Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Sun 5 Jan 03 12:28
Jack says he's not going to post till tomorrow morning so if anyone else has questions, now is a good time to ask them....
Martha Soukup (soukup) Sun 5 Jan 03 13:17
Well, speaking of that, here's e-mail from Michael Kelly: Hello again Ellen, Thanks for addressing my first question. Thanks, as well, for allowing us a peek into your life and work. I certainly appreciate the time you are taking to answer these questions. Thank you! On to the next question: I read a lot in the small and independent press. A lot of what I read is average to dreadful. But there seems (to me anyway) to be a marked improvement in the small press offerings the last few years. Is this a direct result of the shrinking genre mid-list writer? Many small press writers (folks like Charlee Jacob and Paul Finch) are excellent wordsmiths who should, at the very least, garner a little more attention for their fiction. What are your general impressions of today's small and independent press? Is it any better or worse than it was five or ten years ago? -Michael
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Sun 5 Jan 03 15:38
Michael, That's a huge topic that I can only bite off pieces of right here. Also, my opinions on it shift constantly as things change in the publishing world. Since I rarely read novels and really can only respond with regard to my reaction to short story publishing in the small press. There were more original anthologies and collections with some original stories published during 2002 than in the last few years put together. Some were excellent, most were ok, and a few terrible. There are a few small press publishers who are producing consistently professional design and quality of content. I'm not sure I'd call Cemetery Dance Publications and Subterranean Press "small press" anymore as their print runs rival those of the "big press" and their production is of a consistent high quality. The only thing preventing them from competing with the big guys as far as professionalism category is their inability keep to their announced deadlines. The small press was traditionally the place for newer writers to move up from into pro markets. It was where you got your start, wrote and published your journeyman work and moved on to the big press. The Horror Show was a major nurturer of talent and a number of writers who now publish professionally started out in The Horror Show. Same with Stephen Jones' Fantasy Tales in the UK. Unfortunately, it seems to me that many of the writers who are currently writing for the small press as it exists today are happy where they are. They don't see any reason to progress beyond the small press. But the small press is a tiny, very limited market. The goal of every writer is communication and I would think that a writer's goal(not being a writer myself) would be to reach the largest audience possible. So I guess what I'm saying is that I think that talented small press writers such as Charlee Jacob and Paul Finch should and will break out of the small press so that a larger audience will discover them. I reprinted a poem by Charlee Jacobs last year in YBFH#15 and I hope she gained some more audience through that publication. Independent press and small press are two different things--perhaps we could call CD and Subterranean Press independent presses. I think there are some very dedicated people publishing (I'm not going to list them all here) really good books and some other people who don't have a clue. (I won't name them either :-))
Martha Soukup (soukup) Sun 5 Jan 03 22:33
E-mail from Jonathan Laden: Thanks for taking the time to be virtually here. Speaking of virtuality, ScienceFiction.com is an interesting foray into virtual publishing. As you have pioneered in this area, could you tell us what unexpected pitfalls and pleasures you have encountered? I know as a reader, I interact with your site differently than I do with my magazine subscriptions. I wonder if the stresses end up being different on the editorial team as well. Do you choose different stories because of the medium? Do authors refuse you because they worry they can't sell reprint writes to a story that is always "in print"? Is your reach better - or worse - than it might be if the same content were in print format? Thank you. Jonathan Laden
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Mon 6 Jan 03 06:54
You're welcome, Jonathan. The unexpected perk of publishing online is that you can correct typos at any time. It also is quicker. The production process is much faster than with most print publishing. That can simultaneously be its pitfall. Because I don't have to schedule as far in advance as with print (which generally if produced two-three months in advance of publication) I don't need as large an inventory. Which means I'm far too often scrambling to keep ahead. The fluidity of my production schedule can sometimes get in my way, if you see what I mean. I don't choose different stories than I would otherwise, except that I can publish novellas online, and working at OMNI when it was a print magazine made that impossible--there just wasn't the space. On the web there is infinite space. On a month by month basis I don't have to choose a certain length because of space constraints (in slicks, how many ads you've got coming in determines page count of the magazine every month). There are a few writers (or there agents) who won't sell their stories online. I think it's less the "reprint" issue --any of our contributors can ask to have their story removed after our six month exclusivity period if they sell to another venue. However, we've found (the authors and I) that keeping a story up that's in a print collection by that author is a good advertisement for the book and in fact, doesn't seem to hurt sales at all. So no one has yet asked to have a story removed. The classics are different --we're often buying "reprint" rights for a limited period of time. I think the authors who won't sell to a web publication yearn to feel their story on paper. I can't blame them but it still bothers me :-) Our potential reach is better--the web is a huge place-but whether we actually reach as many readers as the digests...I don't know.
