Saturday, April 30, 2011

Accidental Communities in Writing

I've been working on a story for the next Sword and Sorceress and thinking about the special pleasure of re-visiting the anthology series. My first professional sale was to the very first  volume (1984, DAW) and began my relationship to Marion as my editor. For a time, the celebrations of those two events overshadowed more quiet aspects. That anthology contained stories by writers who'd already established themselves, but for others, this was either a first sale or close enough. Thus began a very special fellowship of those of us who got our start in publishing by appearing together in Marion's anthology. Many of my writerly friendships began with "Hi, I'm Deborah. We both had stories in Sword and Sorceress," as if that were a secret hand-shake.There is no secret hand-shake, but there are ways of opening a conversation (especially if the next part is, "and I loved your story!")

Marion was immensely generous in encouraging new writers, so it's not surprising how many made their first or near-first sales to her and then went on to novel sales. I suspect that an ongoing annual series like Sword and Sorceress develops a group of writers who hit that particularly market time and time again. Perhaps they don't submit or sell to every volume (I didn't), but they learn what that particular editor wants for that particular series and how to deliver it, particularly if it's a story type they enjoy writing.

Even for anthologies that aren't series or that have a wider theme, a sense of camaraderie can develop among the authors. I've experienced this as a contributor and as an editor. When I noticed that many of the authors from the first 2 issues of Lace and Blade (which I edited) were going to be at a World Fantasy Convention, I suggested we get together, and I was amazed at the enthusiasm of the response. We not only had a wonderful gathering and mutual admiration session, but went on to promote each other's stories as well as our own. I suspect the same process takes place, although at a much reduced rate and intensity, for magazine co-contributors. Anthologies have a far longer shelf life than do magazines, and I think -- although I have no data whatsoever to back this up -- that anthology authors are more likely to read one another's stories. (Let me know if you think I'm wrong, and why.)

To an even lesser degree, there is a sense of community among novelists published by the same house. This may not extend much beyond the publisher's parties at large conventions, or perhaps in small degree on the publisher's website. But for that evening, there is an increased openness and good will simply because of one shared element.

I call these accidental communities. Sometimes, the introductions lead to friendships and working relationships, but just as often there's nothing beyond a smile and a hello. I wonder if Marion herself, the way she worked, her kindness to fans and aspiring writers, created a community more likely than others to nurture commonality. I'd love to hear what you think.

No comments:

Post a Comment