GUEST POST: The Life and Times of an Editor

So, as an editor, basically I sit on my throne of author’s skulls, sipping from an ornate goblet – fashioned in the forges of hell – drinking the tears of disappointment and laughing, yes laughing, as I reject another manuscript, or request a draconian change. For we are the gatekeepers of genre, and through these sacred obsidian portals, only a select few, whom we deem to be worthy, shall pass.

Of course, this is as far from the truth as it gets (though there was that one guy at Penguin… (I jest) (or do I?)). Every single editor that I’ve met working in genre – from the small presses and the indie imprints, to the big houses – do what they do because they love books. If you want to make money, getting into publishing is a fairly crazy way to go about it. We started in this business because we adore reading and we want to share that love. (I’ve used love twice now. Some of you will think I’m getting soft. Quick, Igor, toss another manuscript on the fire! Mwahahaahahha etc…). Because, really editors are just like you. Well, not you… I mean, what is that you’re doing?! 

I came from the lowly background of academic publishing, slaving away at economics journals while dreaming of better things. When I started at Rebellion, not only did I get to work with 2000 AD but, more importantly, along with my boss, I got to set up my own imprint – Abaddon Books. We were entirely thrown in at the deep end, and really (though I probably shouldn’t admit this) were making things up as we went along much of the time. (You know, like writers!). I’m enormously proud of the work I did on Abaddon, and I think that the imprint gained the identity it did because we were all about fostering new talent. David Moore has since taken on my baby, and he’s taking it places. I adore getting to read those titles as a fan now.

One thing I was always really keen to do was short stories. Because of the format of Abaddon at the time, we didn’t really get the chance there. Though that has since changed, and you really must check out David Moore’s anthology Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets; a brilliant Holmesian anthology.

Short stories are really where my fandom developed, matured if you will. As a young man I devoured magazines such as Interzone, Black Static (previously The Third Alternative), Realms of Fantasy, Peeping Tom et al and was a keen follower of the small and indie presses. Short fiction is the breeding ground for new ideas, new paths into story. It shows genre at its most vibrant and it allows authors to experiment with ideas they may not possibly be given free reign with in a novel.

And, of course, short fiction was already a feature of Solaris, with George Mann’s excellent science fiction and fantasy anthologies for the imprint. Horror being my bag, I was keen to add that to the mix and hence End of the Line was born. For science fiction and fantasy in the short form, we have the excellent Jonathan Strahan and Ian Whates – commissioning award-winning fiction and showing just how ‘alive’ the SF and fantasy fiction communities are.

Short fiction broadens our church, gives us a bigger palette to play with and… trying to shoe horn a third metaphor into here really isn’t going to work. But you get what I mean: I love short stories, we love short stories – and we’re inordinately proud of the reputation we’ve built not just for publishing first-class fiction in novel form, but publishing some of the most interesting anthologies out there.

And having blown one last voluntary on my trumpet (fnarr fnarr) may I point you in the direction of our own excellent websites at solarisbooks.com and abaddonbooks.com and invite you to plunge into a diverse, exciting and always entertaining world of short fiction.

Jonathan Oliver is the multi-award winning editor of The End of The Line, Magic, House of Fear, End of the Road and Dangerous Games. He’s also written a couple of novels and a bunch of short stories. He lives in Abingdon with his family and their cat.

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