Martha Soukup (soukup) Wed 1 Jan 03 20:10
Ellen Datlow is the Hugo-winning editor of Sci Fiction <http://www.scifi.com/scifiction> -- in fact, she's the first editor to win the Hugo award for editing a purely electronic publication. In an earlier online publication, Event Horizon, she published what was only the second Internet-published story to win the World Fantasy Award (Kelly Link's "The Specialist's Hat"). But she'd already published quantities of award-winning science fiction, as the longtime fiction editor of Omni Magazine (and the online version of Omni, where she published the _first_ Internet-only story to win the World Fantasy Award) -- and as co-editor, with Terri Windling, of "The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror" (St. Martin's), which will see its 16th edition this fall. Ellen's anthology "Sirens" was recently reissued from HarperEos, and later this year, "The Dark" (Tor Books), an anthology of ghost stories, and "Swan Sister" (Simon & Schuster), a children's book edited with Terri Windling. Between her magazine, online, and many anthology gigs, Ellen has a sense of the course of modern science fiction and fantasy few can match; if you started to list the luminaries she's published, you wouldn't be finished till March. Conversing with Ellen is the inimitable Jack Womack. Jack also works in publishing, as publicist for the sf and fantasy books published by the various arms of Harper Collins. But he's hardest to erase from memory as the author of the deeply strange, dark, violent, funny Dryco series ("Ambient", "Terraplane", "Elvissey", "Heathern", "Random Acts of Senseless Violence" and, most recently and finally, "Going, Going, Gone"). For "Elvissey", he won the Philip K. Dick Award. Jack also owns a large collection of remarkably strange books. Please join me in welcoming both Ellen and Jack to inkwell.vue.
Jack Womack (jack-womack) Thu 2 Jan 03 08:23
A little background first, vaguely pertinent to my opening remarks. Ellen Datlow and I have known each other, have in fact been longtime members of the legendary New York Mafia (i.e. the people who have no better sources of gossip and information than anyone else, and in fact claim little more than to sometimes know the fastest ways to get downtown to restaurants that used to be good, last time we ate there). I remember meeting Ellen very well. It was at the SFWA party in 1989, held at the old Warwick Hotel on 6th if I remember right. Buzz Aldrin, I think, was the key luminary on hand. I walked up, and her longtime associate Rob Killheffer said to me "Jack, I'd like you to meet--" and Ellen immediately replied, "When can you write me a story?" Clearly, this particular method in getting material works. But as we know, writers are often harder to start than old Studebakers on frosty mornings. "Write it, dammit, I need it by Tuesday at nine" is another approach sometimes employed by editors vis a vis writers. What are some of the more subtle ways you use to get writers to write the stories you perceive (or know!) they have inside them? A followup, while we're talking editorial procedures. I think one of the things writers appreciate most about you (I certainly do) is your frankness in noting possible flaws in the narrative. What do you, as an editor, look for in a story? (I mean, everything from spelling to subtext.) And, how candid do you feel you can be -- as opposed to should be -- about a story, when you speak to its author? And one last, for the moment. Every editor has rejected something that later, he or she has second thoughts about afterward. Now, on the contrary, did you ever have second thoughts afterward about anything you've bought and published? No names necessary, needless to say.
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Thu 2 Jan 03 08:41
Jack, I'm glad you've got a better memory than I have. I never remember how I meet anyone. I find the nagging method of getting writers whose work I enjoy to produce short stories for me only works sometimes. Usually early on in the relationship when the author is still scared of me (not knowing that I'm really a pussy cat)or when I can offer wads of money at them. of course the worst problem is that many of the best and brightest stars of short fiction move on far too quickly to writing novels and no longer have time or energy to write a short story. The best way to procure short stories from those who have gone on to write (goddamn!) novels is to catch them at the right time--maybe when they're having trouble with the novel they're writing....or when they've just finished a tough one and they need a break. It's difficult to codify what I look for in a story--but there must be something about the story that _moves_ me in some way. That makes an impression. Competent writing is a must, great writing is a joy to behold but I'd also like there to be a point to the story. I look for a freshness in the telling, an unusual point of view or venue. There are so many components that come together in the decision to buy a story. I try to be honest with writers who I work with. If I think they can deal with straightforward criticism I'll give it (and if I think it'll help the specific story). I'm probably more critical if I like the work--otherwise I wouldn't bother. I'd just give the story a brush-off rejection. There are the occasional stories that on second/third/fourth look didn't hold up and I've very occasionally bought a story that I didn't think was up to snuff that I was pressured to buy for one reason or another. But I've never published a story I was embarrassed to have published.
