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China: Yeah, We Already Knew About That

By now you’ve heard if it — China’s massive 11-day-and-counting gridlock traffic jam. It apparently started with an overabundance of cargo-bearing trucks and was compounded by road construction. There’s already a microcosm blossoming with its own population and economic system of supply and demand. And more importantly…where are these poor people going to the bathroom?

Some of you may remember Elemental — that fabulous anthology I edited which was released by Tor in 2006, only a few months before the original AlphaOops. All the proceeds went to the Save the Children Tsunami Relief Fund (and they still do). The very first story, “Report From the Near Future: Crystallization” by David Gerrold started exactly like this, only the traffic jam was in LA. It detailed how one simple traffic jam brought Life As We Know It falling down around our ears and changed society forever.

David’s story was picked up for several “Best Of” anthologies — he wasn’t the only one of our authors who did so, a fact that bade me very proud. But I wish there was a special Nostradamus Award for writers like this, who inadvertently put their fingers right on the button of what happens years later, as if they saw it through a magic mirror and were simply reporting straight from the future.

How very Fringe.

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2020 Visions ToC

Rick Novy has posted the Table of Contents for his 2020 Visions anthology:

1. Mary Robinette Kowal – Birthright
2. Sheila Finch – The Persistence of Butterflies
3. Randy Henderson – A Shelter for Living Things
4. Jason S. Ridler – Showing Light
5. Ernest Hogan – Radiation is Groovy, Kill the Pigs
6. David Lee Summers – The Revelation of Thought
7. Jeff Spock – Teh Afterl1fe (This is not a typo – Rick)
8. Emily Devenport – If the Sun’s at Five O’Clock, It Must be Yellow Daisies
9. Cat Rambo – Therapy Buddha
10. Jack Mangan – Dead Rookies
11. David Boop – Organ Cloning While You Wait
12. Spencer Ellsworth – The Black Plague of Our Generation
13. Gareth L. Powell – The Bigger The Star, The Faster It Burns
14. Alethea Kontis – Pocket Full of Posey
15. Alex Wilson – Nervewrecking
16. David Gerrold – Time Capsule 2120: Actual Comments from Lunar Tourists

I *just* missed making the lucky 13 slot!  I couldn’t be more honored to be in this amazing company of writers. Aren’t familiar with their names? That’s okay — over on Rick’s blog he is spotlighting one author a day for two weeks. (Week one is already posted.) He talks about the author, who they are, and a little bit about their story (without being spoileriffic). It’s a great way to gear up for the publication!

More updates (cover, release date, etc) as events warrant.

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Contributing to the Lunacy of Minors

Back in July, a bunch of Apex authors received an email from Jason Sizemore outlining another one of his crazy schemes. He was all excited, jumping up and down (one can imagine), frothing at the mouth (one supposes), and going on and on about how great this e-anthology he’s come up with is going to be. He’s offering nickles for reprints and dimes for originals, but it’s going to be available almost instantly for pennies. The stories have to be horror, just horror, no other constraints. It will be a great avenue for promoting Apex and her authors (I always think of that Alien Head as the Queen) and please send Jason something by the end of the month, thanks.

I chuckled as I closed the email and set it on the back burner. I write fairy tales and dark fantasy and the occasional ghost story, but I’ve never just written horror. Hmmm.

I told the Fairy Godfamily about Jason’s email on the way to the beach for the 4th of July weekend. I heard a similar “Hmmm” from Ariell in the backseat. She and I had previously discussed doing a collaboration. Perhaps this might be the venue? I told her I’d forward her the details when we got home. Perhaps we could think of something.

Two days later, Ariell and Kassidy and I were lying on sandy beach towels in massive amounts of pain, having been stung by stupid jellyfish. Tomo, who skedaddled when we spotted the first jelly, was attempting to distract us with a story of some girl in high school who got crapped upon by a seagull and was called an unfortunate name (think “craphead”, only worse) for the rest of term.

“We could write a story about a boy who gets crapped on by a seagull and then kills everyone who laughs at him,” I thought aloud. “A summer teen slasher short story. Why not?”

“You could kill all the kids from Awesome Porch,” offered Kassidy, who is never at a loss for victims.

“I could write the death scenes,” said Ariell, who knows my weakness when it comes to writing. I just don’t get gory.