Jack Womack (jack-womack) Mon 6 Jan 03 07:36
Well, I'm back. Horror, yes; used to be a whole lot of it around, then hardly any at all, and now there's more than there was but still...if we're going to talk about a genre market that became so oversaturated with schlock as to drive away, or drown, the worthiest practitioners than it's hard to come up with a better example than horror (though hard fantasy is well on the way, I think). Ellen, why do you think A)that horror became so popular as it did, when it did (I know David Skal has discussed theories of this in some of his very good books)and B)how publishers can avoid killing the (somewhat tarnished)golden goose the second time in a row? In conjunction with this, you know very well what makes a good anthology. What, in your opinion, makes for a bad anthology? Not simply quality of stories, naturally, because we're both aware of bad anthologies with good stories -- perhaps a better question is: what makes a good anthologist?
Jack Womack (jack-womack) Mon 6 Jan 03 07:38
Hard fantasy, the mind boggles (I suppose John Norman could qualify). High fantasy, I meant.
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Mon 6 Jan 03 14:28
I don't know what David Skal has said about it (I've read a few of his books but unfortunately not enough of them) but I think that Stephen King's remarkable success created an inflated idea of the audience for horror, which got marketing people at publishers to think that they could create a genre where there hadn't been one before. Horror up until King was shelved with the fiction. But King is sui generis and no other horror writers have been as successful as he is-which doesn't mean that horror and dark fantasy and dark crime doesn't sell. Obviously it does. Dean Koontz sells, Anne Rice sells. They sell extremely well and often make the bestseller lists. But when every publisher decided to jump on the bandwagon and create its own horror line they bought books that they hoped would become as popular as King's rather than develop writers slowly and encourage them to go their own ways. Of _course_ the market was saturated and the audience never materialized. Horror is indeed being published now by the big houses although it's often not called horror. As long as publishers try to buy horror books that they believe in and not just "cash in" then the field will slowly increase its influence. There actually is almost as much a glut in the small press field now as there was in among the big boys. The small press audience--limited to begin with--needs to grow not shrink. If small presses publish everything that comes their way without quality control they'll lose their shirts as even the small press market shrinks. This is frankly just shooting my mouth off--I don't know if this will indeed happen but it certainly could. Anthologies next up :-)
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Mon 6 Jan 03 15:08
What makes a good anthology and a good anthologist eh? Well story quality being equal (as I know you and I agree that there should be any "bad" ie poorly written--stories in anthologies) there needs to be a good balance of types of stories. No matter how narrow a theme may seem there is a wide range of stories that can be fitted into that theme. In fact, testing how far you can take a theme can be what's most fun about a theme anthology. It forces both the editor and the potential contributors to stretch their creative muscles. When I edit a theme anthology I must in my own mind, be able to justify each story fitting within the them. But back to balance--an editor has to be careful not to have too many stories of one tone, one place, one point of view. I always tell writers that an anthology is more open at the beginning tha nearing the end. Initially I'm open to much more variety but as it comes to home stretch I already have certain _types_ of stories so the last holes in the anthology are the hardest to fill. In putting the stories in order the first and last stories are very important. For me the first should be setting the tone. The last should be a very strong one. You've got to make sure you don't have several really long stories in a row, several really depressing stories in a row. When I was near the end of my forthcoming Ghost/horror anthology THE DARK, I realized that there was no story that felt right as the first story and that was a problem. I was grousing about this to Jeff Ford a few days before I was leaving for Maine and he piped up and said "I'll write you one and get it to you while you're in Maine!) I said "oookay..." but I didn't really think he'd be able to produce a "first story" on demand. Sonofagun he did and emailed it to me --unfortunately, he had to email it to Liz Hand's computer because it was set up with a printer and she couldn't figure out how to download it so I ended up reading the first draft in the email, not the ideal reading situation. But I could see that it was just what the book needed and after a rewrite I bought the story. Editing a good original anthology is a completely hands-on job. You can't produce a good anthology unless you can say NO to submissions. I find it difficult to believe that every "commissioned" story (I don't commnission I _ask_ for submissions) is of high quality and perfect for an anthology no matter who the writer is. I've never edited an anthology that didn't require a line edit of each story. In all my years as an editor I think I've come across maybe a handful of stories that were so "clean" that I found nothing to query or edit in that line edit. So anyone who "edits" an anthology and takes a story "as is" with no suggestions/queries/ --in other words without editing it is not doing their job.