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Thu 2 Jan 03 08:43
Ack --I meant "throw wads of money at them"--but you knew that :-)
Jack Womack (jack-womack) Thu 2 Jan 03 09:24
As long as wads of money are involved, I have no problem with their handling, in any particular way. Certainly you'd have never published a story that you'd have been embarassed to publish in the first place; rather, had there ever been a case of "what was I thinking...?" some time after the fact, upon rereading. (Am remembering in particular a 9/11 story by Updike that appeared in the Atlantic, this past summer. It was bad; it was in fact, astonishingly bad. I cannot help but imagine that the editor hasn't since wondered, once or twice...but I further imagine that the editor probably wondered at the time of submission, yet nevertheless closed his or her eyes and thought of England, or in this case, Connecticut...) The market for SF and Fantasy has changed in many ways during the past twenty-five years. Why do you think fantasy, whether high or subtle, has become so much more popular than SF, whether hard or soft? Simple changes in taste? Marketing? Influence of gaming? The fact that so much that was science-fictional, once, now actually *is*, and that as there's no danger of that ever happening in the case of fantasy, its popularity ergo was sure to increase...? And when it comes to fantasy, which do you prefer? The first volume of something very High, with bloodied parapets and whoops-a-do gnomes and dark, nasty woods and ensorceled dogs sure to be found (sorry -- "grimly encountered" within? Or a tale of a man, say, who mutters something sarcastic to his guinea pig, one morning in passing, and the guinea pig answers back? What kind of fantasy would you recommend someone write, if you chose to make such a recommendation? And, what kind of science fiction would you like to see? The kind in which lack of characterization etc. is a feature, rather than a bug, or the kind in which dialogue and motivation are spot on, even if the scientific principles as demonstrated are, uh, rubbery? And while we're at this, pick the one story of any sort written during the last twenty years that you'd have loved to have published, had it come your way.
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Thu 2 Jan 03 12:14
Hmmm. I don't often go back and reread stories I've published years before--although when I'm putting together a reprint anthology (like the OMNI reprint anthos) I certainly do. But I usually remember the stories I've published over the years (and keep a brief synopsis of each one) so I generally pick out the memorable ones that made the most impression on me. There are short-shorts I commissioned for various OMNI themed groupings that weren't as _good_ as I'd hoped for by writers I really wanted to work with eg. Patricia Highsmith (I can mention her because she's dead :-)) and a few others but again, I don't think any of them were _terrible_ just not topnotch. As to why fantasy is now more popular than sf I think that mostly it's because we _are_ living in the world envisioned (or mis-visioned) by sf writers over the past 50 years. Although there are new speculations all the time and lovely variations on themes, etc sf isn't bright and shiny and NEW any more. It's so much a part of our lives that it's harder to attract young readers to it. Fantasy literature has a much broader range--it can encompass dark fantasy and supernatural literature as well as high fantasy, urban fantasy, magical realism, etc. I prefer what I call hard-edged fantasy or science fantasy--which is fantasy that feels like sf. Also, I enjoy fiction that mixes the genres--which is why I love China Mieville's and Jonathan Carroll's and M. John Harrison's novels. I would never recommend anyone write anything but what they love and yearn and need to write. (unless I order them to write a story for ME! -LOL). Honestly, I don't see how I could suggest that a writer write a particular type of work. Of course, I can let them know what I personally like (but they can see MY taste in everything I edit--it's no secret). And since I love fiction that isn't necessarily commercial I'm not sure I'm the best one to ask. I love the quirky novels that fall between the cracks of genres. I have trouble with sf that has no characters. Fiction like that of Stapledon, I'm afraid, leaves me cold. It's of course possible to make a city a character but to have no actual _beings_ that I can identify with on some level? Not my cup of tea. Since much scientific speculation is as you say "rubbery" (even now, we're told E=MC squared ain't necessarily so) I'm much happier reading spot on dialogue and motivation than about the principles themselves. Story is what's important. Fudge the science and speculation, just make it convincing and tell a good story. There are lots of stories that I missed out publishing for various reasons--I never saw them, I couldn't buy them at the time, I didn't _get_ it when I first read it, etc. There isn't one. But you don't want me to list them I hope :-) Oh, and lots of novellas as I never had room for novellas at OMNI. Now I do.