“We’ll call it ‘Life’s a Beach,'” I said. I pulled out my little yellow notebook and we all decided who should die and how. Ariell took the notes and emailed me the death scenes when we got home. Then she hounded me for days asking if I had finished the story…because Ariell knows all my weaknesses when it comes to writing.

I finished it. For her. We read it aloud to Kassidy, who approved. We sent it off to Jason and crossed our fingers. He responded, highly amused at what we’d done and said it would be perfect for the anthology.

The last time I spoke to Jason, he didn’t even have a title for the anthology yet. I guess he got one quick — Apexology: Horror — as well as a cover, ’cause it went on sale yesterday. Go on, order it. Support Ariell’s first professional sale! For only $2.99, you download a .zip file with all the epub fonts and pdfs your little heart desires. Scanning the ToC, I’m not sure which stories are originals and which are reprints, thought I recognize a few. All I can tell you is, if you’re up for a silly teen slasher story, the one Ariell and I wrote is definitely worth $2.99 all by itself.

Thanks, guys. And congratulations Ariell!

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LEGENDS 4 Now Available for Preorder

It’s here! It’s here! Well…almost.

Click here to preorder Legends of the Mountain State 4: More Ghostly Tales From the State of West Virginia.

It’s an honor to be in this anthology — reportedly the last in Michael Knost’s successful West Virginia regional ghost series. My story is called “Blue & Gray and Black & Green” and is based on the haunted residence of General Jenkins, also known as Green Bottom.

This is a ghost story of a different color for me (ha! No pun intended, but it’s hilarious just the same) as I had certain limitations. I could not refer to any persons living or dead (with the exception of General Jenkins, obviously, and even that only in passing or obscure reference). There is also a considerable LACK of information on Green Bottom on the internet (beyond a couple of paranormal investigators and those who have copied & pasted from their observations). To make matters worse, the US Army Corps of Engineers shut down Green Bottom a few years ago for renovations, and it’s still not open, so GOING to the actual site and taking a tour was also out of the question.

Luckily, my Google-Foo is strong, and I uncovered an obscure brilliant archaeological video special all about the house. I took notes frantically, like a mad collegiate edging for a 4.0. While I could have written the story without it, being intimate with the long history of the house and the surrounding area made the story–and the characters–all the more real for me…and hopefuly, will for the reader as well.

So how is this story different? It is not your typical haunting. Instead it asks: Who haunts the haunts? The story gets the first part of its title from the area’s well-known and colorful (!) Civil War history. The second part of the title refers to Green Bottom herself, and the black, malevolent presence that has infested its walls…

I am super excited about this anthology (this has been the Year of Anthologies, hasn’t it?). Woodland Press is taking pre-orders now and books will ship by Oct. 18th, 2010, the same week as the national release of “Legends of the Mountain State 4” at the West Virginia Book Festival, Oct. 16 – 17th, held at the Charleston Civic Center, Charleston, WV. Be sure to preorder a copy…and at the very least, click through to check out my awesome ToC (table of contents, Mom) mates.

It’s never to early to get your scare on!

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Fiction Sale: “Pocket Full of Posey” to 2020 VISIONS Anthology

I am very happy to announce my most recent fiction sale — a wicked awesome little story called “Pocket Full of Posey” that I wrote for fellow Codexian Rick Novy. He’s editing M-Brane’s 2020 VISIONS anthology (pub date TBA). The theme of the anthology is stories set in the not-too-distant future — namely, 2020. It’s a title that begs for some fun.

I had a LOT of fun writing this particular story (you may have seen me squee about it on Twitter while I was doing it). It’s about a girl named Rosalyn who goes back to her ten-year high school reunion, on orders from her therapist, to make amends with the members of her Kill List — the kids in school who made her life hell and deserved to die. (We all had one of those, didn’t we? Yeah, you did. Don’t try to act cool.)

Props go out to my Fairy Goddaughters for teenage advice straight from the horses’ mouths — I repaid them by naming all the Kill List members after their friends. (Yes, I even made Aimee a cheerleader. No, I will not apologize for art.) But Posey, our main character’s totem pocket garden gnome, was all my creation.

So you’ll imagine my surprise when I stumbled across this gnome while looking for pictures to go along with this blog. Kimmel Gnomes calls her “Posie.” Too perfect! (And not a little bit creepy.)

I can’t wait for this antho to come out. You guys are going to love this story. And I can’t wait for the rest of the ToC for this anthology to be released…I’ve heard it’s a doozy!

