This week, I’ll be looking at the very different experiences I’ve had in publishing my short work. Time permitting, I’ll do a post on Friday about a more typical antho (if not Firday, then next week for sure), but today, I’ll be discussing a pretty specific and unusual market type: the shared-world antho.
Like many readers, I was originally introduced to the concept of a shared world by the Thieves’ World anthos in the 1980s (they might have been created earlier, but I was reading in the 80s). Memory is a bit fuzzy, but I was probably drawn to them because Robert Asprin‘s name was on the cover and I had just discovered his Myth books.
They were delightful books which I devoured (I was about twelve at the time and they were perfect). Looking for more of the same, I came across the Heroes In Hell Series. And I saw something interesting: many of the writers in both series were the same. Strange.
Years later, I was invited by a friend to take part in a volume of the Sha’Daa series, edited by Michael H. Hanson and Edward F. McKeon. The basic premise is that, once every ten thousand years, the Sha’Daa – a demonic invasion of Earth – occurs. And it’s due soon… I was stunned and delighted, because I’d been watching from the sidelines as these books attained a bigger and bigger readership. I didn’t take very long to give them a resounding “Yes”.
When I asked why he’d thought of me, my friend said the following: “I asked around and people like working with you because you deliver clean, quality prose on time.” So yeah, I’m a hack, but it may be the nicest thing anyone has said of me as a writer. Professionalism is something I value and, it appears, so do others. It gave me my first Inkling of why so many writers were the same people across those eighties anthos: evidently, they played well with others, got things in on time and didn’t try to blow up the sandbox.
Next, of course, I had to produce a decent story. Flop-sweat time! Not only did I have to produce a decent story on command, but it needed to fit. Luckily, I had reviewed one of the first two books for SFReader so I knew what I was getting into. I also read the other volume and took copious notes on what worked well and what had already been done.
Then I sat down to write my own tale for Sha’Daa Pawns. I wanted to do something different that fit the dark spirit of this amazing series well. I set my own tale, Blood Stone in an African diamond mine, a milieu which I’d never really seen explored in speculative form.
When they accepted my piece with some minimal edits, I was delighted. When they showed me the cover I was stunned. And then they invited me back for the next one: Facets… which made the whole process and insecurity start over. They wanted this one to be in epistolary/documentary text form, a style I’d always shied away from but, for reasons having to do with the structure of the planned book, fit perfectly.
When someone says “epistolary” I immediately think two things: Dracula and Victorian era. So I went in that direction style-wise (albeit I made the setting a bit more modern) and, to my surprise, the story came together really well. I managed to tell the tale I wanted seamlessly without stretching the form past its breaking point (or at least past the point where the reader would break, which would have been worse).
The entire experience was different from anything else I’ve ever done in publishing. Sometimes a detail had to be changed to fit another story. At other times, the editors would ask you to change a little thing here or there to avoid a demonic apocalypse (always a danger in this series). I recommend it to everyone. The dynamic will certainly help you grow.
Once the stories were published (a couple of years apart) and I received my copies, I realized that this series is going from strength to strength. My thoughts on these volumes pretty much reinforced the initial impression of the one I’d reviewed back when I was an impartial observer: the author lineup is strong, the action is excellent and I feel honored to be among them – and each of them had to play nice with others to earn their place there. Cool to see, and I can only imagine what the editors went through to create those.
So, for the writers who have asked me how to get into the shared-world antho business, that’s the answer: be easy to work with, deliver your edits on time, and word will get around. Oh, and write the best stories you can, too.
If you happen to hear of one of these being formed, write an author or editor already on the team who’s worked with you before. You never know what might result!
Gustavo Bondoni’s latest novel, Incursion: Shock Marines, was released in September. He recommends that you read it before something else comes out and he has to change this signature. If that happens, you might miss it and you do not want that to happen (he says to trust him on this)!