Jack Womack (jack-womack) Thu 2 Jan 03 12:33
A quick question comes to mind: What would you say are the major differences between the stories submitted these days and the stories submitted twenty-years ago, overall? Any signs of greater cross-influence with other genres or with mainstream, for example? Now, let's open up the discussion with a *writing* exercise. Describe for me your father's candy store in the Bronx (or was it actually in Yonkers? On the border? I get so easily confused...)-- tell me what was in there, what candy was sold, what brands, what newspapers; what the lights looked like, the flooring. And then tell us about growing up, and what you liked to read when you were growing up, and what you thought you'd want to do once you grew up, and how you finally came to do what you do, having grown up...
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Thu 2 Jan 03 13:07
I've been in the short story biz about 23 years now so we'll consider it from then ok? (I read short stories in anthologies totally randomly before I got into the field and never knew the magazines existed). I'd say that over the years the writing I'm seeing has been getting better overall. Less pulpy, more literate (I don't mean literary). Much more sf and fantasy crossover, particuarly starting in the mid-late eighties. And in the nineties more influence from the mainstream, usually in a good way. Taking the best of the mainstream and incorporating it into sf and fantasy.
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Thu 2 Jan 03 13:34
Oh boy, the second part of your post is the toughie--I'm notoriously good on trivia but bad on noticing details around me but I'll try. And I'm sure if my mom drops by here she can always correct me on anything I've got wrong :-) My father's luncheonette was called the Kent Luncheonette and it was on 167th street, just off the Grand Concourse and across the street from the Kent movie theater in the Bronx. We lived diagnally across the street until I was 8. I don't know how long my dad had the luncheonette altogether but he still owned it for several years after we moved to Yonkers. His partner Al and his family were friends of our family over the years and still are (although Al died a couple of years ago). You'd walk in and on the left was a bunch of stools that spun around at the counter and on the right were several booths. In the front there were comic books all along the right side (up till the booths), and other comic books (the scary ones and Classics Illustrated ones) on the left side near the counters. The funny thing is, I don't remember where the candy was. And I don't remember any newspapers. There was a rack of mass market paperbacks in the front too. No magazines that I remember and certainly no sf mags or I would have read them. I read all the comic books when I visited for lunch. Little Lulu, Archie & Veronica, all the superheroes, Richie Rich, Classics Illustrated, the ones with gruesome covers (don't remember the titles). I was never allowed to take any home though. My dad made the BEST vanilla malteds with those machines that were hospital green and have the chrome mixers hanging down. I'm still searching for a malted like he used to make--now they're always too thick. I'm utterly blank on what the place looked like or even the color of the booths (see? I told you). But I'm sure you could color it in for me :-) As a kid I read everything I could get my hands on. I went to the library a lot. Read Eleanor Cameron's mushroom planet books (which I've since collected), a bit later read all the Nancy Drew books, everything in my parents' apartment from Bulfinch's Mythology and the Modern Library editions of The Iliad and the Odyssey, Guy de Maupassant, a risque cartoon book called the Tattoed Sailor, The World Around Us --I loved the photos of different kinds of animals--birds/dogs. When I was older I read Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison (and Dangerous Visions and Again DV,), The Playboy Book of Horror and the Supernatural), the best of the Years edited by Wollheim, in high school I started reading those annual books of plays during library--I read a lot of Tennessee William, which I still love, some Inge, others that didn't make as much impression. Got into The Man Who was Thursday and Herman Hesse, and John Fowles. (reread TMWWT, Steppenwolf, and The Magus a few times). For awhile in my young teenage years I read a lot of "sexy" books like LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN and THE GROUP both of which gave me a pretty warped view of sex in the mid-sixties. Had no real idea of what I wanted to do growing up. I loved reading and loved animals. Thought "veteranarian" until I discovered I'd have to take math (never my strong suit). Thought working in a bookstore would be fun--although after talking to you, Jack, about your experiences, I'm glad I never did. I went to college and majored in English lit and had no idea what I'd do when I got out. Somehow, the idea of the career of publishing brushed against my brain (I don't recall how) and after spending a year after college travelling around Europe, I came home and sent out my resume to various publishers and magazines (named in the Yellow pages). My resume landed on the desk of someone at Little, Brown & Co's NY office just when the sales secretary had been _promoted_ to reader (there certainly are no full time jobs reading slush mss these days) so I got her job, working for the sales secretary. The rest is history (and in many other interviews with me).
