Ellen Datlow has won nine World Fantasy Awards, two Bram Stoker Awards, two International Horror Guild Awards, four Locus Awards, and two Shirley Jackson Awards for her work as an editor. In a career spanning more than twenty-five years, she has been the fiction editor of OMNI and SCIFI.com. Datlow has edited many successful anthologies, including The Dark, The Coyote Road, and Inferno. She had also co-edited The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror series, A Wolf at the Door, and Swan Sister.
On the heels of her newest Hugo Award, and just as Haunted Legends is being released, we thought we tried to catch up with her …
Let’s start out with Haunted Legends, which is set for release from Tor this week. How did the project come about?
Haunted Legends was an idea originally proposed by Nick as an HWA sponsored anthology but they asked him to think of a co-editor with more visibility than he had. He asked me and I said yes. We ended up taking the proposal to Tor because with the various cuts taken by the organization, their agent, and their (then) packager, we would have been left with far too little money to work with.
Is this the first time you’ve had Nick Mamatas as your co-editor?
I gather the anthology theme is around local legends and ghost stories. Is that correct?
Local from all over the world. We’ve got stories taking place in India, England, Russia, Vietnam, Mexico, Australia, Fiji, Japan, England, and all over the US.
Do you have a personal favorite in the anthology?
My lips are sealed 🙂
What’s the process you use when you’re working with another editor?
The only co-editors I’ve worked with so far have been Terri Windling and Nick Mamatas. Generally one or the other of us writes up a proposal and the other edits it before we send it off to our agent for input.
Both editors suggest possible contributors and we might together create a “wish list” of authors. Whoever knows the writer better will make the initial contact. Both editors have to love each story submitted for it to be bought. Whoever knows the writer better (or wants to) will work with the author on the story. My co-editors usually write the introduction, because (so far) they’re both much better writers than I am. We both settle on the table of contents. Whoever has time will go over the copy edit and/or the proofs of the book while it’s in production.
I handle the administration of author contracts and payments.
Co-editing is very much a partnership.
Most of the anthologies you edit are themed anthologies. Is this because publishers tend to be more receptive to themes?
Absolutely. I would love to do far more non-theme anthologies than I’ve been allowed to over the years. The only non-theme anthos I’ve worked on are Salon Fantastique (with Terri) – a fantasy anthology, The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy (which also had some horror), and Inferno, a horror anthology.
This is not to say I don’t enjoy editing theme anthologies. They’re more of a challenge, and one of my aims is always to stretch the theme as far as it will go, in order to challenge my writers and pique the interest of my readers.
Have you ever found yourself short of material for an anthology?
Do you ever request rewrites from authors? Or do you keep it fairly clean with either an acceptance or a rejection?
I often work with writers on rewrites and some of the stories I buy go through two or three rewrites until both I and the author are happy with the finished story. During the 30 years I’ve been editing short fiction there have been less than a handful of stories that needed no editing whatsoever.
You’ve got a number of upcoming anthologies scheduled for 2011 – Naked City, Teeth: Vampire Tales, Best Horror, Supernatural Noir, Blood and Other Cravings, Snow White Blood Red – the market sounds healthy. Is that what you’re finding?
Snow White, Blood Red is a reissue of the first adult fairy tale anthology Terri Windling and I edited. It was in print for about fifteen years and sold 72,000 copies in mass market – now it’s found new life with B&N’s imprint Fall River, and will be published in a new hardcover edition. If it’s anything as stunning as their reissue of my two early vampirism anthologies the books should sell well.
I think the market is indeed healthy, although anthologies are still a hard sell. You need a a rich theme with a catchy or provocative title (eg Teeth is for the YA market) and commitments from at least a few big name or at least recognizable writers. (even for lower paying anthologies).
Even so, I’m always nervous that I won’t be able to sell another anthology. Terri and I have had one we’ve been trying to sell for a while – with a great title, excellent theme, and good names – so it’s all a crapshoot.
Are all these anthologies filled already?
They’re all in production, so yes.
Let’s switch gears a bit. Tell us about the KGB Readings.
The Fantastic Fiction reading series is a monthly event that was begun by Terry Bisson and Alice Turner in the late 90s. I took over for Alice in 2000 and when Terry left for the west coast in 2002, Gavin J. Grant took his place. Since the spring of 2008, Matthew Kressel and I have co-hosted the series.
The original intent was to pair up one genre writer and one mainstream writer but once Alice left (with her mainstream contacts) we’ve had readings by sf/f/h writers. We try to pair up a newcomer with a better known name and try to match up tone/type of fiction (when possible). KGB Bar is in the east village of Manhattan and the bar itself opened in 1993. There are reading series of all types almost every day of the week. Ours is the third Wednesday of every month. Admission is free. My co-host and I take the readers out for dinner afterward.
Matt and I ran our first fund raiser in 2008 to defray expenses (including a small honorarium for each reader) by holding an online raffle. It was very successful and raised enough money to pay for the next two years. We’re holding our 2010 raffle in October. Raffle tickets are $1 a pop and some of the donated items are: used computer keyboard belonging (and signed by) Neil Gaiman, terrarium by Paul Riddell, tuckerizations (using winner’s name in a story or novel), critiques of stories/novel/chapters/proposals, original art, subscriptions to magazines, autographed books, jewelry, a reflexology session (only in NYC) etc.
Are there any up-and-coming writers you’d suggest readers look for?
Lots. Some are better known than others but here are some of them: Ian McHugh, Angela Slatter, Kaaron Warren (already published two novels and two collections), Deborah Biancotti, Kirstyn McDermott in Australia, Maura McHugh (Ireland), Miranda Siemienowicz, Stephen Graham Jones, Gemma Files, Micaela Morrissette, Norm Prentiss, Michael Kelly, Steve Eller,Reggie Oliver, Edward Morris, Amanda Downum, Sarah Monette, Steve Duffy,R.B. Russell, Margaret Ronald … I could go on forever.
Just check out my best of the years – the past two years I’ve picked works by a lot of new writers.
And finally, tell us about your recent Hugo Award.
I’m afraid I haven’t seen it yet. Although every one has the traditional rocket ship, the base is always different and this year’s was designed by Australian artist Nick Stathopoulos so I’m expecting it to be beautiful. I was in Australia for for Aussiecon, the World sf convention at which the Hugos are given, but I had to leave a few days before the ceremony, because of an illness in my family.
I’m thrilled to have won the Hugo Award and salute by fellow nominees.