Friday, 5 October 2012

Anthologising Blues

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.


t'Sade said...

A few years ago, when I was invited to see a live pony show (the sexy kind), there was one lady who had the cutest outfit. She had a blue rig and dyed her hair blue also. And she had a cutie mark right on her buttocks (handcuff and a horseshoe intertwined). I thought it was the sexiest thing I had ever seen.

So, I'm into the My Little Pony pony play. :)

Janine Ashbless said...

I think there's a story in Geek Love that may be right up your alley, t'Sade. Not exactly MLP, but ...

Janine Ashbless said...

Oh, and for the record - I think pony play is sexy. Not at the top of my list, but definitely there.

t'Sade said...

You're editing it, of course I'm going to find something I like. I only have a quarter of your books, but I have yet to find something you have written or edited that I haven't enjoyed.

The problem with being omnisexual is that I find (almost) everything sexy. :) And, I'm adventurous, so I've wandered into things that I would have never even considered.

Jeremy Edwards said...

Well, hopefully you can comfort yourself by remembering how when you're in the writer's chair and have to face a rejection, you're aware it's just the way the process goes sometimes (for all the reasons you've explained here), and likely no reflection on your story in any larger sense. Now that you're in the editor's chair, keep in mind that the rejected writers are hopefully keeping that same perspective on things, and not feeling wronged.

That said, this issue is one of the several reasons I've never pursued anthology editing myself. I really would hate to have to make all those tough decisions, and send rejections for stories that I thought were good but that just didn't etc. etc. Thank goodness there are people willing to do this job!

Jules said...

I'll just leave this link here... ;)

Janine Ashbless said...

It's terribly hard not to take rejection personally when you're a writer, I know, Jeremy. It's so easy to see the story as a part of "you."

But it's not really. That's the thing. The story isn't the author. A story is actually *bigger and more important* than the author. If there's one thing I've learned about my writing over the last few years, it's that.

Jo said...

Naw, I reckon it's a case of, if it's right, great, if it's not, well, next time.

I actually find it easier to submit a rejected story, there's less investment somehow. And there's a place for everything. This antho was always going to be a tall order to get into, I think!

But yes. Hard Job. The nice things is, if you're editing other things later, you can remember and come back again...

Janine Ashbless said...

Oh yes - stories will be borne in mind!

Alessia Brio said...

Please consider referring your great rejections to Coming Together!