Worlds of anthologies, anthologies of worlds

Well, it’s been an exciting few weeks from a writerly point of view. I’ve finished a first draft of the next novel (working title ‘Crashing Heaven’, but I suspect that will change), drafted a novella, had a wonderful – and very productive – time at this year’s Milford Writers’ Workshop, and have the launch of ‘The Immersion Book of SF’ (with my story ‘Golden’ in it, plus fiction from Tanith Lee, Lavie Tidhar, Aliette de Bodard, Chris Butler and others) to look forward to on Friday.

More later on Milford, and hopefully you’ll see both novella and novel in print sometime soon. Instead of going into detail on them, I thought I’d write a little about ‘The Immersion Book of SF’, as some comments that editor Carmelo Rafala makes in his introduction have been resonating with me quite deeply.

The Immersion Book of SF

He describes wanting to put together an anthology ‘where each story was so vastly different from the other, that I felt like I’d visited a dozen or so different worlds by the time I’d put the book down’. In doing so, he hopes that he’s put together ‘a collection… as varied and entertaining as those I’d read when I was a youth’.

I grew up reading both the more formally recognised classics, and whatever pieces of genre mayhem I could get my hands on. The latter came to me in a variety of ways, often quite accidentally, and usually in anthologies of one kind or another. As Carmelo says, they were a great way of reading very widely, very quickly, and thus discovering just how many different subjects genre fiction could cover, and how many effects it could achieve within them.

My junior school library had stacked issues of 50s educational mag ‘Look and Learn’, buried in boxes. Each one contained a couple of pages of astonishing comic ‘The Trigan Empire’, plus various other marvellous bits and pieces. 2000AD was basically a weekly compendium of wondrous (and highly intelligent) weirdness.

My local library was well stocked with vintage fantasy and SF compilations. I found my favourite book of horror stories (a huge, superbly edited anthology from the 60s) in a jumble sale somewhere. It cost me 50p, and gave me at least ten years’ reading pleasure, if not more. And of course there were the various OUP and Virago ghost story anthologies – Christmas presents from my folks (thank you!).

Anyway, all this vaguely Proustian recollection has a point. I owe my passion for genre fiction as much to this slightly random collection of anthologies as to any more formal reading plan. And so it’s hugely exciting to think that a story of mine is going off into the world in a modern version of one of those collections; and that someone might come on that anthology, either buying it new, or pulling it off a library shelf, or in a jumble sale somewhere, and find in it the kind of formative thrill I found in all those books, all those years ago.

And of course, if you want to explore those strange new worlds yourself, you can pick up your own copy of ‘The Immersion Book of SF’, right here… Happy voyaging!

2 thoughts on “Worlds of anthologies, anthologies of worlds

  1. Carmelo was so kind as to send me a copy (even declined on sending an electronic copy), so I’ll try to read it — since there are a fair few Interzone/TTA reprints I already know quite a few of the stories — on the train to London before January 28.

    Anyway, agree with you on the impact of anthologies on the beginning (SF/fantasy) reader: that’s why I had a number of ‘ entry-level’ stories in Shine (which was often lamented by SF fandom: can’t please everyone. Yet the genre does need new blood).

    Basically, I came to genre magazines after reading SF anthologies, often Year’s Bests, which pointed me to them. Then I started writing, reviewing, got involved with Interzone, then finally edited an anthology of my own. In a way I’ve come full circle.

    But I certainly hope I’m not done yet.

    See you Friday!

  2. Hope you enjoy it! And that reminds me also, I’ve been meaning to get in touch with Carmelo and see about hooking up – I met him for the first time at the launch and we had a fascinating conversation.

    And very much agreed on that. Also, one thing I didn’t touch on in the post is how about important anthologies are as an entry point for writers, both in reaching a wider audience and seeing a story of your own appearing alongside work some of the people that inspired it. The latter in particular can be a huge boost!

    And yes – very much looking forward to getting together tomorrow! Should be a wonderful night.

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