Status: Bogged and Confused

stressI don’t know how other editors select stories for their “year’s best” anthologies. I am not sure, really, how I do it.

But this is the tenth time I’ve gone through the process for The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror series. (Plus I’ve done four other “best of” volumes) and I am beginning to sense a least a part of a troubling pattern.

I think I am close to being finished with the selections and I begin to get bogged down. Time slows down, progress limps along as if there is no deadline. I feel as if I am treading water in a deep and endless pool of dark fiction.

Part of the problem is practical, primarily word count. (Even determining how many words are in a story can sometimes be time consuming.) Word count equals pages and I am very lucky in that respect as I have a relatively huge number of words (usually a bit over 200,000) and pages: over 500). But at this point, I could easily do 300,000.

And no, I don’t do an “honorable mentions” list for several reasons, one of which that is another source of similar frustrations.

Other practical matters include pondering if I have too many of one type of story or another, and deciding which of several by one author to choose, and taking into consideration if particular stories have already been selected by other editors for similar tomes. The latter doesn’t necessarily stop me from choosing a story, but I do have to feel strongly about a “duplicate.”

Then, let’s be honest, there is the matter of “names.” No, I don’t have to worry about that too much, but potential readers do judge at least somewhat by the authors they recognize on a cover.

Then there are the stories you discover at the last minute, the stories that make you worry if you’ve missed other gems. They send you back to the files for even more reading to make sure you haven’t overlooked something.

Of course, one re-reads. A lot.

I bog down.

Doesn’t help that I also begin to forget to do those things one is supposed to do for oneself like exercise and eat properly.

But I survive. And finish.

And find something else to feel stressed about.


One thought on “Status: Bogged and Confused

  1. David

    Hi, Paula. I wanted to commend you on your compilation for 2016′s best SF. I historically have not enjoyed anthologies of short stories; I’ve felt like I just get into the story, the characters, and the time ends. It’s disappointing. However, my wife was picking up another book for me from the local library and unknowingly brought yours home, meaning well. And in a dry moment, I picked it up and was hooked pretty quickly by one of the stories. Then another. They weren’t all hits for me, but that’d be a ridiculously tall order. However, it was enough for me to reconsider my prejudice for short story collections. If nothing else, it sometimes provides seeds for new authors, something for which I’m desperate these days. So thank you.


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