inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #0 of 126: Martha Soukup (soukup) Wed 1 Jan 03 20:10
Ellen Datlow is the Hugo-winning editor of Sci Fiction
<> -- in fact, she's the first editor to win
the Hugo award for editing a purely electronic publication.  In an earlier
online publication, Event Horizon, she published what was only the second
Internet-published story to win the World Fantasy Award (Kelly Link's "The
Specialist's Hat"). But she'd already published quantities of award-winning
science fiction, as the longtime fiction editor of Omni Magazine (and the
online version of Omni, where she published the _first_ Internet-only story
to win the World Fantasy Award) -- and as co-editor, with Terri Windling, of
"The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror" (St. Martin's), which will see its 16th
edition this fall.

Ellen's anthology "Sirens" was recently reissued from HarperEos, and later
this year, "The Dark" (Tor Books), an anthology of ghost stories, and "Swan
Sister" (Simon & Schuster), a children's book edited with Terri Windling.
Between her magazine, online, and many anthology gigs, Ellen has a sense of
the course of modern science fiction and fantasy few can match; if you
started to list the luminaries she's published, you wouldn't be finished
till March.

Conversing with Ellen is the inimitable Jack Womack.  Jack also works in
publishing, as publicist for the sf and fantasy books published by the
various arms of Harper Collins.  But he's hardest to erase from memory as
the author of the deeply strange, dark, violent, funny Dryco series
("Ambient", "Terraplane", "Elvissey", "Heathern", "Random Acts of Senseless
Violence" and, most recently and finally, "Going, Going, Gone").  For
"Elvissey", he won the Philip K. Dick Award.  Jack also owns a large
collection of remarkably strange books.

Please join me in welcoming both Ellen and Jack to inkwell.vue.
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #1 of 126: Jack Womack (jack-womack) Thu 2 Jan 03 08:23
A little background first, vaguely pertinent to my opening remarks. 

Ellen Datlow and I have known each other, have in fact been longtime
members of the legendary New York Mafia (i.e. the people who have no
better sources of gossip and information than anyone else, and in fact
claim little more than to sometimes know the fastest ways to get
downtown to restaurants that used to be good, last time we ate there). 

I remember meeting Ellen very well. It was at the SFWA party in 1989,
held at the old Warwick Hotel on 6th if I remember right. Buzz Aldrin,
I think, was the key luminary on hand. I walked up, and her longtime
associate Rob Killheffer said to me "Jack, I'd like you to meet--" and
Ellen immediately replied, "When can you write me a story?" 

Clearly, this particular method in getting material works. But as we
know, writers are often harder to start than old Studebakers on frosty
mornings. "Write it, dammit, I need it by Tuesday at nine" is another
approach sometimes employed by editors vis a vis writers. What are some
of the more subtle ways you use to get writers to write the stories
you perceive (or know!) they have inside them? 

A followup, while we're talking editorial procedures. I think one of
the things writers appreciate most about you (I certainly do) is your
frankness in noting possible flaws in the narrative. What do you, as an
editor, look for in a story? (I mean, everything from spelling to
subtext.) And, how candid do you feel you can be -- as opposed to
should be -- about a story, when you speak to its author?

And one last, for the moment. Every editor has rejected something that
later, he or she has second thoughts about afterward. Now, on the
contrary, did you ever have second thoughts afterward about anything
you've bought and published? No names necessary, needless to say.
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #2 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Thu 2 Jan 03 08:41
Jack, I'm glad you've got a better memory than I have. I never
remember how I meet anyone. 

I find the nagging method of getting writers whose work I enjoy to
produce short stories for me only works sometimes. Usually early on in
the relationship when the author is still scared of me (not knowing
that I'm really a pussy cat)or when I can offer wads of money at them.
of course the worst problem is that many of the best and brightest
stars of short fiction move on far too quickly to writing novels and no
longer have time or energy to write a short story.

 The best way to procure short stories from those who have gone on to
write (goddamn!) novels is to catch them at the right time--maybe when
they're having trouble with the novel they're writing....or when
they've just finished a tough one and they need a break.

