I get stressed way too easily. My mum always used to say that my family was of a nervous disposition, which I always rubbished. And yet, as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten twitchier and twitchier. I’m sure this is partly a byproduct of physical fitness, partly of poor organisation, but it’s there nonetheless. We’ve been trying to organise things for my mum’s birthday on Thursday and my daughter Jessica’s sixth birthday next week, and that got me a bit twitchy. Then this morning I got an email that plunged me into mild chaos. I’ve got a tick under my left eye as I type. The email was perfectly fine, it just asked where I was at with something. Now, I thought I’d replied last August to this query already (an email seems to have gone astray), and suddenly was going ‘oh shit, oh shit, oh shit’. I’ve now responded to the email and wouldn’t blame my correspondent for being both disappointed and angry with me. I hope it’ll work out, but it both added to the stress of the morning and left me thinking I get stressed way too easily. And way too easily to be this disorganised.

The best…

I’ve not done this before, so I hope the person involved doesn’t mind, but I received a comment from Jim Henry, which I’m moving up here because I want to respond here on the main blog. Commenter Jim Henry wrote:

In spite of many years of buying every Jack Vance book I can afford used or new, I haven’t had the opportunity to read much of his short fiction yet, except the pieces collected in the Pocket Books Best of Jack Vance. I would suggest, though, that you mostly avoid the longer works and those that have been reprinted most frequently over the years, giving preference to those that have never been reprinted or haven’t been reprinted in many decades. For instance, “The Last Castle” and “The Dragon Masters” have been reprinted in paperback several times, and both appeared in the massive The Hugo Winners anthology that SFBC kept in print for so long that used copies are easy to find.

I would also suggest you avoid the short works that were incorporated into fix-up novels (e.g. most of the Dying Earth material) except for one or two representative pieces, perhaps notable for the degree of difference between the magazine and book versions.

What do you put into a collection of work and what do you leave out? There is a view, neatly stated in Jim’s comment, that you should not reprint the most famous, the most readily available work by an artist in an anthology, collection, or whatever. The underpinning argument, from a publishers perspective often goes like this: if you reprint “xxx”, which has been reprinted twenty-five galumpty times, then the dedicated fans who’ve bought everything else won’t buy it. If, however, you include this never before seen item from said creator’s garden shed, then all of the fans will buy it. The problem with this is it leads directly to buying Led Zeppelin’s Greatest Hits without “Stairway to Heaven”, Queen’s Greatest Hits without “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and The Best of the Beatles without “Hey Jude”. This doesn’t strike me as entirely reasonable. It also doesn’t strike me as entirely honest. If I buy Led Zeppelin’s Greatest Hits it better have “Stairway” on it. Similarly, if I buy a best of Harlan Ellison it better have “Jeffty is Five” in it, no matter how often it’s been anthologised. And, for Jack Vance, that really does mean you pretty much have to include “The Last Castle”, “The Dragon Masters”, and “The Moon Moth”. Yes, they’ve been widely available. Yes, they’ve been often reprinted. But, without them, this wouldn’t be the best of Jack Vance, a real treasury.

cover art

I told you CHARLES, Liza, Kirsten, Tim, and the gang were making things happen. Today’s email brings two wonderful images from World Fantasy Award winning artist John Picacio that will be the covers of Fantasy: The Very Best of 2005 and Science Fiction: The Very Best of 2005 respectively. I’ve loved John’s work for ages, he has a fantastic new book out right now, and he did that astounding cover for MonkeyBrain’s Kim Newman collection. I feel very lucky indeed and, while the cover designs still need to be done, I think the book’s will look terrific.

Little kids want to be co-conspirators

Little kids, at least my girls, love to be co-conspirators. They love to be part of a secret, especially a good one. Here’s an example. Yesterday morning I got an email from Marianne telling me that Sophie (age four and a half) had been very difficult all morning, not getting dressed, having tantrums, all that kind of thing. She was so difficult that Marianne banned her from doing some of her favorite things for the morning, and they both were still a bit cross when I got home.

Just before dinner Sophie wanted to watch one of her new favorite movies, The Lady and the Tramp. She told me she wanted to watch it, but she wasn’t allowed to. I asked her why, and she told me – quite seriously – that she’d not been very good. She’d gotten out of bed and had a tantrum, got dressed and had a tantrum, had breakfast and had a tantrum, and then gotten in the car and had a tantrum – four tantrums! (her emphasis). I asked her why? She said she didn’t know. We then had quite a serious conversation about whether tantrums made mummy happy or cross (cross), whether mummy did nice things for Sophie when she was cross (no), and whether Sophie liked it when mummy did nice things for her (yes). I then suggested wouldn’t it be a good idea if she did something nice, and then maybe mummy might do something nice for her. Sophie thought this was a very good idea. I suggested the ‘Getting Ready’ Present. We would secretly go and pick out Sophie’s clothes for the morning, lay them out, and then in the morning Sophie could get up, have breakfast, and then secretly get herself all dressed and ready to go without telling mum. It would be a present. Sophie loved this idea! It was a secret, it was a conspiracy, and it was doing something nice for mum. And I just got word she went through with it like clockwork. She’s apparently pleased as punch with herself, which she should be, and being delightful. We’ll have to see if we can make it work tomorrow morning, though .

Year’s Best – First glimpse

Sorry to make your download suffer for my enthusiasm, but this is the first image I’ve seen of the Locus Press year’s best volumes. This is the galley for Science Fiction: The Very Best of 2005. The photo was taken in Oakland, California by the wonderful Liza, who is making sure these books are as terrific as they can be. We’ve finished all of the proofing and nonsense, galleys are going out to reviewers right now, cover art has been selected, and they’ll be purchasable before you know it. Yay! And, in case I haven’t thanked ’em enough yet, many, many thanks to Liza for all of her hard work on making these books happen, Kirsten for making the galleys happen, Tim for all of his hard work on layout, and to CHARLES, who approves things.