Starting 2014 with a flurry of activity

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Starting 2014 with a flurry of activity, I’ve got conventions on back to back weekends. This coming weekend I’ll be at IllogiCon, along with GOH’s Mary Robinette Kowal and Lawrence Schoen, plus other luminaries such as Misty Massey, James Maxey, Ada Brown, Gail Martin, Mark Van name, John Kessel, and Gray Rinehart. IllogiCon is Jan. 10 – 12, although I won’t be there on Sunday because of another commitment. It’s at the Embassy Suites Raleigh-Durham/Research Triangle, which is actually in Cary, NC (just a smidge south of Raleigh). (I did a brief interview with Misty Massey for Bull Spec as part of their “Coming to Town” series leading up to IllogiCon.)

The following weekend I’ll be at MarsCon, which is at the Fort Magruder Hotel and Conference Center in Williamsburg, VA (Jan. 17 – 19). I will be at the whole con, no conflicts. Guests at MarsCon include YA GOH Carrie Ryan, who got me invited in the first place (it’s important to know who to blame for these things), as well as Princess Alethea Kontis, Mike Pederson (who helps run RavenCon in Richmond in April), and a whole slew of people whom I’ve never met before. This is my first time at MarsCon, so I’m looking forward to meeting lots of new folks.

Actually, it’s also my first time at IllogiCon, but that one is close to where I live and I already know a lot of those guests… which is a whole other reason to look forward to going. Hope to see you there. Or the other there. Or both.

In addition to the conventions, I also find myself back here on Magical Words. I can’t believe it’s been nearly a year since my last visit. But Faith (again, always important to know who to blame) emailed me a little while back and said if I wanted to talk about some of my upcoming projects, the door was open. She said the gang at MW was trying some new things with the site, and I think that’s great. ‘New things’ are necessary, vital, imperative. The way things have changed—and keep on changing—in the publishing industry, if you’re not evolving, you’re dying.

All of this is a great transition to the item I wanted to use as a springboard to talk about a bunch of other stuff: my new IGMS anthology. It’s available now in print and as an ebook through Amazon (and now that I’ve made my mandatory plug for the book, we can move on and talk about points that might be interesting/useful to you ;-0).SF Novelettes - full - compressed

This new anthology is the first in what I hope to be an on-going series of anthologies collecting stories from IGMS. This first one is called the IGMS Big Book of SF Novelettes (I’ll bet you can figure out what’s between the covers). In about six week we’ll also be putting out the IGMS Big Book of Really Short Short Stories. Those two are set. Depending on how well those sell, I’ve also already put together TOCs for the IGMS Big Book of Fantasy Novelettes, and another antho featuring stories from the women authors whom we’ve published over the years. The marketing part of me wants to keep the “IGMS Big Book” theme going, but I’m sure you can see the dilemma of putting out a Big Book of Women Authors. I really want to avoid anything that could even potentially be viewed as misogynistic and/or ripe for inappropriate fat jokes.

A few points about these anthos:

1) I started with novelettes and actually put together the SF and the Fantasy TOCs at the same time. Novelettes are, I think, an under-appreciated form. A lot of authors I know have avoided them for years because they an be challenging to sell. The market has opened up, with Amazon making it possible to sell single stories, and more and more online magazines and themed anthologies, but things are always tight on space and money and I wanted one more place for the world to find novelettes. The novelette is an ideal form, particularly for speculative writers, because it allows for developing alien/magical concepts that can’t be readily summed up in a line or two, without requiring a full novel’s worth of ideas and characters to tell the tale. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that as I look back over the nearly eight years I’ve been editing IGMS, many of my absolute favorites are right around 8,000 to 10,000 words.

2) I’ve been thinking for a long time about doing an all-female antho because I’ve noticed that a lot of the female-penned stories have a subtle sensibility to them that I can’t quite put my finger on, but is consistently absent in the stories written by male authors. I still haven’t figured out what it is, but I’m hoping that by intentionally studying these stories as a group, I can come a little closer to understanding. Even just putting the TOC together I see more than a few stories about getting lost, about losing one’s self, about things people take for granted just disappearing. It intrigues me, even as it’s fuller meaning remains just outside of my grasp.