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Mon 6 Jan 03 16:31
(as I know you and I agree that there should be any "bad" ie poorly written--stories in anthologies) SHOULDN'T I meant SHOULDN'T!! I wish we could edit these posts sometimes :-)
Jack Womack (jack-womack) Tue 7 Jan 03 07:06
Excellent, excellent. And when it comes to horror, let's not forget Dan Simmons (like Jeff Ford, another author I publicize! plug plug...) Time for some non-writing material. A little background first: Ellen lives in downtown New York. For two days following 9/11, she was not allowed to come north of what was then the initial Frozen Zone. On 9/13 we were finally able to hook up, at a restaurant in Chelsea just above 14th Street. Ellen, what was that like, in those first couple of days? And (as someone who has been quoted regarding same, in the NY Times no less)what do you think should be built downtown? And what do you think of the plans so far?
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Tue 7 Jan 03 12:55
Of course Dan Simmons--one of my favorite writers--I published the story that became part of THE HOLLOW MAN and the novelette that became CARRION COMFORT at OMNI. And was a World Fantasy Award judge when SONG OF KALI won for Best Novel. The actual day it happened, I went over to St Vincent's Hospital a few blocks away from where I live and tried to volunteer to do ANYTHING but there were already long lines of people doing the same thing. Alice Turner and I tried to get together to volunteer somewhere but I wasn't allowed below Houston Street and she was told if she went north of it she wouldn't be allowed back home! A few days later Lois Metzger and I (who lived within the same closed off area) walked all over the place trying to help. It was very frustrating actually because no one wanted us for anything. Finally, she left for home and I shopped at the cheap stores along 14th street for towels to bring over to St Vincents for transport to the site for the workers. Another day I brought over snacks for the police at the 6th precinct. (I think it was with Lois but I'm not sure). Two things struck me during those days--everyone in the neighborhoods affected wanted to volunteer--to help--in any way they could. And uptown, enroute to the upper east side on the subway (where I had to go for a doctor's appt two days later, it was as if nothing had happened --as if I was in an alternate reality where everything was normal. As to what should be built downtown, I HAVE been thinking about it for awhile, and partipated in a round of internet forums set up by an org called "Listening to the City"--after the first design plans were shown. Discussing and arguing with other people who were passionate about the city was great. And seeing the second set of designs has concretized what is crucial for the rebuilding (in my mind). The actual shape/size, etc of the buildings are not the most important aspect of the building process. What is crucial is what is created on the ground level for the community, for NYC, and for everyone else. Yes, there should of course be a memorial and yes it is important for _something_ impressive to be built to grace the NYC skyline. But....the streets, the transportation, and the cultural/economic environment created downtown is absolutely crucial to the future of downtown. The WTC was built when there _was_ no community downtown. Battery Park City did not exist. The fact is that many New Yorkers hated the towers (me included) as ugly, cold, blocks --completely uninviting to humans. Only the underground mall was a lively place and that was more used to get to the PATH train to NJ and as a conduit to other streets than a "hang out." There IS a thriving community living downtown now and they need amenities. A bookstore to replace the Borders that was lost. Instead of a windblown surface of concrete people-friendly places for visitors, locals, and those who work downtown. The only architectural design I like is the Libskind (I know I'm spelling it wrong)--the guy from Germany. I like his structures. But he doesn't go enough into what it would be like to work and visit the area. The other designs show ugly buildings but more of an idea what the ground level would be like, which as I say, is crucial. I just hope that what the city and the area NEEDS is foremost in the planners' minds rather than pleasing everyone.