Jack Womack (jack-womack) Fri 3 Jan 03 06:41
A view of sex obtained from LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN and THE GROUP...you sorry you didn't throw NAKED LUNCH in there just to round things out? Well, never mind. Your memory doesn't sound nearly as bad as you claim it to be, even if you don't remember the color of the booths. Back to writing, for a while, before we switch around to additional delightful topics. We both know critics and editors who write fiction, as well. Was this something that you ever wanted to try, or indeed tried? What were the results, if so? Do you think that the attempt to write fiction would help or hinder a fiction editor in understanding how it's done from that side? Another editing question. Some writers, as we know, are tone-deaf -- when it comes to words, they show an uncanny ability to picking the one that clanks. This doesn't necessary keep them from getting published of course; but it seems to me that one thing a good editor really needs to have is the *ear* -- i.e., when you can listen to a sentence and hear where it goes wrong, however slightly. I know when you've edited me there's always come a time when you've said "I don't know *why* it's not right, but it's not." How did you develop your ear, do you think? A broader question: what the hell ever did happen to cyberpunk, anyway? A big element of it always struck me, long after the fact, as the SF equivalent to the New Wave moment (in music, not SF), i.e. when people unexplainably believed, however briefly, that there was indeed some timeless and direct connection between The Clash and, say, Kajagoogoo.
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Fri 3 Jan 03 08:37
I did read NAKED LUNCH and various other outre books a little later--probably more in my late teens and early twenties: Henry Miller, LADY CHATTERLY, and in college I read some Marquis de Sade but got bogged down in THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM. I think that kind of rounded out my sex education, don't you think? In college I wrote some really really bad doggerel. Over the years I've written journals (particularly when travelling in Europe), long long letters and once a dream journal for my Jungian therapy. And once, in junior high school I wrote a short play that was going to be produced at Assembly but something came up and the whole project was cancelled. The play was bad sf influence (a lot) by the original Twilight Zone tv show. I don't recall ever having the urge "to be a writer" and in some ways I think I'm a better editor for not being a writer--I can always put myself in the reader's position. I don't have a preconceived notion of how a particular story should be written. On the other hand, I'm not as good in editing structure as I'd like to be or as I'd have to be if I wrote fiction myself. I think I've developed my "ear" by being a voracious reader. I work more from instinct and ear than by knowing "proper" grammar and punctuation. In fact, I feel that punctuation's only proper use in fiction is to enable a writer to communicate tone and cadence to the reader. I'm afraid it might just be instinctual on my part--I read sentences aloud if they sound off. Not sure that's very helpful and it sure ain't scientific but it seems to work for me. tbc in the next post--I've got to chase a cat!
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Fri 3 Jan 03 08:56
With regard to whatever happened to cyberpunk I think its best practitioners have moved on to other things after corrupting the whole world with its virus :-)
gone (scraps) Fri 3 Jan 03 08:58
Hey Ellen, hey Jack!
