Today we are thrilled to host an interview with the legendary science fiction, fantasy, and horror editor Ellen Datlow. Ellen has been the editor of short fiction for multiple anthologies, magazines, and collections, and, by our modest reckoning, has won four Hugo Awards, nine World Fantasy Awards, and a number of other highly prestigious forms of recognition in her field.
Ellen has been co-editing a series of anthologies with Terry Winding, including six bestselling anthologies of reinterpreted fairy tales. These collections have served as an inspiration for the ONCE UPON A CURSE anthology, upcoming from Dragonwell Publishing on December 21, and in advance of this publication we are posting this interview, focused on Ellen’s experience with editing these anthologies and her take on the fairy tale subgenre.
Please give a brief introduction of yourself in your own words.
ED: I’m a short story editor specializing in science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I was fiction editor at OMNI and OMNI Online for seventeen years, SCIFICTION for about six Years, and currently consult for Tor.com, acquiring and editing some of the short fiction for their website. I’ve also edited over fifty original and reprint anthologies in science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I’ve co-edited the six volume adult fairy tale anthology series with Terri Windling. And also the middle grade fairy tale anthologies A Wolf at the Door, Swan Sister, and Troll’s Eye View, also with Terri.
How did you first start your series of fairy tale-based anthologies co-edited with Terry Winding?
ED: Terri and I were already co-editing The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror when her friend Tom Canty, the artist suggested the idea to her. From that came our first Volume, Snow White, Blood Red and the subsequent five volumes.
What is appealing to you in the fairy tale genre?
ED: I grew up with fairy tales –both my mother reading them to me and reading them on my own and I never tired of them. But the form is so rich with raw material that contemporary writers can use and reuse-the basic tropes are very flexible and thus conducive to flights of fancy and reinterpretation.
What qualities made each story seem like a good fit for the anthology?
ED: As with every anthology, we worked hard to create a group of stories that both “went together” yet were varied in the types of characters, tone, setting, etc.
What is the process of working on an anthology with another editor? How do you divide the work?
ED: I’ve only co-edited with Terri and once with Nick Mamatas. When doing so you lay out the ground rules from the beginning. With Terri, usually both of us have to love and want each story in the anthology although sometimes one of us might like the story more than the other editor. We rarely disagree. With Nick, we were each allowed one “free:” story, ie. If one of us liked a story and the other didn’t we each had a “free pass” to put in that story anyway. It never came to that with me and Nick.
Terri, usually writes the proposal and later writes the preface and introduction. Together, we create a list of writers we want in the book and dividing that list in half, we each contact half the writers to solicit stories from them. I usually do the substantive editing on a story, although Terri will occasionally. I do the final line edit before the whole ms goes to our in-house editor and I solicit the bios and afterwords (if there are the latter) and edit them. I handle contracts. Terri usually takes first shot at creating the order of the Table of Contents and I’ll give her my reactions. Later in the process, whoever has time goes over the copy edit of the ms.
Are you planning any more anthologies in this series?
ED: We’re thinking of doing a new original volume, yes. And we’re also thinking of doing a big reprint anthology of fairy tales.
What do you think is in the future for the fairy tale fantasy subgenre? Will it always be popular? And, how will it evolve to keep up with the modern readers?
ED: I think it’ll continue to flourish as new writers participate in its evolution and create new stories. And new readers will continue to discover those stories and enjoy them. Good stories and bad stories will continue to be written, just like in the vampire, zombie, and werewolf tropes of horror.
What are you working on now?
ED: I’m currently working on The Best Horror of the Year volume 5 and a new reprint anthology for Tachyon—Lovecraft’s Monsters, focusing on stories that feature or in some way refer to the various creatures that H.P. Lovecraft dreamt up in his works. I’m also awaiting an offer on an original anthology I’ve been wanting to edit for a long time (I can’t talk about it) and am planning on launching a Kickstarter for a non-theme horror anthology I hope to edit called Fearful Symmetries. I will be partnering with Chizine Publications and we should be launching in a few weeks.
And I’m now acquiring short stories (solicited only) for Tor.com, the website funded by Tor Books.
(interviewed by Anna Kashina for Dragonwell Publishing)
Thank you, Ellen for a great interview!
To celebrate this occasion and the upcoming release of ONCE UPON A CURSE, we are holding a giveaway of the print copy of the anthology at the following link:
ONCE UPON A CURSE giveaway