Ellen Datlow is an Editor Extraordinaire who needs little introduction. She has edited numerous anthologies, and co-edited many with other editors such as Terri Windling. She's won at least one of every major award for fantasy, science fiction, and horror fiction, and for her “Best Of" anthology she probably reads more in a month than most people do in a year.
Ms. Datlow took some time out of her schedule to answer questions for FEARnet about her upcoming anthology, Fearful Symmetries.
FEARnet: Fearful Symmetries is a new joint venture coming from you and ChiZine Publications. Can you tell us how this came about?
ELLEN DATLOW: I enjoy editing non-themed anthologies, but in my experience they just don’t sell as well as themed anthologies do. So understandably very few publishers buy them. While I was wandering around the dealers’ room at World Fantasy Convention last year, it occurred to me that perhaps attempting to fund such an anthology through Kickstarter might be an interesting experiment. I’ve noticed that most anthologies funded through KS are edited and published by the same person. I had no interest in doing this, as I’m not a publisher. I love what ChiZine Publications produce — both the content and look of the books — so I approached them with the idea of funding an anthology through KS. They were game, and so here we are.
It's an un-themed horror anthology. What do you expect the overall "atmosphere" to be?
Similar to that of Inferno. I’m hoping for a successful mix of creepiness, unease, and visceral horror produced by terror tales, supernatural tales, and dark weird material... I hope to feature a variety of styles, tones, characters, backgrounds, and plots/themes.
How far are you from publication?
The manuscript is due in September, but many of the solicited submissions are running late. The book will be out in 2014 but I don’t know what month yet.
What's your "standard bar" in terms of what you seek out in the writing? What grabs you?
An engaging story that forces me to continue reading. That’s what I seek for any magazine or anthology I’m editing. And then, beyond that, an interesting “voice,” tone, and all the elements that make up great fiction.
What are some of your plans in promoting the anthology?
The same as for any anthology I edit. The publisher and I hope to set up signings/readings if enough contributors are in the same place at the same time.
Publishing has changed a lot in the last few years. What are your thoughts on going the route you did in raising money for this?
That’s exactly why I took this route. I knew I couldn’t sell a non-theme anthology to a publisher. This way, the publisher isn’t taking a financial risk. The production, marketing, and the primary shipping (of premiums, books, etc.) are already paid for. Further, they’ll produce a print run for retail stores as they would for any other book they publish.
I understand that some people were doubtful this would work. Did you ever have your doubts?
I doubted we would make our goal until we made it.
How was the process for this anthology different overall from other projects you've worked on?
The only difference is that I opened the submissions process for a month and committed to buy two stories from those submitted during that process. Otherwise, it’s the same as any other anthology, as far as the solicitation and editing process. There are contractual differences between me and ChiZine, as we’re partners and thus share in any profits differently than the way we would if they were making a financial outlay in producing the books. My contributor contracts had to be modified to reflect this as well.
Anything else you want to add?
Only that I’ve been approached by many people regarding KS as a business model. I don’t feel it is, not for an ongoing business. The idea behind Kickstarter is in its name: It’s meant to kickstart something; that means it’s a one-off to help a business get started. So you can do a model of a magazine/webzine or prototype for a gadget, theatrical production, etc. but I personally feel that for an ongoing project, once you get it going, you have to create your own business model for the future and not rely on donations over time. Would I do an anthology this way again? I’d rather not.
Nancy O. Greene started writing at the age of nine. Her short story collection, Portraits in the Dark, received a brief mention in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007. Other works have appeared or will appear in ChiZine; Lovecraft eZine; Cemetery Dance; Tales of Blood and Roses; Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror; Shroud Publishing's The Terror at Miskatonic Falls; Dark Recesses; Flames Rising; Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore! and others. She has a BA in Cinema (Critical Studies) and a minor in English (Creative Writing) from the University of Southern California, and is a Fellow of Film Independent's Project: Involve.