Thursday, August 30, 2007

Welcome to the Land of Wishing-Makes-It-So

Background: Night Shade Books is launching a new original anthology series, completely unthemed, under the editorship of the fine Jonathan Strahan. Eclipse 1 will be published in October.

And, yes, I am surprised -- the original anthology has been dead as a dodo for a good generation now, despite several attempts to revive it, all of which tanked quickly. Doing something like this in the first place is a brave and quixotic venture in the name of short SFF...which, naturally, means that the response from the peanut gallery will be bizarre, hostile and utterly off-track.

So, then: this is the cover of Eclipse 1.

And this is the response by a certain segment of fandom.

I am gobsmacked by the idiocy shown in some of those comments.
"I thought Maureen F. McHugh and Gwyneth Jones were more likely to help sell a collection than Lucius Shepard or Jeffrey Ford."
No offense meant to any writer, but that is seriously out of touch with reality.
"But I am not going to assume there was definitely sexism involved. There could be many other reasons for chosing those names which might be perfectly innocent."
I hardly know what to say to such a ba-lamb. If a grown person doesn't realize that the point of a book's cover is to sell that book, and not to make the membership of the Eternal Floating Internet Wiscon feel warm and fuzzy, there's nothing I can do to penetrate such a very thick skull.
"I think the logic was probably "put the biggest names on the cover". Whether or not the names chosen are indeed the biggest names, or whether it might have been better to sacrifice one or two of them to avoid leaving half the audience feeling shut out, I leave as an exercise for the reader."
Half points for realizing the point of a book is to sell copies. Said points lost for implicitly assuming that men only read male authors and women only female. Also note that apparently any female author is as good as any other -- Anne McCaffrey or Jane Doakes, a girl is a girl is a girl.

A book is a commercial enterprise; it succeeds or fails based on its ability to get people to give up their own money for it. All authors are not equal, and their gender rarely enters into it. (Danielle Steel trumps most men this side of John Grisham. Matter of fact, the biggest fiction writers have tended to be female for quite some time now.)
"Depends on who I want my market to be. If I am me, I want to appeal to people looking for the cool new women writers, while still pulling in the folks who don't know who they are. So Beagle, Wilce, McHugh, Jones, and Nix."
Translation: it's not my money, and I know nothing about what writers are actually selling books to real people. Also note that Gwyneth Jones (born 1952, first published 1977) and Maureen F. McHugh (born 1959, first published 1989) are "new."

I won't even try to quote from the replies to Jason William's attempt to explain how publishing works -- he knows what he's talking about, and the commentors don't, but they refuse to accept that. There are quite a number of female writers, in this field, who would be better selling points than the names on the cover of Eclipse 1...but they're not in the book, so advertising them would be a Bad Thing.

And so Fan Entitlement raises its ugly head yet again. But it's OK, since the original anthology will die a lingering death yet again, and they can move on to complaining about how all of the important planets are named after men or something.

(Didn't I complain about something much like this before? Oh, yeah.)


Anonymous said...

Huh? The original sf/f/h antho has emphatically NOT been dead as a dodo --ever! I've been editing them for over twenty perhaps you mean that the original non-theme anthology has been dead. But even there, it just ain't so. Terri Windling and I co-edited Salon Fantastique, which came out last year (and was recently nominated for the WFA) and I have a non-theme sf/f/h antho coming out from Del Rey next year....I'd love to discuss this more but am in Japan till the 5th...
Ellen Datlow

Bookhorde said...

Probably OT, and not related to the authors listed at all, but I can't help giggle at how phallic the cover art is. Based on that alone, I would say that the target audience is definitely male.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Ellen: You're right, of course; I was a bit unspecific. Eclipse is an attempt to revive the unthemed anthology series, like Orbit and New Directions and so on -- that's what I meant has been dead for ages.

They dominated the field in the '70s, and there have been attempts to revive them since (Jim Baen alone did Destinies, New Frontiers, and then New Destinies in the '80s; more recently, there's been the Silverberg/Haber Universe and Jane Yolen's Xanadu) -- but the versions for the last decade or so can't seem to sustain themselves beyond three volumes.

Anonymous said...

Polyphony, Leviathan, and a few others over the last decade or more have even gone so far as to win the World Fantasy Award. Unthemed. Admittedly, irregularly put out, but not dead.


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