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Dark Futures TOC

Nice!

“Black Hole Sun” by Alethea Kontis & Kelli Dunlap
“For Restful Death I Cry” by Geoffrey Girard
“Tasting Green Grass” by Elaine Blose
“Endangered” by Robby Sparks
“Nostalgia” by Gene O’Neill
“Beautiful Girl” by Angeline Hawkes
“Father’s Flesh, Mother’s Blood” by Aliette De Bodard
“Terra Tango 3″ by James Reilly
“Love Kills” by Gill Ainsworth
“Memories of Hope City” by Maggie Jamison
“Do You Want That in Blonde, Brunette, or Auburn” by Glenn Lewis Gillette
“Marketing Proposal” by Sarah M. Harvey
“The Monastery of the Seven Hands” by Natania Barron
“A Futile Gesture Toward Truth” by Paul Jessup
“Hydraulic” by Ekaterina Sedia
“Alien Spaces” by Deb Taber
“Virtual Babies” by Maurice Broaddus
“Personal Jesus” by Jennifer Pelland
“Meat World” by Michele Lee

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My Future’s So Dark, I’ve Gotta Have Faith

I happen to be in two Dark anthologies this year: Dark Faith and Dark Futures. For a Princess who tiptoes in rainbows and often answers to the name of “Sunshine,” I find this predicament rather ironical. And fun. Because Irony is always fun.

I’m still waiting on some direct ordering information for Dark Futures, but I’ve got some Dark Faith chewy goodness for you right here and now. Are you ready?

ATTENTION!!! THIS IS IMPORTANT! Pre-order now and receive the limited edition promotional chapbook Dark Faith: Last Rites that contains stories by Nate Southard, Bob Ford, Toiya K. Finley, and Sara M. Genge. Only 500 chapbooks will be produced!

Table of Contents: (a.k.a. Holy Crap There Are Some Awesome Folks In Here)

“The Story of Belief-Non” by Linda D. Addison (poem)
“Ghosts of New York” by Jennifer Pelland
“I Sing a New Psalm” by Brian Keene
“He Who Would Not Bow” by Wrath James White
“Zen and the Art of Gordon Dratch’s Damnation” by Douglas F. Warrick
“Go and Tell It on the Mountain” by Kyle S. Johnson
“Different from Other Nights” by Eliyanna Kaiser
“Lilith” by Rain Graves (poem)
“The Last Words of Dutch Schultz Jesus Christ” by Nick Mamatas
“To the Jerusalem Crater” by Lavie Tidhar
“Chimeras & Grotesqueries” by Matt Cardin
“You Dream” by Ekaterina Sedia
“Mother Urban’s Booke of Dayes” by Jay Lake
“The Mad Eyes of the Heron King” by Richard Dansky
“Paint Box, Puzzle Box” by D.T. Friedman
“A Loss For Words” by J. C. Hay
“Scrawl” by Tom Piccirilli
“C{her}ry Carvings” by Jennifer Baumgartner (poem)
“Good Enough” by Kelli Dunlap
“First Communions” by Geoffrey Girard
“The God of Last Moments” by Alethea Kontis
“Ring Road” by Mary Robinette Kowal
“The Unremembered” by Chesya Burke
“Desperata” by Lon Prater (poem)
“The Choir” by Lucien Soulban
“Days of Flaming Motorcycles” by Catherynne M. Valente
“Miz Ruthie Pays Her Respects” by Lucy A. Snyder
“Paranoia” by Kurt Dinan (poem)
“Hush” by Kelly Barnhill
“Sandboys” by Richard Wright
“For My Next Trick I’ll Need a Volunteer” by Gary A. Braunbeck

If you’d like to help me out spreading the word about Dark Faith, be sure to use this link: http://www.apexbookstore.com/products/dark-faith-edited-by-maurice-broaddus-and-jerry-gordon-kontis so Maurice knows that I sent you. I get like five cents for everyone who clicks on it and then buys the book. I’m trying to save up for a little red wagon (that I’m going to paint yellow). Please help me reach my goal!