It's difficult to codify what I look for in a story--but there must be
something about the story that _moves_ me in some way. That makes an
impression. Competent writing is a must, great writing is a joy to
behold but I'd also like there to be a point to the story. I look for a
freshness in the telling, an unusual point of view or venue. There are
so many components that come together in the decision to buy a story.
I try to be honest with writers who I work with. If I think they can
deal with straightforward criticism I'll give it (and if I think it'll
help the specific story). I'm probably more critical if I like the
work--otherwise I wouldn't bother. I'd just give the story a brush-off

There are the occasional stories that on second/third/fourth look
didn't hold up and I've very occasionally bought a story that I didn't
think was up to snuff that I was pressured to buy for one reason or
another. But I've never published a story I was embarrassed to have
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #3 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Thu 2 Jan 03 08:43
Ack --I meant "throw wads of money at them"--but you knew that :-)
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #4 of 126: Jack Womack (jack-womack) Thu 2 Jan 03 09:24
As long as wads of money are involved, I have no problem with their
handling, in any particular way.

Certainly you'd have never published a story that you'd have been
embarassed to publish in the first place; rather, had there ever been a
case of "what was I thinking...?" some time after the fact, upon
rereading. (Am remembering in particular a 9/11 story by Updike that
appeared in the Atlantic, this past summer. It was bad; it was in fact,
astonishingly bad. I cannot help but imagine that the editor hasn't
since wondered, once or twice...but I further imagine that the editor
probably wondered at the time of submission, yet nevertheless closed
his or her eyes and thought of England, or in this case,

The market for SF and Fantasy has changed in many ways during the past
twenty-five years. Why do you think fantasy, whether high or subtle,
has become so much more popular than SF, whether hard or soft? Simple
changes in taste? Marketing? Influence of gaming? The fact that so much
that was science-fictional, once, now actually *is*, and that as
there's no danger of that ever happening in the case of fantasy, its
popularity ergo was sure to increase...?

And when it comes to fantasy, which do you prefer? The first volume of
something very High, with bloodied parapets and whoops-a-do gnomes and
dark, nasty woods and ensorceled dogs sure to be found (sorry --
"grimly encountered" within? Or a tale of a man, say, who mutters
something sarcastic to his guinea pig, one morning in passing, and the
guinea pig answers back? 

What kind of fantasy would you recommend someone write, if you chose
to make such a recommendation? 

And, what kind of science fiction would you like to see? The kind in
which lack of characterization etc. is a feature, rather than a bug, or
the kind in which dialogue and motivation are spot on, even if the
scientific principles as demonstrated are, uh, rubbery?

And while we're at this, pick the one story of any sort written during
the last twenty years that you'd have loved to have published, had it
come your way.
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #5 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Thu 2 Jan 03 12:14
Hmmm. I don't often go back and reread stories I've published years
before--although when I'm putting together a reprint anthology (like
the OMNI reprint anthos) I certainly do. But I usually remember the
stories I've published over the years (and keep a brief synopsis of
each one) so I generally pick out the memorable ones that made the most
impression on me.  There are short-shorts I commissioned for various
OMNI themed groupings that weren't as _good_ as I'd hoped for by
writers I really wanted to work with eg. Patricia Highsmith (I can
mention her because she's dead :-)) and a few others but again, I don't
think any of them were _terrible_ just not topnotch.

As to why fantasy is now more popular than sf I think that mostly it's
because we _are_ living in the world envisioned (or mis-visioned) by
sf writers over the past 50 years. Although there are new speculations
all the time and lovely variations on themes, etc sf isn't bright and
shiny and NEW any more. It's so much a part of our lives that it's
harder to attract young readers to it. Fantasy literature has a much
broader range--it can encompass dark fantasy and supernatural
literature as well as high fantasy, urban fantasy, magical realism,

I prefer what I call hard-edged fantasy or science fantasy--which is
fantasy that feels like sf. Also, I enjoy fiction that mixes the
genres--which is why I love China Mieville's and Jonathan Carroll's and
M. John Harrison's novels.

I would never recommend anyone write anything but what they love and
yearn and need to write. (unless I order them to write a story for ME!
-LOL). Honestly, I don't see how I could suggest that a writer write a
particular type of work. Of course, I can let them know what I
personally like (but they can see MY taste in everything I edit--it's
no secret). And since I love fiction that isn't necessarily commercial
I'm not sure I'm the best one to ask. I love the quirky novels that
fall between the cracks of genres.