Jack Womack (jack-womack) Fri 3 Jan 03 09:09
Hi Scraps!! Good to see others getting in on this, as well. And where are *your* questions for Ms. D., eh....? Ellen, did you catch your cat? A good time to toss in a new subject, i.e. cats. Ellen has two, Dinah and Lilly. I refrain from any comments as to their behavior, attitude, intelligence (so-called), haphazard grooming techniques etc. I remember Blue or Nilsson, I forget which was still around; the one who was 300 years old by the time I met you. Did you have cats before then? Dogs? Guinea pigs? Living critters only, preferably -- Now, back briefly to cyberpunk. You bear a certain responsibility for having corrupted the whole world with the virus, I'd say. When you first read Gibson's short stories, what impressed you most? Language, style, or attitude? How many *bad* cyberpunk stories did you see, once the meme began to spread, and the submissions began to pile up? Were there any with concepts etc. so terrible you've not been able to shake them, to this day? And a last question before I go off to lunch: who are the writers at work today whose work you find most compelling?
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Fri 3 Jan 03 09:33
Hi Scraps! Lily was running around (celebrating a you know what--but we won't go into that). Nielsen was 23+ when she died. Anyway, I grew up with goldfish, which I killed by accidentally overfeeding them and some parakeets. When we lived in the Bronx we had a parakeet named Dicky that my mom says I was jealous of--according to her, my dad would greet Dicky before me. We lived on a ground floor apt and he got out the door one day (hey, don't blame me!) and that was that. We had a terrific cocker spaniel we named Jip, after the Alice and Jerry and Jip textbooks. I was not a cat person at that time--all I knew of them was that they chased mice (as in Farmer Gray cartoons) and ate birds (my aunt Evelyn always had cats and would write me letter from Europe, where she lived about the neighbors complaining about her cats catching the birds). Lived with my first cat in college--a kitten belonging to a roommate. In NYC another roommate got two kittens and when she moved out left Blue, one of them for me. From then I was hooked. First story I saw by Bill was "Johnny Mnemonic." His writing just sprung out at me--his prose was gorgeous--so it was a combination of the style and language, which to me are intertwined. I still see some cyberpunk. There's "bad" cyberpunk when it's all style no content and there are good stories that are influenced by the positive aspects of cyberpunk and are about something. For all Gibson's style, his best stories are also rich in subtle political content and commentary on economic systems and globalization. The worst cyberpunk doesn't have concepts just a very thin veneer of "coolness." None stood out because they weren't about anything. And I'll respond to your last question on the next rock....
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Fri 3 Jan 03 09:49
Back to "who are the writers at work today whose work you find most compelling?" Aside from your own work, which is right on the money with regard to the pulse of society and its quirks.... I'll read everything Jonathan Carroll writes (caveat, I'm currently his book editor), everything Gibson writes, everything Jack O' Connell writes. But they're mostly writing novels. So let me get to the short story: Kelly Link, whose stories are captivating and often mysterious Glen Hirshberg, who is writing extraordinary ghost stories Jeff Ford is creating an amazingly varied oevre in short fiction Carol Emshwiller, who has become increasingly prolific over the past few years Elizabeth Hand--whose novelettes and novellas are gorgeously crafted and lush Lucius Shepard, whose obsessions create fine art Those are just a few.
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Fri 3 Jan 03 09:56
Oh, and here are some more: In horror specifically, Brian Hodge had an extremely good year with several excellent stories appearing. Also, Nick Royle, Conrad Williams, Joel Lane, M. John Harrison always write compelling short stories.
Jack Womack (jack-womack) Fri 3 Jan 03 11:15
Thinking on our Clarion experiences (and wondering if any of our students are going to pop up here to ask their own questions of you at some point, hint hint to any who might be lurking)I was wondering if you think that it's any easier to try and teach the fundamentals of editing than it is to try and teach the fundamentals of writing. It seems to me that it wouldn't be easier -- that writing and editing both involve a fair amount of following intuition, and responding accordingly (fiction writing, I assume, does leave open endless possibilities for making use of happy accidents). How have your teaching experiences been? That is to say, not how much fun you've had but how successful you believe you've been in getting across actual points regarding the act of editing, and the nature of (some) editors? Another question, but some background first. As anyone who knows her knows, Ellen Datlow is perhaps the most accomplished shopper you've ever seen. Her good eye is clearly not just for le mot juste. Speaking only for myself, she has helped find for me 1) one engagement ring for my wife; 2)3 pitch cards/booklets for sideshow personnel, autographed; 3) an example of Victorian taxidermy, a small stuffed dog, the infamous Roman (currently in possession of Carrie Fox). I still remember the day I went shopping with Ellen, and Lucius Shepard, who had never been shopping with Ellen before. He lasted, maybe, ten minutes before he & I headed to Starbucks. So Ellen, how the heck do you do it? What are your flea market tricks? Where are the best shopping bargains to be found, in what cities -- you've been to a lot of places, so let's hear it? Where are you and Cadigan heading next?