Thanks! xox

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Story Sale: “Savage Planet” to THE FOUR HORSEMAN anthology

I am proud to announce my first original short story sale of the year (the “first sale” was technically a reprint for a 2011 Nightshade Books fairy tale anthology…more details on that later) — “Savage Planet” to Pill Hill Press’s anthology The Four Horsemen: An Anthology of Conquest, War, Famine & Death. My fun little spider-planet space opera falls under the category of “Conquest.”  The table of contents are:

Opening Story:

  • “A Pretty Lucky Day” by Camille Alexa

Conquest:

  • “The Chronicles of an Alien Invader” by Jason Toupence
  • “The God-King” by Scott M. Sandridge
  • “The Gunny” by Megan R. Englehardt
  • “Savage Planet” by Alethea Kontis
  • “Scorched Earth” by Matthew Dent
  • “Beware False Tribute” by Carla Joinson

War:

  • “Colorblind” by Jessy Marie Roberts
  • “Fire and Stone” by Jonathan Shipley
  • “The Battlefield” by Will Morton
  • “The Midnight Maiden” by Bill Ward
  • “Azieran: The Making of the Skullscron” by Christopher Heath
  • “Untitled” by Alva J. Roberts

Death:

  • “Fate’s Hand in Mortal Affairs” by Jamie Eyberg
  • “Superstition” by Laura Eno
  • “Clay’s Fire” by Kat Heckenbach
  • “The Ape” by Kelli A. Wilkins
  • “Judgment” by A.R. Norris
  • “Open Season” by John H. Dromey

Famine:

  • “Valley of the Ravens” by Scott Taylor
  • “The Onion Men” by Jacob Henry Orloff
  • “Bleeding Sky” by Marie Croke
  • “Borrowing Sugar” by Marshall Payne
  • “On a Black Horse” by L.E. Erickson
  • “Hot” by Nye Joell Hardy

Really looking forward to this one!

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Genre Chick Interview: Ann & Jeff Vandermeer

Two for the price of one! This month, Genre Chick Alethea Kontis sits down with dynamic publishing duo Ann and Jeff Vandermeer. Ann is the fiction editor for Weird Tales magazine; her husband Jeff is an award-winning author. Together they often join forces and co-edit some out-of-this-world anthologies. 

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Alethea Kontis: What are the biggest challenges of working on these projects as a husband-and-wife team? Who gets the final say? Do you arm wrestle for it?

JEFF: That’s a tough one. I love working with Ann, and I feel we have different strengths and weaknesses, which makes us a great team. I don’t think either of us has final say. If one of us feels very strongly about something, the other will usually defer–or if they feel equally strongly, the deferring may be done by the other party!

ANN: We have a great deal of respect for each other’s talents.  That’s what makes it work so well.  In all the years that we’ve been working together I can count the number of our blow-ups on one hand and still have fingers left over.

Alethea: How do you choose stories for your anthologies?

JEFF: I believe strongly that an anthology should have a core mission statement, and that you should strive to maintain that focus throughout, and then find creative ways to organize the material. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. But a lot of antho editors are more like caretakers–they shepherd the material through the process, but they don’t think about it in a proactive sense. And I believe our alternative approach is in large part why anthos like The New Weird and Steampunk have been so successful.  The challenge there, of course, was to create anthos for general readers that could also be used by academia, and the idea of structure was even more important.

ANN: Each anthology requires something different.  Before we make any decisions (including whether or not to even do a specific anthology) we have a lot of discussion up front.   We bounce ideas off each other to see what makes sense.  And we get a lot of our ideas while out hiking together (seems to clear our heads) so we make sure to always carry paper and pen.

Alethea: How is working with the small press market different from publishing with the Big Six (Jeff), or magazines (Ann)?

JEFF: I don’t personally see much difference, since most of our indie publishers have very good distribution to and communication with the chains, although I would say that Tachyon Publications has been a joy to work with. But, then, Bantam was great on the fake disease guide, too. We try to cut down on the variables associated with publication in either context by having our own procedures in place and being very aggressive in our PR. The thing is, when you edit an anthology it’s like you’re the captain of a ship full of people in the form of stories. You want to get them all safely to their destination. You want the boat to be sea-worthy for their sake. Every publisher, large or small, is going to have quirks, too, so you just try to figure out (1) how does this publisher best communicate (email, IM, phone, etc.) (2) how do their processes differ from the norm and (3) who are the stakeholders at the publisher helping you achieve your goals. The other fact is, some projects are more commercial than others–and some become more commercial. The fake disease guide was rejected by all of the big publishers, was taken on by Night Shade in hardcover, was a huge success, and then was picked up by Bantam.

