Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Are Anthologies the Future for Short Science Fiction?

This recent post on the io9 blog asks exactly that question, and its consideration is well worth reading.

I remember how in his foreword to the famous Dangerous Vision anthology, Isaac Asimov commented on the rarity of original anthologies like that one. It may be that the situation has reversed, and it would be well worth considering why-and what, if anything, it means for short-form science fiction.

My thoughts on the matter: it's in large part a matter of the weakness of the magazines, which I discussed at some length in The Fix last year, more than anything else.

I simply don't see the collections affording a neat replacement. It's easier to sell readers on a book than a magazine subscription, especially if the books contains new stuff from authors they know and like (e.g. novelists they read). But even so, publishers don't like collections, which don't sell as well as plain old novels.

And there's another thing about at least the high-profile collections that isn't the case with mags: an editor thinks up a theme, then turns to writers who have already been established for their material, rather than opening themselves up to submissions from anyone. That's not to say they can't produce good fiction. Quite the contrary: some of these collections have been quite good (for instance, consider Dozois and Strahan's The New Space Opera, which I reviewed here). But were the collections to replace the magazines, they would only further diminish the avenues for new writers to enter the field (and even for established writers to present new ideas).

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