August 6th, 2004

crap crap crap crap

The World Fantasy Awards have been announced. I'm not on it.

Years ago at Boskone, I came up with the notion of doing an original anthology that didn't have a theme -- like what Patrick Nielsen Hayden had done with Starlight. The field needs more anthologies like that, and eventually I hit on the notion that would make it stand out: all the stories would be novelettes. Some of the richest, most wonderful tales in the field were novelette length: "The Bicentennial Man" by Isaac Asimov, "The Screwfly Solution" by Raccoona Sheldon (a.k.a. James Tiptree Jr.), "Tower of Babylon" by Ted Chiang, "Sandkings" by George R.R. Martin, and so many others. The higher word count keeps the punchiness of a short story while still having the room to do the world-building that is so critical to SF/F.

My father came up with the title for it: Imaginings. I pitched it to every major publishing house in New York. They all passed on it.

Except for Pocket Books who, at the time, were starting up a line of original SF/F to go with their extensive media tie-ins. Books like Dayton Ward's The Last World War, Peter David's Sir Apropos of Nothing trilogy, Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Fantasy Life, Susan Wright's Slave Trade trilogy, my own Dragon Precinct, etc.

They thought it would be a good addition to that.

The toughest selling point on this was that I didn't have an author list. The whole point of the anthology was to be an open call. I envisioned this as a series, like Starlight, like Terry Carr's old Universe anthologies, like Bantam's Full Spectrum volumes, that would be wholly open calls. No prearranged table of contents.

I announced the anthology at WorldCon in Philadelphia in 2001. From then until 15 June 2002, I got about 450 submissions. With the help of some first readers from my trusty-wusty writers group, I whittled that down to ten. At WorldCon in San Jose in 2002, I announced the contributors list. It ranged from top-shelf talent like Harry Turtledove and Sarah Zettel to award winners Adam-Troy Castro and Janet Berliner to best-seller Craig Shaw Gardner to old-timer Charles L. Harness to lesser-know-but-still-damn-talented folk Nancy Jane Moore and Aaron Rosenberg and Daniel Pearlman and H. Courreges LeBlanc.

I figured I had a winner, especially with Harry's very popular name at the top of the contributor list.

Then something happened. Actually, several somethings happened, but the most important was Simon & Schuster deciding to cut back on genre books in general. This happened after Imaginings was put together, but before it was published.

The publicity was nonexistent. The sales force said my name wasn't strong enough to sell the book, that only the editor matters, not the contributors -- this, by the way, is the same sales force that wasn't concerned about the editor of the new anthology Dark Dreams not being a big name because they had stories by Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, and Zane. In my more cynical moments, I think sales forces look for reasons not to sell books. Publicity never sent copies to any review media, and anthologies like this live and die on reviews.

Mine died. I tried to get galleys out myself, but the in-house editor of the book managed to screw up the making of the galleys nine hundred different ways, and we lost a month and a half while she screwed up. The result was that the galleys all went out too late to get reviewed in any of the magazines, except Locus, which gave it a nice review, for which I was grateful.

My dream for this was to make a good showing in the novelette category (usually a weak field anyhow) of the Nebulas and Hugos, and to possibly get noticed by the World Fantasy Awards (only some of the stories were fantasy, but the WFA are the only ones that have a Best Anthology category).

One story got a Nebula nomination, and that because it was a jury selection (one member of the Nebula jury was, conveniently, the same guy who reviewed the book for Locus, which is, I suspect, how the book got to the jury's attention). The Hugos ignored it, despite my leaving copies of the same story that got the Nebula nod on the freebie tables of northeast conventions for a year (heavily attended by Hugo voters for Noreascon in Boston, presumably), and despite my holding a very-well-attended publication party for the book at WorldCon in Toronto in 2003.

Pocket, having cut back so severely on genre material, couldn't really go for another one. I was hoping that, with the Nebula nom, I might be able to convince another publisher to go for it, especially if I got other award consideration.

Then the Hugo nominations came out. This morning the World Fantasy nominations came out. I sent copies to all five judges, but got no love from them, either. All my hopes for re-selling this were bound up in award consideration, but all I got was one jury selection. The WFAs were the last bullet in my gun.

It's frustrating. I got lots of good word on the anthology from those who saw it. A review did eventually appear in Chronicle, and Harlan Ellison loudly proclaimed in a packed Barnes & Noble during the Nebula Awards weekend that it was a great anthology -- high praise from the man responsible for Dangerous Visions. But too many people never saw it in the first place.

I freely admit, this was a longshot. It's a tough field out there, and I was victimized by circumstances beyond my control (a deadbeat in-house editor, a publisher who stopped caring about what I was doing). But I wanted so much to do something that would have an impact on the field, something that would be a good new market, something that people would look back on years later and think well on. I had hopes for a bi-ennial anthology that would be the place to send those 8000-15,000-word stories.

Instead, it's a blip that will be forgotten by those few who even knew about it in a few years. Which puts it with 90% of everything else that's out there. Shit happens, life goes on.

But I'm going to be pretty melancholy for a while about this.
  • Current Music
    "Thick as a Brick" by Jethro Tull

Mittens update

I was up very late last night doing the rewrites on the Klag story suggested by my writers group. When I finally went to bed, I had trouble falling asleep. Just as I was about to get up to take a melatonin to help, Mittens did something he hasn't done since he was diagnosed:

He jumped up onto the bed with us. Then he stayed there for the rest of the night, which is something he's done maybe twice since terri_osborne and I moved in together.

Unfortunately, he was mostly on my side of the bed, with his face facing me. To paraphrase Blackadder, Mittens's breath comes straight from Satan's bottom, and I was also practically falling off the bed.

So I didn't get much sleep last night. And I don't care even a little. Because our little fighter kitty wanted to be with his humans for the night, and I'm damned if I'm going to begrudge him that. Or anything else. He's more than earned it.

I love that cat.

I meant to post that earlier, but got sidetracked by the WFA nonsense. Just remembered to post it now, and damned if I don't feel better about the final stake in Imaginings's heart.

Excuse me, I've got a cat to go scritch.....
  • Current Music
    "Budapest" by Jethro Tull