On to the best

I’m in the midst of working on books, working to (and occasionally passing) deadlines, and reading, reading, reading. My first book for Night Shade, The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, is dominating my thoughts. It’s a 200,000 word anthology that will be published in March 2007 in trade paperback. Given the word count for the book, I’m figuring it’ll feature about 195,000 words of fiction and about 5,000 words of story notes and stuff. The fiction will probably break down 50/50 by genre, and include something like twenty to twenty-five stories, and I think it’s going to prove to be a dynamite book.

At the moment I have a long-list of about forty stories that I’m still adding to. In the end, I’ll probably winnow a list of about sixty ‘possibles’ down to the final table of contents, and that’ll happen in about three weeks or so. I have just sent out letters of invitation to authors for stories that will fill about 40% of the book, though, so it is taking shape. I only slightly regret that I can’t include horror stories in the book this year, because I’ve read some terrific stories that fall outside my purview. For anyone who hasn’t read it, Jay Lake had a terrific horror-influenced story, “The American Dead”, in Interzone a while back, and Laird Barron had an extraordinary story “Hallucigenia” in F&SF, which set the gold standard for magazines (as it has for several years now).

I’ll be avoiding novellas in The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, as much as possible. The main reason for doing so is length. I simply can’t fit 40,000 word stories into a 200,000 book without significantly distorting it. That’s not too much of a sacrifice, though, as I’m also assembling Best Short Novels: 2007 for the Science Fiction Book Club, and I think it should be a corker of a book. For those who don’t know, I’ve been editing the Best Short Novels volumes for the past three years, and I love doing them. I actually think Best Short Novels: 2006, which was published by the Book Club in June (go buy it, it’s worth it, and the Club is well worth joining) is the best reprint anthology I’ve done so far. It has range, variety, and really is a forerunner to the work I’m doing on the Night Shade book (which is very much a companion to it, at least in my mind).

Because the way my year works out is a little odd, I usually don’t get a contract from the Book Club till close to Christmas (which makes for a great present!), so even though I’ve not sold this one yet, I’m feeling confident and have decided to go ahead and assemble the manuscript on the probability that it’ll be needed. So far I’ve read some great novellas by Michael Swanwick, whose “Lord Weary’s Empire” is one of the best thing he’s done in years; by Jeffrey Ford, whose “Botch Town” I loved; by M. Rickert, whose “Map of Dreams” is wonderful; and by Cory Doctorow, whose “After the Seige” is one of his best ever stories. I also have novellas shortlisted by Brad Denton, Al Reynolds, David Herter, Chris Robson, and others.

For all that I’ve been down with the ‘flu and feeling a bit miserable, I’ve got to admit that working on these two books really cheers me up. I think Best Short Novels: 2007 could be the best one in the series yet, and The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year is a book I’ve wanted to do for ages. I’m a happy guy. I’d just add, the inspiration for these two books really is the late Terry Carr, who may be the best editor of year’s best annuals ever. I grew up loving his tightly edited, concise and really smart anthologies, and hope to emulate them, at least somewhat, with these books. If I’m lucky, very lucky, I’ll achieve that.

One thing I will try to arrange shortly is pre-orders for the two books. I don’t know what’s possible yet, given the books won’t be published till March and June 2007 respectively, but if I can, I’d like you to be able to place your orders and let the publishers know you’re interested. More on these soon.

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