I have trouble with sf that has no characters. Fiction like that of
Stapledon, I'm afraid, leaves me cold. It's of course possible to make
a city a character but to have no actual _beings_ that I can identify
with on some level? Not my cup of tea. Since much scientific
speculation is as you say "rubbery" (even now, we're told E=MC squared
ain't necessarily so) I'm much happier reading spot on dialogue and
motivation than about the principles themselves. Story is what's
important. Fudge the science and speculation, just make it convincing
and tell a good story.

There are lots of stories that I missed out publishing for various
reasons--I never saw them, I couldn't buy them at the time, I didn't
_get_ it when I first read it, etc. 
There isn't one. But you don't want me to list them I hope :-)
Oh, and lots of novellas as I never had room for novellas at OMNI. Now
I do. 
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #6 of 126: Jack Womack (jack-womack) Thu 2 Jan 03 12:33
A quick question comes to mind:  What would you say are the major
differences between the stories submitted these days and the stories
submitted twenty-years ago, overall? Any signs of greater
cross-influence with other genres or with mainstream, for example?

Now, let's open up the discussion with a *writing* exercise. Describe
for me your father's candy store in the Bronx (or was it actually in
Yonkers? On the border? I get so easily confused...)-- tell me what was
in there, what candy was sold, what brands, what newspapers; what the
lights looked like, the flooring. And then tell us about growing up,
and what you liked to read when you were growing up, and what you
thought you'd want to do once you grew up, and how you finally came to
do what you do, having grown up...
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #7 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Thu 2 Jan 03 13:07
I've been in the short story biz about 23 years now so we'll consider
it from then ok? (I read short stories in anthologies totally randomly
before I got into the field and never knew the magazines existed). 

I'd say that over the years the writing I'm seeing has been getting
better overall. Less pulpy, more literate (I don't mean literary). Much
more sf and fantasy crossover, particuarly starting in the mid-late
eighties. And in the nineties more influence from the mainstream,
usually in a good way. Taking the best of the mainstream and
incorporating it into sf and fantasy. 
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #8 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Thu 2 Jan 03 13:34
Oh boy, the second part of your post is the toughie--I'm notoriously
good on trivia but bad on noticing details around me but I'll try. And
I'm sure if my mom drops by here she can always correct me on anything
I've got wrong :-)

My father's luncheonette was called the Kent Luncheonette and it was
on 167th street, just off the Grand Concourse and across the street
from the Kent movie theater in the Bronx. We lived diagnally across the
street until I was 8. I don't know how long my dad had the
luncheonette altogether but he still owned it for several years after
we moved to Yonkers. His partner Al and his family were friends of our
family over the years and still are (although Al died a couple of years

You'd walk in and on the left was a bunch of stools that spun around
at the counter and on the right were several booths. In the front there
were comic books all along the right side (up till the booths), and
other comic books (the scary ones and Classics Illustrated ones) on the
left side near the counters. The funny thing is, I don't remember
where the candy was. And I don't remember any newspapers. There was a
rack of mass market paperbacks in the front too.  No magazines that I
remember and certainly no sf mags or I would have read them. 

I read all the comic books when I visited for lunch. Little Lulu,
Archie & Veronica, all the superheroes, Richie Rich, Classics
Illustrated, the ones with gruesome covers (don't remember the titles).
I was never allowed to take any home though. My dad made the BEST
vanilla malteds with those machines that were hospital green and have
the chrome mixers hanging down. I'm still searching for a malted like
he used to make--now they're always too thick. 

I'm utterly blank on what the place looked like or even the color of
the booths (see? I told you). But I'm sure you could color it in for me

As a kid I read everything I could get my hands on. I went to the
library a lot. Read Eleanor Cameron's mushroom planet books (which I've
since collected), a bit later read all the Nancy Drew books,
everything in my parents' apartment from Bulfinch's Mythology and the
Modern Library editions of The Iliad and the Odyssey, Guy de
Maupassant, a risque cartoon book called the Tattoed Sailor, The World
Around Us --I loved the photos of different kinds of

When I was older I read Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison (and Dangerous
Visions and Again DV,), The Playboy Book of Horror and the
Supernatural), the best of the Years edited by Wollheim, in high school
I started reading those annual books of plays during library--I read a
lot of Tennessee William, which I still love, some Inge, others that
didn't make as much impression. Got into The Man Who was Thursday and
Herman Hesse, and John Fowles. (reread TMWWT, Steppenwolf, and The
Magus a few times). 

For awhile in my young teenage years I read a lot of "sexy" books like
LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN and THE GROUP both of which gave me a pretty
warped view of sex in the mid-sixties. 

