And burnt ends

Submissions are now closed for The Best of British Fantasy, which means I can stop shilling and start culling. There were over two hundred individual submissions, plus lots of anthologies and collections sent from various publishers. This is awesome. One of my goals was to use BOBF as an excuse to "survey to field" - a fancy-shmancy way of saying "indulge my curiosity". The more reading, the better.

I've also been doing my own searching, of course. As well as the hundreds of wonderful stories sent to me, I've read hundreds more stories that I've found myself. I suspect, over time, the balance of my submitted/scrounged reading will shift in favour of the submissions - but, right now, BOBF is a new project, and, as gratified as I am that people know about it, it hasn't quite hit critical mass. There's a comfort that comes from doing my own supplementary reading, even if it is just to reassure myself that I'm not missing out on anything.

The challenge with scrounging, of course, is that, if I do find something I like, I then have to wade into the Kafkaesque nightmare that involves trying to find an author's contact information on the internet. For the avoidance of confusion: AUTHORS, HAVE A WEBSITE WITH YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS ON IT. (Or your agent's. That's fine too.)

Here's a really important kicker: you can't rely on your publishers to do this for you. Authors, you need to make sure that you are contactable in your own right. Because, from what I've discovered, some publishers can be really, really rubbish about this. I find this horrifying. When Anne and I ran Jurassic London, we did so with the full knowledge that our teeny press should be a stepping stone. Part of our responsibility as publishers was to help the authors take advantage of any opportunity that might arise. It is a small press: visibility is crap, the pay is rubbish - encouraging (or simply passing on) leads is our responsibility.

This is vaguely connected to my #merky musings from last week: it is really important to be promoting diversity and new voices. But visibility/hype/noise alone is not job done.

In the case of #merky, I think there's a really important role for evaluation. But there's a broader point here about the balance of innovation and maintenance. The flashy visionary part is incredibly important: that's where we get our upward leap in the punctuated equilibrium of this - or any - sector. But sustaining the new normal is also important. In publishing, that's about making sure the sequel sells as well. Or making sure the project is measured robustly. Or, in its simplest form, not only publishing 'diverse new voices', but encouraging others to re-publish them as well.

This insight, such as it is, is largely an incredibly long subtweet of people that aren't emailing me back. (Grumble.) But as a greater justification: this is also connected to my ongoing musings about the idea of 'middling'. We give a lot of credit to pioneers, to 'finders', to visionaries. As we should. But we tend to gloss over the now what?; the hard work it takes to keep the ball rolling. Not every vision succeeds - in many cases, that failure isn't due to lack of 'idea', but a fundamental misunderstanding of the lengthy commitment it takes to keep things middling along.

Get: Pioneers and visionaries
To: Increase their odds of long-term success
By: Investing in maintenance

Further reading:

  • Literal maintenance. We've all seen the case - passionately, brilliantly made - for libraries being hubs of the community. (As they very much are.) (A tangent: there's an intriguing counter-point made by Darren McGarvey in Poverty Safari about why it is also important not to burden libraries with non-library things, as it diminishes their value as 'quiet spaces'). 

  • The role of hardware stores, however, isn't something I've considered before, nor the "reciprocal relation between the hardware store and the neighborhood it supplies". Even at its most fundamental level, a hardware store exists to serve people who are physically invested in the local area. When it comes to identifying (and empowering) a specific audience, that's gold dust.

'The enormous life of Anthony Bourdain': does a fantastic job of capturing the immensity and the intricacy of one man's complex life. Also on food, an ode to the burnt end, the world's finest food. And, more on food, the adorable Mitzvah Day - bringing disparate communities together with soup. 

My review of AfroSFv3, a new volume of space-faring science fiction from African authors. And a nice write-up, via Roz Morris, of last month's Self-Publishing Exchange.