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Fri 3 Jan 03 12:57
When I teach at Clarion or anyplace else I don't teach writing. I don't feel I'm capable of it. What I DO try to teach is how to self-edit as much as possible (see next para) by giving students an idea of how one line edits (which as some people believe incorrectly, is NOT the same as copy editing, although many copyeditors are doing some line editing as well). And also, I try to teach them what an editor looks for, what will turn an editor off in their writing or ms presentation and a little about the business of writing. It's impossible to teach "editing" per se. When I started out in book publishing I took an "editing" course--what it did was show me the different aspects of working in a publishing house (I can't remember now if it was a "publishing course" or "editing "course)--the only way I learned to edit was by doing it. When I started working for Ben Bova at OMNI he kindly sat with me after he had me edit a ms and we talked about what he thought was right and and wrong with my line edit--but that's a rarity. At Clarion West one year, I brought several versions of a ms I worked on with an author.(with his permission, of course). I tried to go through one version with the students (they each had a copy) and after a very short time they were bored out of their skulls. It may not have been wise to try to do such an exercise during class time,( never did it again) but for the few students who took those versions with them and went over each one and the back and forth between me and the author the lessons would have been invaluable in seeing the actual editing process (and some of the thought that goes on behind it). I was lucky in that I have a knack for editing short fiction. Perhaps if I'd started by editing novels or nonfiction I'd be better at editing those forms. Some of it is practice. And yes, a lot of it is having an "ear" for what you're reading and what works. I think my former students have learned the niceties of dealing with editors--I try to do a quickie course on author-editor behavior once a story is sold. What happens both with their story and in social situations. Shopping on the next rock ....
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Fri 3 Jan 03 13:05
Lucius didn't last but we did get him the object of his heart's desire :-) I haunt flea markets and yard sales whenever I travel looking for weird stuff that catches my fancy. Unfortunately, as we know, some of the best flea markets in NYC are disappearing, being displaced by high rises. If you're lucky, the things you collect are cheap _somewhere_ in the world. At home, (NYC) the best shopping can be at craft fairs. The flea market Alice Turner and I went to with Garry Kilworth in Hong Kong was a lot of fun. Stuff I hadn't seen before. I got Pat Murphy to bring me back a monkey skull inlaid with silver form Nepal (I'd admired hers a few years earlier). In London several years ago I bought some Victorian bar pins that were exceptionally cheap compared the prices in the US for the same items. I haunt used bookstores with John Clute in London when I visit. Go shopping to the great consignment stories in Maine with Liz Hand. Pat will remember the time we went to a mall in Kansas City, when I visited her there and I made a beeline to the only black suede jacket on sale in the store. I call it grazing--it's my sport and my relaxation (when I'm not looking for anything specific). Uh, as you can see I could go on and on...
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Fri 3 Jan 03 14:06
I'm off to dinner and a movie--later everyone. I'm sure Jack will have another question up his sleeve by the time I get back or tomorrow...