Jack Womack (jack-womack) Tue 7 Jan 03 13:18
Whatever goes up on the WTC site isn't going to look like any of the plans so far, that much is sure. We can only hope...it is remarkable, though, how many of these plans and ideas still require vast amounts of open, windswept terrain. Considering how much time you spend on line now, have you thought of having a blog on your site (www.datlow.com)? I know you have a section called "Meanderings" though as blogs now go, that's pretty informal! Even Bill just started doing one (www.williamgibsonbooks.com), and I keep thinking I should -- calling it "Natterings" or "Nitwittery" or something of the sort. Or do you think that's too close to the online diary sort of thing which, as we know, can sometimes be employed for nefarious purpose? Or should you, like me, figure that after a point you should just go outside and play?
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Tue 7 Jan 03 14:10
You really don't want me to have a life, do you? :-) I spend far too much online as it is. I'd rather talk to friends in person or on email about ideas/theories/gossip, etc I'd rather not share it ALL with the world.... But I just tuned into Bill's and it's interesting (even thogh he just started it). Jonathan Carroll had a good one for while he was on the road: http://www.whiteapples.com/journal.html I think _you_ don't spend nearly enough time online,Jack and you'd be a great blogger. Please do it. I'll read it --I promise!
Jack Womack (jack-womack) Wed 8 Jan 03 07:50
Blogging, well, I'd have to do it without a section for comments. Was participating in a nice long thread on bookstores on Patrick's www.nielsenhayden.com/electrolyte when someone decided I was rebutting something he said, clearly became insulted, and implied that I was ignorant, or stupid, or both. I realized once again that the problem with online anything is that when you leave things open to discussion to the public at large, at any given time you can find yourself subject to someone who, if you met them in person, you'd want to either 1)walk very fast away from, or 2)beat about the head with a pipe until their brains came out their ears. Ah, that feels better. Getting back to writing, and publishing, and being online without being at anyone's mercy (including publishers!). Here's an evergreen question -- what do you think the state of genre publishing, overall, will be like in ten years? Subquestions: Will the high fantasy bubble burst? Will science fiction be left in the dust, swallowed entire by media tie-ins and aforesaid high fantasy? Will e-books ever work? Will short story collections appear only under the auspices of small publishers? How much more fragmented will the audience become? Join in, public at large! And don't make me want to beat you over the head with pipes!!
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Wed 8 Jan 03 07:58
Jack, Before I get into your new question, I'd like to make a brief side tour in response to one of your earlier questions for me. What are YOUR opinions about the WTC designs? As a firmly (I hope) transplanted New Yorker I know you have strong feelings about the city and were also very much affected by the 9/11, despite living way uptown.
Jack Womack (jack-womack) Wed 8 Jan 03 08:11
The one I liked best was the same one you liked, Liebeskind's. There was just something about it that had the right touch -- I have no objection to having anything extremely tall down there, I just have serious doubts that putting up anything extremely tall that people may want to work or live in, especially on the site. I'm in complete agreement with you as well in that whatever is built there should not be set apart in any way from the surrounding city, as the WTC was. Remains to be seen what's going to come out of all this, considering the participants who have a say-so, but if they at least cut through some of the old streets that would at least afford the opportunity to have something of more human scale on the ground. As to what the memorial itself should be, I have no idea. I really don't. You may have read elsewhere that the incident resulting in the greatest loss of life in a single day prior to 9/11, the sinking of the General Slocum in the East River on June 15, 1904 (over 1,000 dead, mostly women and children) is commemorated solely by a water fountain in Tompkins Square. I imagine it'll be something more than that.
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Wed 8 Jan 03 08:24
Thanks Jack. I very like the Irish Potato Famine memorial near Battery Park City. It's extraordinary in its design and feel. You saw it right? It's small but packs a punch. OK Back to publishing. Aighh. The old where is the genre going to be in ten years question...I suspect sf will chug on and continue, with brilliant new writers making their marks and publishers declaring them to be the new big thing and other publishers will then try to "create" their own brilliant new writers and fail. Just like always. The high fantasy bubble will burst (I hope), and I don't think the idea of e-books will go away. There need to be new developments in e-readers that will make them cheap and use-friendly. Short story collections are still being published (ie single-author collections. I hate when people call anthologies "collections." It muddies the waters) just not very often by large publishers. But the small press is overpublishing collections. There are far too many collections out there by journeyman and even beginning writers who are not ready to collect all their work or don't have "best work." I see this far more in the horror field than in sf though. There aren't many small press sf publishers as there are horror. I think the sf field is as fragmented as it's going to get--how _could_ it become more fragmented?
