Friday, January 9, 2009

Quotes: What's in an anthology?

A panel of well known sf Anthologists Discuss Their Craft with Jeremy L C Jones in Clarkesworld, January 2009. Some highlights:

  1. Jonathan Strahan, & John Joseph Adams: An ideal anthology has 3 "really good" stories. Rest presumably of varying quality.

    Crappy stuff I keep finding in even anthologies whose title includes "best of" is filler.
  2. Editor's credo: Jonathan Strahan: "be honest.

    Ultimately you're acting as an agent for the reader so you need to be as straightforward and as honest with your reader as you can. Title a book clearly. Write an introduction that actually describes the book you've edited. Buy stories that fit the title and the idea. Encourage the publisher, as much as you can, to put a cover on it that fits... If you do that, then a reader can pick up a book and feel they're going to get what they expect."
  3. John Joseph Adams: "In the case of a reprint anthology, I think it's also important to include a large number of stories from disparate sources so that any one reader is unlikely to have read them all and will find many new discoveries, even if they voraciously read short fiction."
  4. John Joseph Adams: "the anthologist does have some obligation to the publisher to include a sufficient number of brand name authors in order to help market the anthology."
  5. Ellen Datlow: "I pay as much as I can from the advance on signature of the contract, so the early birds don't have to wait until I hand in the book to get paid."

    May be one of the reasons many authors love to work with her.
  6. Ellen Datlow: "For original anthologies I request stories from at least a third over the number I need because not everyone I approach will submit her story in the time required and at least a few of the stories won't be right for the anthology and will be rejected."
  7. Ellen Datlow: "be strong and reject stories that don't work, even if I really want that author in my book."
  8. Classical way of sequencing the ToC: Jonathan Strahan: "open with your strongest story, second strongest goes last, third strongest in the middle, then shuffle from there."

More on sequencing the ToC.

Ann VanderMeer: "because we know that the typical reader will read the anthology from beginning to end."

John Joseph Adams takes a more reasonable stand, in my book anyway: "that's assuming the stories are read in the order the anthologist chooses, of which there is no guarantee."

I'm among those who never read an anthology in order. I mean - I personally look at familiar authors, catchy titles, story sizes, & fame of an individual story to determine reading order:
  1. Editor's introductions to all stories first.
  2. Next the really famous ones - rarely more than a very few, if at all, in a specific anthology.
  3. Smallest stories next, except for those by a personal list of "banned authors".
  4. Next either very familiar authors or completely unknown ones - depending on mood, impulsively mixing with catchy titles.
  5. Then the rest, often skipping the "banned authors".
How do you choose your reading order?