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Fri 3 Jan 03 14:12
Oh wait...I forgot to respond to where Pat and I are off to next. Roma baby!! Last year we spent two mad days rushing around shopping in Venice and this February we'll be set loose on Rome for a couple of days. I'm already getting advice as to food and shopping. The tourist stuff is easy. It'll be all around us :-)
Christopher Rowe (jonl) Sat 4 Jan 03 08:40
Email from Christopher Rowe: It seems to me that Ellen Datlow is just as well known in the horror field as in science fiction and, if it's possible, that she's even more influential in that field. I was wondering (a) what attraction "dark" fiction holds for Ms. Datlow and (b) whether there are any practical differences between editing horror fiction and other types of fiction. Hi Jack. Christopher Rowe
Michael Kelly (jonl) Sat 4 Jan 03 08:41
Email from Michael Kelly: Hi Ellen and Jack, Ellen, earlier you mentioned Brian Hodge, Conrad Williams, Joel Lane (a personal favorite of mine, who graciously gave me a story for the Songs From Dead Singers anthology), Nick Royle, etc. While Hodge is American, do you think your sensibilities lean toward British horror, whatever that may encompass? Which leads to another question: I enjoy the surreal, downbeat, dread-infused fiction that seems to come out of the U.K. Obviously, you like some of it, as well. As a reader of all the genres, (SF, Horror, Fantasy, Cyberpunk, Splatterpunk, Slipstream, etc.) do your tastes seem to run to one genre over the other, or is it just a case of good writing? Where do your tastes lean, in other words? Happy New Year to you both! Michael Kelly
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Sat 4 Jan 03 09:04
Hi Christopher! I've been asked over the years about my attraction to dark fiction and I've always been kind of flummoxed by the question. I'm not really sure where the attraction comes from. I've always loved it--one of the first horror anthologies I ever read was (a book I believe I mentioned earlier) THE PLAYBOY BOOK OF HORROR AND THE SUPERNATURAL. It has stories by Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Gahan Wilson, the classic Sardonicus by Ray Russell, and many other wonderful stories that I read over and over. In fact the original pb (I don't remember where I acquired it)is quite dog-eared but it's still on my book shelf. A few years ago I found a hardcover of the antho and treasure it as well. But where my prediliction for horror came? I have no idea. My childhood was happy and I don't recall anything really bad happening during it. The only thing I can think of is that I began reading both horror and fantasy around the same time and it just stuck. Editing horror is different from editing sf only in that with harder sf I need to be more careful about checking whether the scientific or tech details feel right. In supernatural horror fiction it's crucial to make sure the internal workings of the story are consistent to maintain the suspension of disbelief so necessary for the non-believing reader. Other than those differences I'm going to look for the same slip-ups by the author in telling her story and try to correct them.
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Sat 4 Jan 03 09:32
Hi Michael, You ask whether my sensibilities lean toward British horror...I don't think my sensibility leans towards it necessarily but I have _noticed_ and tried to bring to the attention of my readership the very talented British short story writers working in the periphery of the horror field right now--others I didn't mention who I think are writing excellent stories are Kim Newman, Ramsey Campbell, Christopher Fowler, Michael Marshall Smith (who hasn't been writing as many wonderful short stories lately as he should be), Tim Lebbon, Stephen Gallagher, Graham Joyce (I don't recall if I mentioned him before), Paul McAuley (known more for his sf but a terrific writer of horror as well), Neil Gaiman writes really good horror, Marion Arnott, who is also British is another excellent new writer. Pat Cadigan when she writes her occasional horror story is in top form (she's an American living in London) and so is Jay Russell (another American in London). And there are others I'm sure I've missed. There has been a blossoming of both horror and sf from the UK in the past 5-10 years helped by the existence and encouragement of Interzone, TTA, and Crime Wave. Another promising voice--new writer Gala Blau--who I believe lives in Germany, had her first story "Outfangthief" published in Steve Jones' The Mammoth Book of Vampire Stories by Women. Both he and I picked it for our Year's Bests last year. Her second story in The Third Alternative in 2002 was also very good. But I'm as happy to praise the numerous writers in the US and Canada who I think are doing excellent work. Michael Libling (living in Canada) has written several excellent creepy stories about not very nice children for F&SF and On Spec. Looking through the YBFH over the years I doubt that the UK writers overwhelm the US in my choices. Just looking back last year I notice that I have Canadian, Thai, French, and German, as well as British and US writers in the book--which for my half I'd say is pretty unusual to have such a mix. My tastes in reading are pretty varied. I love dread infused fiction as well as urban fantasy, science fantasy. I'm not wild about high fantasy, sword & sorcery or space opera but even those kinds of stories when done well (Lord of the Rings, Leiber's gray mouser series of stories for example) can suck me in. I read a lot of dark crime fiction and quirky novels on the edge of fantasy and horror such as The Intuitionist, everything by Jack O'Connell, some of Stewart O'Nan, the late Ted Whittemore, the earlier John Fowles.
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