Jack Womack (jack-womack) Wed 8 Jan 03 08:32
The Irish Potato Famine monument is very well done indeed (and as a matter of fact, I saw it with you -- it was right after they reopened the Winter Garden). Let's stick to New York for another question. What are your five favorite non-tourist spots in NYC? Tell me yours, and I'll tell you mine.
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Wed 8 Jan 03 08:39
But then everyone one else will know them !!! OK. St Luke Church's secret garden down in Soho. Just south of Christopher Street Academy Records for used CDs.(although I did turn my sister and brother-in-law onto it) The flea markets --the one on 79th street in the schoolyard, the $1 one on 25th street, the one on the west side of the street around 24th street my apartment <g> The Chelsea Flower Market and the Union Square Greenmarket Your turn
Jack Womack (jack-womack) Wed 8 Jan 03 09:07
1. Staple Street, which runs between Harrison and Duane Street in Tribeca. Used to be the old butter, egg & cheese wholesale district. One of those old enclosed overhead passageways runs between buildings on either side of the street. 2. The garden at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where tourists never go. 3. Lexington Luncheonette, the old soda fountain at Lexington and 83rd; pretty much the last one left in Manhattan. 4. Wave Hill, in Riverdale. 5. Fiske Place, and the other one-block street in the same block, in Park Slope, Brooklyn, in the snow. Many more of course but these come immediately to mind. What 5 NYC places that are now gone do you most miss?
Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Wed 8 Jan 03 14:28
1.Sutter's Bakery on Greenwich Avenue and 10th street--it was across the street from the Woman's House of Detention (also gone, but no loss there as it's replaced by a lovely community garden) and had the best Napoleons. I was devasted when it folded. There was another one in the Bronx that my grandmother went to. Don't know when that one folded 2.The Elgin movie theater on 8th avenue where I used to see triple features all night. I saw Robert Downey (Sr) movies there in one shot and also Jodorosky's El Topo and THe Holy Mountain 3. The free 26th street flea market--supplanted by high rises. 4. The Science Fiction Book Shop--once it moved from 8th avenue it was never as good 5. Man Ray restaurant on 8th avenue in Chelsea--it was my favorite semi-fancy restaurant. I was upset when it changed hands and became something else. 6. Balduccis-- any minute (it's about to close)--Good food store--fine mimolette cheese. Oh back to the best -Murray cheeses on Bleecker Street--best selection, best salesmen, best prices hands down.
Jack Womack (jack-womack) Thu 9 Jan 03 08:47
And, here are my five, now gone: 1. Mendoza's Bookstore. Was on Ann Street downtown, just around the corner from Park Place (next door to where the new J & R annex is). Used and rare. Had been in business since the 1880s, closed around 1990 I think. Where I once bought Shirley Jackson first editions, in dust jacket, for five and ten dollars a pop. There were gas heaters on both floors. 2. The Lionel Train store on E. 23rd just off Park, for the c. 1940 neon sign, and the window display of trains. 3. B. Schachtman, the toy store at 5th and 16th. Again, a place that had been in business since the 1890s; closed only a few years ago. Wooden floors, racks and racks of tiny little toys and reproductions of older toys. You & I went in there more than once, I remember. 4. Marboro Books, the bargain bookstore chain that was always better than Barnes & Noble, and which B & N bought around 1981. 5. Woolworth's. All of them. I feel as if we're talking in a literal well, Ellen. Is there anyone else out there?
gone (scraps) Thu 9 Jan 03 09:03
I'm here and reading with interest, but I've been fighting a deadline, which is messing with my ability to formulate an intelligent question.
Shambolic post-it notes on the wall of my daily life (tinymonster) Thu 9 Jan 03 09:40
<cite>I realized once again that the problem with online anything is that when you leave things open to discussion to the public at large, at any given time you can find yourself subject to someone who, if you met them in person, you'd want to either 1)walk very fast away from, or 2)beat about the head with a pipe until their brains came out their ears.</cite> LOL!! Too true, too true. There are some scaaary people out there, including the kind who probably <i>would</i> be carrying lead pipes around! I'm really enjoying the discussions on New York nooks and crannies! I love that city more every time I'm there.
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