Had no real idea of what I wanted to do growing up. I loved reading
and loved animals. Thought "veteranarian" until I discovered I'd have
to take math (never my strong suit). Thought working in a bookstore
would be fun--although after talking to you, Jack, about your
experiences, I'm glad I never did. 

I went to college and majored in English lit and had no idea what I'd
do when I got out. Somehow, the idea of the career of publishing
brushed against my brain (I don't recall how) and after spending a year
after college travelling around Europe, I came home and sent out my
resume to various publishers and magazines (named in the Yellow pages).
My resume landed on the desk of someone at Little, Brown & Co's NY
office just when the sales secretary had been _promoted_ to reader
(there certainly are no full time jobs reading slush mss these days) so
I got her job, working for the sales secretary. The rest is history
(and in many other interviews with me).
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #9 of 126: Jack Womack (jack-womack) Fri 3 Jan 03 06:41
A view of sex obtained from LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN and THE
sorry you didn't throw NAKED LUNCH in there just to round things out?
Well, never mind.

Your memory doesn't sound nearly as bad as you claim it to be, even if
you don't remember the color of the booths.

Back to writing, for a while, before we switch around to additional
delightful topics. We both know critics and editors who write fiction,
as well. Was this something that you ever wanted to try, or indeed
tried? What were the results, if so? Do you think that the attempt to
write fiction would help or hinder a fiction editor in understanding
how it's done from that side?

Another editing question. Some writers, as we know, are tone-deaf --
when it comes to words, they show an uncanny ability to picking the one
that clanks. This doesn't necessary keep them from getting published
of course; but it seems to me that one thing a good editor really needs
to have is the *ear* -- i.e., when you can listen to a sentence and
hear where it goes wrong, however slightly. I know when you've edited
me there's always come a time when you've said "I don't know *why* it's
not right, but it's not." How did you develop your ear, do you think?

A broader question:  what the hell ever did happen to cyberpunk,
anyway? A big element of it always struck me, long after the fact, as
the SF equivalent to the New Wave moment (in music, not SF), i.e. when
people unexplainably believed, however briefly, that there was indeed
some timeless and direct connection between The Clash and, say,
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #10 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Fri 3 Jan 03 08:37
I did read NAKED LUNCH and various other outre books a little
later--probably more in my late teens and early twenties: Henry Miller,
LADY CHATTERLY, and in college I read some Marquis de Sade but got
bogged down in THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM.  I think that kind of rounded out
my sex education, don't you think?

In college I wrote some really really bad doggerel. Over the years
I've written journals (particularly when travelling in Europe), long
long letters and once a dream journal for my Jungian therapy.  And
once, in junior high school I wrote a short play that was going to be
produced at Assembly but something came up and the whole project was
cancelled. The play was bad sf influence (a lot) by the original
Twilight Zone tv show. 

I don't recall ever having the urge "to be a writer" and in some ways
I think I'm a better editor for not being a writer--I can always put
myself in the reader's position. I don't have a preconceived notion of
how a particular story should be written. On the other hand, I'm not as
good in editing structure as I'd like to be or as I'd have to be if I
wrote fiction myself.

I think I've developed my "ear" by being a voracious reader.  I work
more from instinct and ear than by knowing "proper" grammar and
punctuation. In fact, I feel that punctuation's only proper use in
fiction is to enable a writer to communicate tone and cadence to the
reader. I'm afraid it might just be instinctual on my part--I read
sentences aloud if they sound off. Not sure that's very helpful and it
sure ain't scientific but it seems to work for me.

tbc in the next post--I've got to chase a cat!
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #11 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Fri 3 Jan 03 08:56
With regard to whatever happened to cyberpunk I think its best
practitioners have moved on to other things after corrupting the whole
world with its virus :-) 
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #12 of 126: gone (scraps) Fri 3 Jan 03 08:58

Hey Ellen, hey Jack!
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #13 of 126: Jack Womack (jack-womack) Fri 3 Jan 03 09:09
Hi Scraps!!

Good to see others getting in on this, as well. And where are *your*
questions for Ms. D., eh....?