ANN: There are pros and cons for each. Sometimes you will get more individualized attention with an independent press and usually the larger publishers have more resources at their disposal, but that isn’t always the case.   We’ve had the good fortune to work with a lot of passionate people in both large and small publishing companies.  It’s really the passion for the project that makes the difference.

Alethea: It’s been said that anthologies perform better in the small press market. Have you found this to be true?

JEFF: I don’t think that’s necessarily true, although the numbers on the Steampunk antho in particular are really strong. The antho would have done as well from a large publisher, but the fact is Tachyon had the foresight to come up with the project and ask us to edit it. In general, publishing anthologies is a risk. So many variables come into play. But it’s more of a risk for the publisher and editor at the publishing house than for us, and we try to keep that in mind–keep the publisher’s risk in mind. Because, in general, if an anthology tanks it doesn’t affect my ability to sell a novel, but it might affect a publisher’s ability to buy more anthologies. One thing that is true–an indie press will sometimes need to sell fewer copies to consider a book a success.

ANN: It all depends on the anthology.  In general an independent press may be more willing to take a chance.

Alethea: Describe the New Weird subgenre in 25 words or less.

JEFF: Well, this is more than 25 words, but it’s the definition in the anthology. Although New Weird got great reviews generally, I was irked by some reviewers who claimed the antho did not define New Weird. Well, it did, right in the introduction, with plenty of proof and context:

“New Weird is a type of urban, secondary-world fiction that subverts the romanticized ideas about place found in traditional fantasy, largely by choosing realistic, complex real-world models as the jumping off point for creation of settings that may combine elements of both science fiction and fantasy. New Weird has a visceral, in-the-moment quality that often uses elements of surreal or transgressive horror for its tone, style, and effects– in combination with the stimulus of influence from New Wave writers or their proxies (including also such forebears as Mervyn Peake and the French/English Decadents). New Weird fictions are acutely aware of the modern world, even if in disguise, but not always overtly political.  As part of this awareness of the modern world, New Weird relies for its visionary power on a “surrender to the weird” that isn’t, for example, hermetically sealed in a haunted house on the moors or in a cave in Antarctica. The “surrender” (or “belief”) of the writer can take many forms, some of them even involving the use of postmodern techniques that do not undermine the surface reality of the text.”

ANN: I couldn’t have said it better!

Alethea: The SF world seems to be having a Steampunk Renaissance. Why do you think that is? What’s so cool about steampunk?

JEFF: It’s really the ultimate effect of a steampunk subculture that has been simmering beneath the surface for a long time. Really classic steampunk is about a few things: the rise of the inventor or scientist as hero, the use of retro-technology (think, alternate history: technologies, like airships, that once seemed poised to be dominant), and then the introduction of irony to the idea of scientist as hero, in showing how unquestioning use of technology leads to disaster. But, at base, for more people, in pop culture, it’s almost more a “look” than a definition. A kind of style in a book or movie, often involving airships. Much of the steampunk I read is dealing with tough issues when it comes to technology and its uses. It is true, though, that steampunk does also allow for “comedies of manners” with pseudo-Victorian trappings, which are just meant as fun adventure romps. So perhaps the diversity.

ANN: Technology today typically removes us from the direct connection to our efforts, our work.  The Steampunk culture is all about the DIY experience: making something with your own hands, so to speak.  I think many people find that attractive and that is why its become so popular.

Alethea: What’s the most interesting place you’ve ever visited?

JEFF: The first night in Prague was special–we just walked around with our mouths open, amazed, and I kept thinking, “My whole life I’ve been writing about this place and didn’t know it.” Or deep down the Danube, in Romania, traveling by canoe with outboard motor. Hiking in British Columbia. We’ve been blessed that our editing and writing have taken us so many cool places.

ANN: He’s stolen all of my thunder! But seriously, the first night we spent in Cairns, Australia, where you go out and the stars in the sky are so different and the breeze is different and suddenly through the branches huge fruit bats fly by…I’ll never forget that.  In addition, my first snorkeling trip in the Great Barrier Reef.  Once I got the hang of the snorkel, I was hooked.  I’ve also had some amazing experiences in Israel.  And we have a tendency to find something wonderful in any place we’ve visited.

Alethea: Do either of you know how to sail?