3) The anthos will all be published under the Hatrack River banner, which is the same ‘publisher’ that is responsible for IGMS. I put the word ‘publisher’ in quotes because Hatrack River = Orson Scott Card, which means that we are effectively self-publishing these books. We already have a staff/team of professional editors and designers and proof-readers, etc etc, and the POD technology is to the point where the production end of things is easy, so it’s not that big a leap, but it is still something of an experiment. We published one anthology through Tor a while back, and it sold fairly well. To date we’ve moved over 10,000 copies, which isn’t bad for a collection of short stories. To be absolutely candid though, the book has never earned out its advance, and I don’t know that it ever will. Tor thought the fact that the book contained new Ender stories meant it would sell like an Ender novel, which is a whole other animal. You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again: too big an advance can actually be a bad thing, because it can make it devilishly hard to get a second contract if the first one doesn’t earn out. But as I said earlier, the publishing industry has evolved, a lot, and we’re going to try self-publishing these bad boys.

4) The book that I had the most fun assembling was the IGMS Big Book of Really Short Short Stories. I once heard it said that novelists are failed short story writers, and short story writers are failed poets. Point being, the more concise the form, the harder it is to do exceptionally well. But I particularly love stories under 4,000 words, especially if you can hit a bulls-eye on a tale in the 2,000 to 3,000 word range. I know I said earlier that some of my favorite stories from IGMS are in the 8 to 10k range, but those stories are like avalanches sweeping down a mountainside, rumbling, all-encompassing. A great story in the 2 to 4k range is more like a bolt of lightning: it can hit you out of the blue and blow you off your feet before you ever knew it was in the air. I LOVE THAT! So I put a whole book of them together. It will be approximately the same page count as the Book of SF Novelettes, but there are eleven novelettes in this first book and there will be close to forty short short stories in the next one.

So… that’s about all I have to say today. If anyone has any questions about putting anthologies together, or picking short stories for publication in general, I’ll be happy to answer them. Also, I would be interested in hearing from you any thoughts you might have on the pros and cons of very short or very long stories, as well as potential (serious) titles for my female-author focused collection that won’t offend anyone. Always ticklish territory.

So that you know, I will be around until roughly lunch-time, then hitting the road for IllogiCon. I’ll have my laptop with me though, and will do my best to check in through the day (as much as is practical, anyway). And whatever else you do, don’t stop writing!

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17 comments to Starting 2014 with a flurry of activity

  • Ken

    Welcome back, Edmund! It’s good to “See” you around here again.

    Questions:

    You’re putting together a SF anthology. Do you go for an even mix of hard/soft SF or do you have more of an idea of what kind of mix you want prior to putting out the call for submissions?

    Here’s what I like about very short stories: I can get good stories in nice little bite-sized chunks for when I don’t have the time to sink into a story for a while. I can also get a nice big sampling of a lot of different authors which might let me stumble onto a new favorite.

    Very long stories have the space available to get me the kind of detail that I need to really bring me into the story and keep me there for a while.

    Sorry, no titles come to mind right away. Good luck on the New Anthos!!!

  • Yedra

    Welcome back, it’s nice to find out what has been keeping you so busy.

    First, let me say that as a woman I wouldn’t find your “big book” title offensive, and wouldn’t have tied that to fat jokes. But I’m not overly sensitive so now that you point it out I can see how some might find a way to get upset.

    My suggestion for the title is simply Big Book of Stories by Female Authors. It separates the ‘big’ from the ‘authors’ and puts the description on ‘stories’. Plus, the idea of a book of exclusively female authors being “big”, as in having lots of authors, should really be considered a good thing. :)

    Hope this helps. Enjoy the trips and good luck with the anthologies!

  • Welcome back, Edmund! We’ve missed you!!!!! And now I’m doubly disappointed that I won’t be able to hit any cons this month because of business travel.

    I second Yedra’s suggestion for the title!

    I like, and write, stories of all lengths. I think the length is entirely dependent on what it is the story needs to convey. It is almost impossible to shrink a tale that needs room, and, to me, hubris to use more words than the story requires. But then, that’s just me. And yes, I do agree that the 8K plus ones have been gawdawful hard to sell.