Ellen, did you catch your cat? A good time to toss in a new subject,
i.e. cats. Ellen has two, Dinah and Lilly. I refrain from any comments
as to their behavior, attitude, intelligence (so-called), haphazard
grooming techniques etc. I remember Blue or Nilsson, I forget which was
still around; the one who was 300 years old by the time I met you. Did
you have cats before then? Dogs? Guinea pigs? Living critters only,
preferably --  

Now, back briefly to cyberpunk. You bear a certain responsibility for
having corrupted the whole world with the virus, I'd say. When you
first read Gibson's short stories, what impressed you most? Language,
style, or attitude? How many *bad* cyberpunk stories did you see, once
the meme began to spread, and the submissions began to pile up? Were
there any with concepts etc. so terrible you've not been able to shake
them, to this day?

And a last question before I go off to lunch: who are the writers at
work today whose work you find most compelling? 
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #14 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Fri 3 Jan 03 09:33
Hi Scraps!

Lily was running around (celebrating a you know what--but we won't go
into that).

Nielsen was 23+ when she died.
Anyway, I grew up with goldfish, which I killed by accidentally
overfeeding them and some parakeets. When we lived in the Bronx we had
a parakeet named Dicky that my mom says I was jealous of--according to
her, my dad would greet Dicky before me. We lived on a ground floor apt
and he got out the door one day (hey, don't blame me!) and that was
that. We had a terrific cocker spaniel we named Jip, after the Alice
and Jerry and Jip textbooks. I was not a cat person at that time--all I
knew of them was that they chased mice (as in Farmer Gray cartoons)
and ate birds (my aunt Evelyn always had cats and would write me letter
from Europe, where she lived about the neighbors complaining about her
cats catching the birds). 

Lived with my first cat in college--a kitten belonging to a roommate.
In NYC another roommate got two kittens and when she moved out left
Blue, one of them for me. From then I was hooked.

First story I saw by Bill was "Johnny Mnemonic." His writing just
sprung out at me--his prose was gorgeous--so it was a combination of
the style and language, which to me are intertwined. 

I still see some cyberpunk. There's "bad" cyberpunk when it's all
style no content and there are good stories that are influenced by the
positive aspects of cyberpunk and are about something. For all Gibson's
style, his best stories are also rich in subtle political content and
commentary on economic systems and globalization. 

The worst cyberpunk doesn't have concepts just a very thin veneer of
"coolness." None stood out because they weren't about anything.

And I'll respond to your last question on the next rock....
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #15 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Fri 3 Jan 03 09:49
Back to "who are the writers at work today whose work you find most

Aside from your own work, which is right on the money with regard to
the pulse of society and its quirks....

I'll read everything Jonathan Carroll writes (caveat, I'm currently
his book editor), everything Gibson writes, everything Jack O' Connell
But they're mostly writing novels. So let me get to the short story:
Kelly Link, whose stories are captivating and often mysterious
Glen Hirshberg, who is writing extraordinary ghost stories
Jeff Ford is creating an amazingly varied oevre in short fiction
Carol Emshwiller, who has become increasingly prolific over the past
few years
Elizabeth Hand--whose novelettes and novellas are gorgeously crafted
and lush
Lucius Shepard, whose obsessions create fine art

Those are just a few.
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #16 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Fri 3 Jan 03 09:56
Oh, and here are some more:
In horror specifically, Brian Hodge had an extremely good year with
several excellent stories appearing.

Also, Nick Royle, Conrad Williams, Joel Lane, M. John Harrison always
write compelling short stories.
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #17 of 126: Jack Womack (jack-womack) Fri 3 Jan 03 11:15
Thinking on our Clarion experiences (and wondering if any of our
students are going to pop up here to ask their own questions of you at
some point, hint hint to any who might be lurking)I was wondering if
you think that it's any easier to try and teach the fundamentals of
editing than it is to try and teach the fundamentals of writing. 

It seems to me that it wouldn't be easier -- that writing and editing
both involve a fair amount of following intuition, and responding
accordingly (fiction writing, I assume, does leave open endless
possibilities for making use of happy accidents). How have your
teaching experiences been? That is to say, not how much fun you've had
but how successful you believe you've been in getting across actual
points regarding the act of editing, and the nature of (some) editors?

Another question, but some background first. As anyone who knows her
knows, Ellen Datlow is perhaps the most accomplished shopper you've
ever seen. Her good eye is clearly not just for le mot juste. Speaking
only for myself, she has helped find for me 1) one engagement ring for
my wife; 2)3 pitch cards/booklets for sideshow personnel, autographed;
3) an example of Victorian taxidermy, a small stuffed dog, the infamous
Roman (currently in possession of Carrie Fox). I still remember the
day I went shopping with Ellen, and Lucius Shepard, who had never been
shopping with Ellen before. He lasted, maybe, ten minutes before he & I
headed to Starbucks.

