Helping create the Geek Love anthology has opened my eyes to a number of things. Not least the incredible difficulty of choosing which stories go in the final book. Lets just say I appreciate the work of other editors out there way more now!
Think about it. You put out a call for submissions. You want erotic geek stories, and you're determined to pick a fabulous selection. You're aware that your readership is likely to be a discerning one. So you just pick the best stories, right?
First, in any anthology you need variety. Your readers aren't clones, and won't all want the same things. You're going to have readers who like guys, and readers who like gals. You're going to have readers who love hardcore BDSM, and ones who skip past anything other than vanilla. And in a more general way, you need variety of voice - stories told in first person, stories told in third (and perhaps even second). Stories told from a male point of view, and stories told from a female. Hetero, gay, lesbian, and group sex. Poetic, literate, emotionally moving tales - and raunchy, in-your-face, I-need-a-cold-shower-after-this tales.
Variety of setting. Fifteen different stories set in a smalltown American comic book store, no matter how awesome each is on an individual level, will make for a turgid read. So you say: let's have some of everything right across the geek landscape! - tentacles and space opera, futuristic and fantasy and fairytale, bookish and scientific and techie and comics and superheroes and steampunk and MMORPGs....
Oh, and - apparently - coffee shops. That was a new one on me.
This is assuming that you get subs in each of these categories. You're at the mercy of your writers here.
That's when the problems really start. Because you've only got so many pages to fill.
- What do you do when you've got a completely brilliant story that you just love, but it's not erotica?
- Or what if it's red-hot erotica, but not geeky?
- What if you have five different Cyberpunk tales, each a masterpiece, but only one about My Little Pony fans* - does a better but commonplace story lose out to one with a unique theme?
- Does one long story lose out to two short ones of equal callibre, so that more authors get a chance to showcase their work?
- Do you accept multiple stories from a single author, thus showcasing a reduced number of writers?
Every choice hurts. I'm pretty good at being mean to my fictional characters, but I hate being mean to real people.
I know this: we will be rejecting some GREAT stories. Stories that completely deserve publication. Stories that it has left me feeling gutted to say "no" to. But ones that for one reason or another, don't fit in the anthology.
And it's the editors' job to keep an eye on the big picture.
*Not a real-life example.