My dream is that we would make any science fiction for adults at all. I had a meeting with a TV executive recently who seemed terrfied I was going to mention spaceships. He kept saying “no spaceships!”. So obviously now I want to make something about spaceships. I’ve always been interested in doing a Star Trek style thing cast entirely with Indigenous actors – to have some great Aboriginal heroes on screen for kids to look up to. But I’d love to see us do a great Buffy/Almighty Johnsons style series. I think we could do that and get away with it. And I really enjoyed Spirited.
Patience; that’s the personality trait you need. You have to be very, very patient and your co-editor also needs to be the same. Before you both begin reading, it’s really important to sit down and discuss what you want – so that you’re both on the same page (so to speak) when reading submissions.
With slushpiles, it’s not always a matter of good story/bad story. It is about the ‘feel’ of the anthology (I know there are some authors who want to hurt me for saying that). I have rejected stories that have gone on to win awards; but they just didn’t play well with the other tales in the book. So picking stories – on your own, or with a co-editor – really comes back to remembering the guidelines you set and the end product you want to make.
It’s hard to track book sales quite that accurately, but I noticed a resurgence of buzz about the book after the Philip K. Dick Award nom – this was 9 months after the book’s release, and most of my sales had been in the first few months. I think it’s probably true what they say, though, that word of mouth is the main source of sales. You can blog and do book signings and get award nominations till the cows come home, but ultimately you need readers talking about your book to other potential readers (and the internet is invaluable there, of course).
Marketing has always been a problem for self-published authors, but these days I have to be compete against the good stuff out there as well as fighting the negative image created by the ‘writers’ who decided to knock up a book over the weekend and make their fortune. At least in the old days, the wife or husband or other keeper of the funds was something of a gatekeeper. Now, it takes no time or money as all to publish a book. Apparently, for some, it doesn’t take any effort, either. So, I just keep hoping for some word of mouth to kick in (The Brightest Light got a great review on Amazon the other day) while I work on the next book.
The main challenges of putting together an (original) anthology… Well, as I said, you need to come up with a killer concept, get the best authors to commit to writing a story, find the right publisher (and the right money!), work out the contract, and that’s just the beginning. One of the main challenges (and I consider it a rewarding, often joyful challenge) is the back and forth between author and editor to get a story that’s “almost there” over the editorial bar. Admittedly, this is subjective on my part. No excuses. The challenge is to work with the author to produce the story s/he is really excited about. To put it bluntly, the editor’s challenge is to assist when needed and not “piss in the soup.” I’ve been told I’m a pretty good story-doctor. But for the real skinny, you’d have to talk to the authors.
I’m not sure if the genre has become more marginalised or whether it’s now so ubiquitous as to render fandom irrelevent. The face of publishing has changed dramatically over the last ten years. It’s taken a while, and there has been a great deal of resistance from publishers, but e-books/publishing have finally challenged the hard copy book as the prefered delivery system. We’ve seen the rise of small ’boutique’ publishers geared directly to serving a specific fan base. The major publishers have consolidated themselves and their products along demographic lines. We see less hard SF published and more high fantasy written for, by, and published by (older/mature age) women…whereas once upon a time it was predominantly a college-age male dominated scene. Fandom has also taken a hit. The traditional Worldcon is no longer the premier event…certainly not in terms of attendance figures. We’re seeing fandom (as I knew it) aging and dying. Technology has rendered the fanzine obsolete. In fact, as a one-time cover artist, I feel sidelined and utterly obsolete. When I was younger I dreamed of being Chris Foss or Bruce Pennington or Michael Whelan. But the reality as been a bitter, harsh, and ultimately futile struggle. I find myself often wishing I had pursued a fine art career a lot earlier in life. But it’s all been grist for the mill.