So Ellen, how the heck do you do it? What are your flea market tricks?
Where are the best shopping bargains to be found, in what cities --
you've been to a lot of places, so let's hear it? Where are you and
Cadigan heading next? 
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #18 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Fri 3 Jan 03 12:57
When I teach at Clarion or anyplace else I don't teach writing. I
don't feel I'm capable of it. What I DO try to teach is how to
self-edit as much as possible (see next para) by giving students an
idea of how one line edits (which as some people believe incorrectly,
is NOT the same as copy editing, although many copyeditors are doing
some line editing as well). And also, I try to teach them what an
editor looks for, what will turn an editor off in their writing or ms
presentation and a little about the business of writing.

It's impossible to teach "editing" per se. When I started out in book
publishing I took an "editing" course--what it did was show me the
different aspects of working in a publishing house (I can't remember
now if it was a "publishing course" or "editing "course)--the only way
I learned to edit was by doing it. When I started working for Ben Bova
at OMNI he kindly sat with me after he had me edit a ms and we talked
about what he thought was right and and wrong with my line edit--but
that's a rarity. 

At Clarion West one year, I brought several versions of a ms I worked
on with an author.(with his permission, of course). I tried to go
through one version with the students (they each had a copy) and after
a very short time they were bored out of their skulls. It may not have
been wise to try to do such an exercise during class time,( never did
it again) but  for the few students who took those versions with them
and went over each one and the back and forth between me and the author
the lessons would have been invaluable in seeing the actual editing
process (and some of the thought that goes on behind it). 

I was lucky in that I have a knack for editing short fiction. Perhaps
if I'd started by editing novels or nonfiction I'd be better at editing
those forms. Some of it is practice. And yes, a lot of it is having an
"ear" for what you're reading and what works.

I think my former students have learned the niceties of dealing with
editors--I try to do a quickie course on author-editor behavior once a
story is sold. What happens both with their story and in social

Shopping on the next rock ....
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #19 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Fri 3 Jan 03 13:05
Lucius didn't last but we did get him the object of his heart's desire

I haunt flea markets and yard sales whenever I travel looking for
weird stuff that catches my fancy. Unfortunately, as we know, some of
the best flea markets in NYC are disappearing, being displaced by high
rises. If you're lucky, the things you collect are cheap _somewhere_ in
the world. At home, (NYC) the best shopping can be at craft fairs.

The flea market Alice Turner and I went to with Garry Kilworth in Hong
Kong was a lot of fun. Stuff I hadn't seen before. I got Pat Murphy to
bring me back a monkey skull inlaid with silver form Nepal (I'd
admired hers a few years earlier).  In London several years ago I
bought some Victorian bar pins that were exceptionally cheap compared
the prices in the US for the same items. I haunt used bookstores with
John Clute in London when I visit. Go shopping to the great consignment
stories in Maine with Liz Hand. 

Pat will remember the time we went to a mall in Kansas City, when I
visited her there and I made a beeline to the only black suede jacket
on sale in the store. 
I call it grazing--it's my sport and my relaxation (when I'm not
looking for anything specific). 

Uh, as you can see I could go on and on...
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #20 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Fri 3 Jan 03 14:06
I'm off to dinner and a movie--later everyone. I'm sure Jack will have
another question up his sleeve by the time I get back or tomorrow...
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #21 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Fri 3 Jan 03 14:12
Oh wait...I forgot to respond to where Pat and I are off to next. Roma
baby!! Last year we spent two mad days rushing around shopping in
Venice and this February we'll be set loose on Rome for a couple of
days. I'm already getting advice as to food and shopping. The tourist
stuff is easy. It'll be all around us :-)
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #22 of 126: Christopher Rowe (jonl) Sat 4 Jan 03 08:40
Email from Christopher Rowe:

It seems to me that Ellen Datlow is just as well known in the horror field
as in science fiction and, if it's possible, that she's even more
influential in that field. I was wondering (a) what attraction "dark"  
fiction holds for Ms. Datlow and (b) whether there are any practical
differences between editing horror fiction and other types of fiction.

Hi Jack.