    Regarding the difference between stories written by men versus those written by women, I think it has to do with the way we’re wired to see and interpret the world. For the most part (and this is based on several scientific studies over the years), women tend to feel and internalize and be more sensual (not as in sexual, but as in non-visual), while men tend to think and externalize and react more to visual stimuli. These differences, however subtly, tend to leak into our writing. I’m not saying that a female author can’t write a very believable male character, or a man write a woman’s perspective…they can, and have, and will continue to do so. But the way one perceives (and writes) a tree, or reacts to an insult, or how a train sounds from off in the distance is nuanced by the way one reacts to the real world.

    That’s just my two cents, anyway. :-)

  • Razziecat

    Yay, Edmund’s back! 😀

    I’ve thought about it, and I vote with Yedra on the name for the anthology. If anyone is immature enough to make fat jokes about that, they aren’t worth noticing. And thank you for putting together an anthology of stories by women in the first place!

    I’m very intrigued by the idea of the short short stories anthology. I love a story that can really grab on and haunt you in very few words. Ditto for the novella one – I heard it was hard to sell works of that length, so it’s kinda cool that things might be changing for the better.

  • No luck getting online while I was at the con, but I wanted to come back and address the comments.

    Ken, When assembling this anthology my two thoughts were to get a good balance of all different kinds of SF, while making sure that I had at least a reasonable balance of male vs. female authors. I don’t have as many female-authored novelettes to chose from so a 50-50 balance wasn’t practical, but I wanted to at last aim for the best balance I could find.

  • Yedra,

    Thanks for the thoughts. I really like the idea of keeping the Big Book theme and I believe your suggestion is an excellent way to accomplish that. Thank you.

  • Lynn,

    I agree 100%: the length depends entirely on what the story needs. Back when I used to write a lot of short stories I could have an idea and know within about 500 words how long it would end up being. It was kind of cool.

    I really appreciate the insights on the female writing perspective. What you say makes a lot of sense. Thank you.

  • Yay, Razziecat! How have you been? Whatcha workin’ on these days?

  • Razziecat

    Hey, Edmund! I’m good, hope you are too! This year I’m putting serious thought into whether to focus on space opera instead of fantasy (at least for a while). I went with space opera for NaNo and the words flew onto the screen at light speed. I’m revising now. On the other hand I have a fantasy idea simmering that really intrigues me, too. So I’ve got some decisions to make. 😀

  • Welcome back, Edmund! Looks like you have a lot going on. A lot of my short stories fall in the 5k to 10k range. I do have some that end up shorter, but I just let the story dictate the word count. I haven’t had any picked up yet, but I’m more focused on my novels at the moment anyway. Lately, I’ve just been using short stories as practice. I do plan to maybe try doing some sort of antho, but that’s far down the line. Hopefully, I’ll have revision requests on my novella to occupy my time soon, and then requests for the novel that was picked up.

  • Edmund! So nice to see you around again. Good luck with the anthology :)

  • Best of luck with the decision-making process. You could write in all of the genres if you’re prolific enough, but that’s a tall task under the best of circumstances. Great to see you again.

  • Late to the party, as always. Edmund, it’s great to see you here — we miss your smiling face around these parts. Sounds like I should look into IllogiCon. Sounds like fun. I was at MarsCon last year and enjoyed it a lot. I also love the antho ideas and would leap at the chance to work with you again. In the meantime, welcome back, my friend, to the blog that never ends . . .

  • Edmund, I have written two novellas in the last year and I loved the experience of taking the tight, spare writing style of the short story and giving it a bit of rein, to run with it just a bit more. It was so much fun!

  • David, Wonderful to be back. IllogiCon was fun. Small, but when you get the right mix of people together it’s always a blast.

  • Faith,

    Two novellas is a lot of work. I’m glad you had a good time with it. You’ve written novellas before, yes?

  • Unicorn,

    Thanks. Good to see you again, too. Just found out that Audible has expressed interest in the anthology, so I’ve got my fingers crossed. Audio books are so much fun.