Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Question We All Must Answer

And by "we," I mean "editors," of which I am now not one. But I was when I answered that old "How Did You Get Such an Awesome Job?" question back on August 7, 2003 in rec.arts.sf.written. Someone called "Luna" asked me, and here's what I said (minus the parts of her question I quoted).

I graduated with a degree in English and lived close enough to NYC to be able to live with my mother for a few years (publishing doesn't pay well -- a little better now than it did ten years ago, but still not well). Other than that, it was pure luck -- I was out of work when the assistant job at the SFBC came open, and my interview with Ellen Asher (then and now the Queen of Science Fiction) went well. I've clung like a barnacle ever since.

A question about how much fun the job was...

Parts of it are lots of fun, and parts of it are just like every other office job in the world, except that the specific widgets we're dealing with are books. There's also the factor of having to deal with books one does not particularly like, but which will sell. (Which can feel something like school in the bad sense -- "I can't stand this Faerie Queene thing, and I still have to read six hundred pages of it and be coherent about it when I'm done.")

Comment about it being her dream to edit SFF.

Like the theater, you have to move to New York and starve for a while. Even then, the odds aren't good (also like the theater). Publishing isn't that glamorous, really, but it's enough more glamorous than auto-body repair that the supply exceeds the demand.

And, she asked, is reading books and writing/thinking/talking about them all the time as much fun as she thinks it will be?

It is. But there's also an element (for me, at least) of having to read books that you don't like -- and doing that regularly.

And I explained that last point a few days later:

Well, yes, but there's also the large segment of "books I don't like personally but which are popular with other people." Private readers can generally ignore these; reviewers and editors need to deal with them somehow.

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