Friday morning and thoughts on the future of Eclipse…

I’m in the middle of a handful of projects, and feel like I’m notably failing to bring my not particularly vaunted project management skills to bear on making sure that everything gets done. I’ve been reading swords and sorcery stories, weird stories, indefinable stories, and mostly have been feeling very happy with them.

Some time soon stories by Scott Lynch, Pat Cadigan, Nicola Griffith, and many others will find their way out into the world, and the world once again will be able to provide me with a reality check on how it feels about my taste (it’ll like some, not others, and be unsure in some places, but that’s cool).

Anyhow, one of the things I’ve been thinking about this past week is my anthology series Eclipse. Not so very long ago I spent some time drafting a post for this blog announcing the end of the Eclipse series. I felt like it was reaching the end of its lifespan.  Jason Williams of Night Shade and I had initially decided to do three volumes of the series, and had agreed that we would then evaluate it to see if it would continue.  We had that conversation, or part of it, a month or two ago.  At that time we both agreed that Eclipse had been a success, but that maybe it had run its course.

What I’ve realized – one of several things – in the time since then is that I’m not done with Eclipse. Stories have been coming in, good stories.  They’re not all by big names, they’re not much like one another, but they’re interesting and provocative and different. Where I was worn out after Eclipse Two, I find myself feeling invigorated moving forward with Eclipse Three. I’m eager to get it completed, and hopefully published by World Fantasy this year. I want to know what the world will think of it, and to see what it will be.

Why? Well, Eclipse is a free-form thing in a way that none of my other books has been.  I am more grateful to Jason and Jeremy than I think I’ve ever actually said publicly.  For three years they’ve fronted the money and provided the publishing support for me to do what I would between the covers of each book.  While we have discussed the series as it’s continued, they’ve never pushed me to do anything other than what I’ve wanted to do. It’s resulted in three very different books, each of which seem likely to appeal to different readers.  Eclipse One was a slipstream fantasy/SF kind of deal.  Eclipse Two was very much an SF book.  Eclipse Three is something else again.

I’ve learnt more than I ever imagined I would.  I’ve had to think of things I never expected. I’ve confronted issues to do with my own awareness as a person – readers of this blog know I hated (hated, hated, hated!) the gender discussions that surrounded Eclipse One and Two, for example, but I learned a lot and have tried (am trying) to change – as well as learnt things about editing, publishing, and a lot of other things.

For example I’m working on some thoughts on the fundamental things an anthology editor does. I believe that one of them is to shape a message in book form. An anthology editor conceives an idea, collects stories that bounce of that idea, crafts interstitial material, titles the book, works with a publisher on packaging and is instrumental in delivering a new book into the world.  When it’s successful that book IS a simple, clear, readily identifiable message, a thought, an idea. It has honesty and integrity, which I believe readers respond to. One reason I think Jeff and Ann VanderMeer are brilliant at what they do is they probably are better at crafting anthology-as-message than anyone else I know.  Their Steampunk and New Weird anthologies are superbly executed examples of anthologies as ideas.

It has had me thinking about the conceptual future of Eclipse.  To date Eclipse has been quite deliberately all over the place. It’s concept, for me, has evolved into Eclipse being a home for story; genre story, but mostly story. It’s been variably successful at this, and that’s a reflection of how I’m progressing with learning how to do this anthology-editing thing. I’m still reasonably new at it (I really only started in 2004, when you think about it).   I’d like to think that in future volumes of Eclipse there’ll be more coherency, more consistency at an editorial level, and more uniformity of vision.

And I guess that’s where I’m up to this morning. Right now I’m working on Eclipse Three. There’s every chance it could be the final Eclipse, though I now very much hope this won’t be that case.  I’m thinking hard about phase two for Eclipse.  I am eager to do Eclipse Four, Eclipse Five, and Eclipse Six.  Very eager. I am hopeful I’ll find a way to make that happen.  I have thought there’d be no more Eclipse, and I’m not eager to make sure that’s not the case. I’d thought I’d take next year off, and yet right now my mind’s full of Eclipse and what Eclipse Four might be.   I hope it’ll continue.  In the meantime, an enormous ‘thank you’ to Night Shade Books, who really have taken a huge chance with the series, traversed storms because of it, and have been incredibly supportive.  Many thanks, too, to all of the contributors. They have been generous beyond all need to be, and I’m grateful.  As to Eclipse’s future: when I know, I’ll let you know. I promise.

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