Christopher Rowe
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #23 of 126: Michael Kelly (jonl) Sat 4 Jan 03 08:41
Email from Michael Kelly:

Hi Ellen and Jack,

Ellen, earlier you mentioned Brian Hodge, Conrad Williams, Joel Lane (a
personal favorite of mine, who graciously gave me a story for the Songs
From Dead Singers anthology), Nick Royle, etc. While Hodge is American, do
you think your sensibilities lean toward British horror, whatever that may

Which leads to another question:  I enjoy the surreal, downbeat,
dread-infused fiction that seems to come out of the U.K.  Obviously, you
like some of it, as well.  As a reader of all the genres, (SF, Horror,
Fantasy, Cyberpunk, Splatterpunk, Slipstream, etc.) do your tastes seem to
run to one genre over the other, or is it just a case of good writing?
Where do your tastes lean, in other words?

Happy New Year to you both!

Michael Kelly
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #24 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Sat 4 Jan 03 09:04
Hi Christopher!
I've been asked over the years about my attraction to dark fiction and
I've always been kind of flummoxed by the question. I'm not really
sure where the attraction comes from. I've always loved it--one of the
first horror anthologies I ever read was (a book I believe I mentioned
stories by Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Gahan Wilson, the classic
Sardonicus by Ray Russell, and many other wonderful stories that I read
over and over. In fact the original pb (I don't remember where I
acquired it)is quite dog-eared but it's still on my book shelf. A few
years ago I found a hardcover of the antho and treasure it as well.  

But where my prediliction for horror came? I have no idea. My
childhood was happy and I don't recall anything really bad happening
during it. The only thing I can think of is that I began reading both
horror and fantasy around the same time and it just stuck. 

Editing horror is different from editing sf only in that with harder
sf I need to be more careful about checking whether the scientific or
tech details feel right. In supernatural horror fiction it's crucial to
make sure the internal workings of the story are consistent to
maintain the suspension of disbelief so necessary for the non-believing
reader.  Other than those differences I'm going to look for the same
slip-ups by the author in telling her story and try to correct them. 
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #25 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Sat 4 Jan 03 09:32
Hi Michael,
You ask whether my sensibilities lean toward British horror...I don't
think my sensibility leans towards it necessarily but I have _noticed_
and tried to bring to the attention of my readership the very talented
British short story writers working in the periphery of the horror
field right now--others I didn't mention who I think are writing
excellent stories are Kim Newman, Ramsey Campbell, Christopher Fowler,
Michael  Marshall Smith (who hasn't been writing as many wonderful
short stories lately as he should be), Tim Lebbon, Stephen Gallagher,
Graham Joyce (I don't recall if I mentioned him before), Paul McAuley
(known more for his sf but a terrific writer of horror as well), Neil
Gaiman writes really good horror, Marion Arnott, who is also British is
another excellent new writer. Pat Cadigan when she writes her
occasional horror story is in top form (she's an American living in
London) and so is Jay Russell (another American in London). And there
are others I'm sure I've missed. There has been a blossoming of both
horror and sf from the UK in the past 5-10 years helped by the
existence and encouragement of Interzone, TTA, and Crime Wave.

Another promising voice--new writer Gala Blau--who I believe lives in
Germany, had her first story "Outfangthief" published in Steve Jones' 
The Mammoth Book of Vampire Stories by Women. Both he and I picked it
for our Year's Bests last year. Her second story in The Third
Alternative in 2002 was also very good.

But I'm as happy to praise the numerous writers in the US and Canada
who I think are doing excellent work. Michael Libling (living in
Canada) has written several excellent creepy stories about not very
nice children for F&SF and On Spec. 

Looking through the YBFH over the years I doubt that the UK writers
overwhelm the US in my choices. Just looking back last year I notice
that I have Canadian, Thai, French, and German, as well as British and
US writers in the book--which for my half I'd say is pretty unusual to
have such a mix.

My tastes in reading are pretty varied. I love dread infused fiction
as well as urban fantasy, science fantasy. I'm not wild about high
fantasy, sword & sorcery or space opera but even those kinds of stories
when done well (Lord of the Rings, Leiber's gray mouser series of
stories for example) can suck me in.

 I read a lot of dark crime fiction and quirky novels on the edge of
fantasy and horror such as The Intuitionist, everything by Jack
O'Connell, some of Stewart O'Nan, the late Ted Whittemore, the earlier
John Fowles. 


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