe is such a household name in the genre. At the same time, it perfectly encapsulated what we wanted—human-focused, unusual, quiet stories dealing with the often-forgotten folks in war.
AL: I had worked on John Joseph Adam’s Armored anthology, and had come across several excellent stories that didn’t make the cut, plus had a couple of authors that I really wanted to work with. Mainly, though, I wanted to take some authors who weren’t really known for military stories and see what their takes were on it.
CT: The book is divided into four parts. How/when did you determine this division?
JG: Stuff just seemed to fit into it! We came up with those after we accepted the stories, and the equality with which the stories fit into the sections is something I’m kind of impressed with and take absolutely no responsibility for!
AL: I had actually envisioned this early on as we were pulling in stories, and as we figured we might do something with some extra artwork. The stories fell into place nicely into themes, and it made more sense to group them together into small sections.
CT: What was your collaboration process like? How did you determine who would work on which?
JG: Andrew and I both had our strengths and weaknesses coming into this, so the initial work was largely figuring who was good at what. Now, though, we largely just have this nice, fluid interchange—he gets too busy, so I pick up the slack, then I get busy and he moves into the lead. For example, he’s handling order fulfillment, while I work on getting stories out to reviewers in the military and science communities.
AL: We worked pretty well together, and Jaym put up with me when I was cranky and tired. I think what worked the best is that we had similar – but not identical – visions for the stories that we wanted here, and we both got the stories we really cared for in pretty equally.
CT: What were some of the challenges working on the book?
JG: Within five minutes of announcing the project, we were getting attacked on both sides. One side thought we were ruining military science fiction with a bunch of anti-war, pantywaisted namby-pamby. The other was sure we were planning this xenophobic, pro-war, ra-ra ‘Murica! thing.
In a way, that was great. We already knew that we were going to be fighting an uphill battle, and that meant it was easier to just ignore.
The other challenge was the slush pile. We ended up with about 900,000 words. No, seriously. Guys, you want to know if MSF is a viable genre? We weren’t open for submission that long! But the problem there is that we had to find this tiny handful of stories to publish, and there were SO many good options. Authors, you broke our hearts in the best of ways.
AL: Two major issues: one is handling Military SF in a progressive environment. It’s typically a pretty conservative field, and that hasn’t necessarily kept pace with some of the advances in militaries around the world. I think perceptions to that particular genre are pretty set, and convincing people that there’s more to the stories we had than what’s out there was a bit tough. I think the book will do well here, though.
And, there was a monumental slush pile, which was enough for eight more anthologies.
CT: Would you collaborate on another project together? Would you consider doing another crowdfunded anthology again in the future?
JG: We’ve discussed doing a second volume of War Stories, if this one works out, and it does appear to be doing amazingly well. As for more crowd-funded anthologies, yes! I’m waiting for some header art for my latest, Genius Loci.
AL: I don’t know that I’d do Kickstarter again, or at least the same way. I certainly am interested to see if there’s an appetite for a second War Stories. This one has been really well received, and there’s certainly a number of other great stories out there.
CT: What advice would you give to those seeking to crowdfund anthologies?
JG: Have a partner, if you can, and DEFINITELY have a plan. Aim low—you’ll be making most of your profit through royalties. Pay your authors, and stay in communication with them. And keep your physical rewards as minimal as possible—that money adds up fast.
AL: Budget, budget, budget. Inflate that budget by 25%, and you might cover your costs. We’ve put a lot of time and energy into getting the one for War Stories, and we came in a bit under (I’m still shipping rewards) what we intended. It’s certainly not something that you should enter into casually. Lots of planning and infrastructure helps.
CT: Anything else you’d want to mention or promote?
JG: I’m getting ready to launch Genius Loci—check here for more on that, it’s an amazing collection of authors and the stories are gorgeous.
AL: I just signed with an agent for a couple of non-fiction books, which will hopefully lead to something. I’m currently writing a column on science fiction history for Kirkus Reviews, with a book based on that coming from Jurassic London in 2015.