JEFF: I know how to capsize a canoe. When I was at the Clarion Writers Workshop in the 1990s, some of us decided to go out canoeing in the middle of a thunderstorm. It was fine on the way out, but coming back, with the current, we all went overboard and were only saved by one of our number who was an alternate on the Canadian swim team. So, in a word, no. But I have read all of the Patrick O’Brian novels…

ANN: No, but I can water ski!  And I am pretty good in a canoe.

Alethea: With regards to the upcoming Nightshade Books anthology Fast Ships, Black Sails: Do you or do you not Talk Like a Pirate on September 19th?

JEFF: Every day is talk like a pirate day.

ANN: And our cats even have their very own eye patches, but they’d much rather have a parrot!

Alethea: What projects are you both working on next?

JEFF: I’m in the middle of my novel Finch, a noir mystery set in my fantastical setting of Ambergris. Right now, I’m figuring out the blocking on a ten-thousand-word chase scene set amid three hundred bobbing, lashed-together boats. And my Predator tie-in novel comes out from Dark Horse in a month or so.

ANN: I just turned in the International Issue of Weird Tales.  It has stories from writers all over the world including Slovakia, Serbia, Spain, The Philippines, Israel and Belgium.   I am finalizing the PR campaigns for the Fast Ships, Black Sails (Nightshade, Nov 2008) and Best American Fantasy Vol II (prime, Nov 2008).  I also just turned in the Best of Michael Moorcock short story collection (Tachyon, May 2009).  Also upcoming next year, The Leonardo Variations (a charity anthology for Clarion) and Last Drink Bird Head (a charity anthology for literacy).  And let’s not forget Evil Monkey’s Guide to Kosher Imaginary Animals (Tachyon, Nov 2009) just in time for the holidays next year.

Alethea: If you could be any superhero, who would you be and why?

JEFF: I’m so sick of superheroes, I’d probably sign up to be one of the superhero fighters in that comic The Boys. I did like the Batman movie, though.

ANN: I’ve always loved Batman because he’s the only one who is a real person.   All the others have some kind of super power.  He only had his natural born abilities (plus a lot of really cool toys and gadgets, I might add).

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Genre Chick Interview: Ian Farrington

Science Fiction Geeks unite–Doctor Who is back, and he’s better than ever. The BBC has published tie-ins to the popular television show, but did you know that there is another publisher of officially licensed Doctor Who literature? This month, Genre Chick Alethea Kontis spends some time with Big Finish editor Ian Farrington to talk about what other worlds the Doctor has yet to conquer.

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(Note: the correct British spelling of “favourite” has been left unchanged for authenticity–and because it’s just sexy.)

Alethea Kontis: How did Big Finish get to write official Doctor Who tie-ins?

Ian Farrington: The company has been producing Doctor Who audio dramas since 1999. These are full-cast plays with sounds effects and music, starring original cast members from the TV series, and are produced under license from the BBC. About two or three years into the series, Big Finish pitched to do short-story anthologies as well. The BBC liked our ideas and plans, and the Short Trips range began in 2002. We publish four collections a year, and our latest–Short Trips: The Centenarian–is the 17th so far.

AK: Who’s your favourite Doctor? Your favourite companion?

IF: My favourite has always been Peter Davison. He’s the first I can remember watching as a child, and, as much as I like the others, I’ve always had a soft spot for Davison. His era is my favourite, too, so I like its companions. Turlough was wonderful–an atypical companion in that he was basically a coward and wanted to run away all the time! I think that’s the kind of companion I would be! Having said that, Rose from the new TV series is perfect: a brilliant character and a stunningly good actress.

AK: Do you like writing stories or editing them more?

IF: I love editing. Writing is great fun, and I want to do more, but editing a short-story collection is such a great challenge. I enjoy the whole process of editing–from initial discussions with writers to reading early drafts, from assembling the final versions to seeing proofs. That early stage–which I’m in at the moment for a collection out in September 2007–is such fun. It’s great being able to talk through ideas with writers and decide what you’re going to do. It’s a bit liked a jigsaw: you have to take lots of disparate elements and make them connect, add up, make sense. I’m a big believer in an anthology being an entity in itself, not just a random collection of short stories. The stories should compliment each other; you could have the best stories in the world, but the book won’t be satisfying if the stories don’t run in the right order or use a logical variety of tones.

AK: What do you think of the new Doctors?

