|Photo by Gregory Frost|
Forthcoming is the young adult dystopian anthology After, with Terri Windling.
She's won multiple Locus Awards, Hugo Awards, Stoker Awards, International Horror Guild Awards, World Fantasy Awards, and The Shirley Jackson Award for her editing. She was named recipient of the 2007 Karl Edward Wagner Award, given at the British Fantasy Convention for "outstanding contribution to the genre." She has also been honored with the Life Achievement Award given by the Horror Writers Association, in acknowledgment of superior achievement over an entire career.
She co-curates the long-running Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series in New York City’s east village.
More information can be found at www.datlow.com or at her blog: http://ellen-datlow.livejournal.com/ and Facebook. She also, (gods help her) tweets, under EllenDatlow but only from her home computer (not phone).
Twenty Questions with Editor Ellen Datlow
How many hours do you spend editing an anthology before it goes to print?
That’s a more complicated question than you’d think, because the process begins with the proposal, and a good one that will interest a publisher could take months to put together—including soliciting a handful of prominent writers in advance.
But if you mean the actual hands-on reading and editing of the stories, that’s on ongoing process. I read the submissions as they come in and some stories I reject outright. I start the editing process on those I’m interested in from before I actually commit to buying the story (I may like the story but feel there are flaws that need to be addressed before I make a final decision to see if I feel the writer can fix them). A story might go through one or more rewrites. At the very end of the process, once all the stories are accepted, I do a final close line edit before handing the book in to the publisher.
If you weren’t in the writing industry, what would you be doing today?
No idea. Possibly work in a bookstore or in a library. It would have always been something to do with reading.
What three authors are essential for anyone seriously interested in the horror, fantasy, and science fiction genres?
I don’t feel comfortable answering this but in order to see where their chosen subgenres of the fantastic emerged it wouldn’t hurt to read:
Horror: Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, and Shirley Jackson
Science fiction: Alfred Bester, Harlan Ellison, Ursula K. LeGuin
Fantasy: J. R.R. Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, John Crowley
Do you have a favorite anthology you’ve edited?
I’ve enjoyed editing most of my anthologies but among my most recent favorites are Supernatural Noir and Teeth.
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring editors, what would it be?
Make sure you’re really committed to all aspects of editing, that is, acquisitions and hands-on editing. You must be willing to reject the stories you don’t think are good enough or appropriate for what you’re editing, whether it be a magazine or an anthology. And part of that is if you’re a writer/editor do not impose your voice on another writer’s work. You’re working with the writer to make a better story. You can make suggestions and ask for rewrites but it is not your story. It is ultimately the writer’s. If it can’t be fixed to your satisfaction, reject it.
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Read widely in and out of the field you’re interested in and be willing to take chances. That’s what’s ideal about writing short fiction.
What is the oddest encounter you’ve ever had with a fan?
Not a live encounter and not really from a fan but someone who submitted a story at OMNI: he sent me a package of Hostess Twinkies because one criticism of his story was that Twinkies don’t crackle—(he meant the package but that wasn’t clear in the mss). My assistant and I consumed the evidence without setting it on fire).
Which editors do you admire?
Maxwell Perkins, Harlan Ellison, Judith Merril.
Which authors do you admire?
Too many to name-but most of those I publish.
Do you think that the social issues authors address has changed since you first began editing over thirty years ago?
Not really. The specific issues may change (eg. Vietnam vs. Iraqi wars) but the basics remains the same. Gender relations, how technology affects humanity, racism, sexism, etc.
You often co-edit with Terri Windling. Have the two of you ever disagreed on whether or not to include a certain story in an anthology? If so, how did you resolve the issue?
We’ve only disagreed in two instances over the years (don’t forget, we did not confer on our choices for The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror series—I’m only referring to our original anthologies) and each time we didn’t buy the story (in one case I bought it for a different anthology).
You have edited more than one anthology a with fairy tale theme. What is your personal favorite fairy tale?
I always had a soft spot for Falada, the horse, in “The Goose Girl”. I just felt bad that his head was cut off for fear of his telling the truth.
Of all the illustrators you’ve worked with, do you have a favorite?
I haven’t worked with any illustrators. I’ve had jacket art created by different illustrators, but writers/anthologists generally have no say (or very little) in the matter of their book covers or design. I’ve certainly loved the art on most of my anthologies –especially some of the covers by Thomas Canty. I also love the art of Cory and Catska Ench, for Tales of Wonder and Imagination.
Along with editing fantasy and science fiction, you also edit horror. What is your deepest fear?
Loss of control of my life
Are there any authors you haven’t worked with that are on your wish list?
Not really, but I’d like to work again with some writers I’ve edited in the past.
Which new authors do you have your eye on?
Genevieve Valentine, N. K. Jemisin, Matthew Kressel, Nicole J. LeBoeuf, Karina Sumner-Smith, Ray Cluley, Steve Eller, Micaela Morrissette, Carole Johnstone, E. Michael Lewis, and Miranda Siemienowicz. Some of these writers I’ve reprinted in my last three Best Horror of the Year series. A few are writers whose work I’ve bought for recent original anthologies.
If you could invite three dead authors to dinner, who would they be and what would you ask them?
Ewww. Not a good idea. They’d put me off my meal, I’d think ;-)
What themes do you predict to be popular in science fiction, horror, and fantasy for next year?
I hear mermaids are the new big thing in fantasy. I suspect that dystopic/post apocalypse work will continue to be popular (in fact Terri and I have a YA anthology on the theme coming out fall 2012). Overall though, it’s always just a guessing game.
You wake up tomorrow morning and learn that the pet store down the street is selling mythological creatures. What pet would you get and why?
If I had room in my apartment, I’d love a unicorn –alas I don’t have room. They’re one of the most magical of all creatures, and very beautiful. Also, I’ve always loved horses and as a child dreamed about being a rider. What could be more fun than riding a gleaming unicorn in NYC traffic?
Who introduced you to your love of stories as a little girl and were books a big part of your household experience growing up?
My mom read me classic fairy tales as a child, but we had collections of stories on the bookshelves as long as I can remember, from Bullfinch’s Mythology to the collected tales of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Guy de Maupassant. I was allowed to read whatever I wanted as a child and adolescent, which gave me a rather broad view of literature.