IF: Oh, I think they’ve been great. I’ve always been a fan of Christopher Eccleston, so I was thrilled when he became the Doctor, and I loved the way he played the role. He brought a kind of rough edge to it that we maybe hadn’t seen before–but he could be brilliantly silly, which, after all, is what a lot of Doctor Who is about. David Tennant has been wonderful too. His first season was shown in the UK over the summer and was fabulous. He’s more traditional than Eccleston was, but his performance has such verve and energy and a sense of fun.

AK: Are you ever worried you’re going to run out of ideas in a world that’s been around for so long?

IF: It’s certainly a challenge! There have been so many Doctor Who stories over the last 43 years. There’s been over 700 television episodes for a start, but also hundreds of spin-off books and comic strips. Big Finish alone has produced close to a hundred Doctor Who audio dramas and 300 short stories. But that also makes it interesting. It forces you to really think about what you’re doing. You can have a brilliant idea, but then realise that it’s so brilliant it was used on TV in 1967. You then have to rethink, and consider what it is you want to do. How can we make it interesting? How can we do something different? But, having said all that, the wonderful thing about Doctor Who, as many people have said, is that you have such freedom with storytelling. You can have so many settings in time and space, so many types of plot, so many tones.

AK: The Doctor Who episodes are geared toward a young age group–young adult, or younger. Are the Short Trips anthologies also YA appropriate?

IF: Yes, we try to make the books accessible for everyone. We’re a licensed product, so our output is approved by the BBC to make sure they’re happy with what we’re doing. Doctor Who is essentially a children’s franchise. That’s not to say it’s not for grown-ups–I imagine the majority of its fans are adults–but, at its best, it’s never been about things that a young audience can’t see or read or listen to. Our approach is to treat the Short Trips collections as books for everyone, but not to talk down to the readers. The last thing I wanted to read when I was 12 was a book specifically aimed at 12-year-olds!

AK: So what sort of anthologies do you do?

IF: Our collections follow a format in that each book will be around 100,000 words and be made up of, on average, 12 to 16 stories. Each collection has a theme to distinguish it from the others in the series–some are simply thematic concepts, so in the past we’ve done collections where all the stories are set in history or strongly focus on the Doctor’s companions. Some are more plot-heavy, where although the stories can be read in isolation they add up to a bigger story. Our latest anthology is The Centenarian, which tells the life story of a man called Edward Grainger. You could read each story on its own since it’s a self-contained short story, but when it’s read in context, it forms part of a larger story that runs throughout the book.

AK: Who’s the guy on the cover of The Centenarian?

IF: The man on the cover is called Denis Steer. Joseph Lidster, who wrote a couple of stories for the collection and really helped develop the whole book, suggested that a real person could be used to represent Edward Grainger, the centenarian of the title who links the stories in the book together. However, we needed someone who wouldn’t mind us using his likeness, and someone for whom we had lots of photos from throughout his life. Joe suggested his grandfather, and gave us a stack of photos of Denis at all ages. And he ended up on the cover!

AK: How do you choose your writers for the anthologies?

IF: We work really hard to get a good mixture of big-name, well-known writers, writers who are popular with Doctor Who fans, as well as new, even unpublished authors. From the new Doctor Who series, for example, Robert Shearman, Paul Cornell, Gareth Roberts, and Gary Russell have contributed to the series. Paul also edited a collection for us–A Christmas Treasury–in 2004. From the original TV series, we’ve used Eric Saward, Marc Platt, Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, Terrance Dicks, and Glen McCoy. Then there are people from other literary spheres: Stel Pavlou, Steven A. Roman, Paul Magrs, Dan Abnett, Matthew Sweet, Nev Fountain, Juliet E. McKenna, Lizzie Hopley, James Swallow, and many more! It’s a list of writers we’re really proud of! We also accept unsolicited submissions and actively look for new authors. I’ve edited four collections now, for example, and each one has given someone his or her first professional commission.

AK: What are plans for the future of the range?

IF: We have two more anthologies to come out in 2006. There’s Short Trips: Time Signature, edited by Simon Guerrier, which includes stories from three key writers from the original Doctor Who: Andrew Cartmel, Marc Platt, and Ben Aaronovitch. In December, we’ve got Short Trips: Dalek Empire, which is edited by Nicholas Briggs. As well as being a great writer, producer, and director, Nick is also an actor, and he does the Dalek voices in the new TV series, as well as the Cybermen voices and the Nestene Consciousness voices. We’ll be announcing the rest of 2007’s output on our Web site soon–see www.bigfinish.com

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