Columns and Editorials

Column

Over the many years of my career as a writer, I've found myself in just about every collaborative situation in existence, and I thought maybe it was time to pass on what I've experienced, learned, and observed during this time. Why? Well, two reasons, basically. The first is that I'm an arrogant, incorrigible know-it-all, and spouting my own opinions is one of my first loves. The second is this: collaboration is not like any other writing experience you will ever undertake. No matter what the two inputs might be, the output, if the creative process is truly shared, will be unique. I've been through this particular mill with a great number of other authors, and found professional level publication with most of them. Some of my most memorable work has been created alongside a couple of familiar Chiaroscuro names: Brian Hopkins, Brett Alexander Savory, and Richard Rowand, who I collaborated with on a Chizine contest entry.

Those of you who have been following my erratic effort at an on-line journal over at deepblues.net know about my current collaborations with the artist Lisa Snelling. This is an entirely different experience, no less intriguing, but possibly more demanding. Bringing her 3-D images and sculptures to life in prose, through my own lens, is quite the experience. It doesn't hurt that the other collaborator is Neil Gaiman, but then, from my perspective, that sort of raises the bar (and the pressure) a few more notches. Thanks, Neil.

Then there is the serial collaboration, such as the story "Pseudofiction" published long ago in The Tome, authored by myself and about six others, or the Red, Red Robin Project that Brian Hopkins published featuring ALL...

Column

I seem to come back again and again to certain topics, and I promise that it is remotely possible that this will be the last time I try to put my jumbled thoughts on this particular subject into coherent order. Just remotely possible, though, because the subject is one that?while it might disappear for a while?will inevitably be picked up and asked by the next generation of new authors and publishers coming down the pike. Actually, in fact, most of these questions end up getting asked after the fact?after the business has failed, the books have piled in boxes in the attic, and the money has gone WHOOSH out the window. Sometimes these questions never even get asked, and the principles involved go through the rest of their lives explaining at length how the publishing world denied them fame, how the work they put out was too innovative, avant-garde, or literary for the masses. How promotion or distribution killed them. How tons of crap was being published and people bought all of that, but somehow missed out on their genius. So, yes, here I go again. Some pitfalls of independent publishing, some reasons to consider not doing it, some suggestions on what to do if you ignore the prior reasons, and some things you don't want to hear.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a new publisher is to try and build a business based on anthologies. There are dozens of good reasons why this is so, but sadly (and in a manner that mystifies me) these reasons rush over and around the would-be publisher and they never really seem to catch on anything long enough to be understood. Let me qualify this up front so no one gets offended or gets riled to the point of ignoring what I'm about to say out of hand: I am not saying you cannot publish an anthology and make...

Column

Over the course of 20 plus years of writing, I have been asked myriad questions, and seen some of the same questions asked of, and answered by, more writers than I care to date myself by mentioning. I thought, after all this time, and without the irritant of someone asking in e-mail, or while I'm sitting on some panel that they are only attending so that they can have a good seat for the s

Column

Instead of a regular column this time out, I thought I'd share something I'm doing in a different neck of the net. It's an on-line journal I'm keeping on www.deepblues.net , the site I started for my upcoming novel, Deep Blue.

The journal is here .

The reason I thought it would be appropriate as columnesque material is that in the journal I have recently followed the process of creating a collaborative story. Not your average collaborative story, mind you, but a story based on my impressions of a piece of art by the talented Lisa Snelling. I'm currently co-authoring a book of short stories with Neil Gaiman titled Lost and Found?all inspired by Lisa's art, to be presented at an undetermined date in a gorgeous art-book format.

Anyway, I will be putting up a column soon on collaboration in general, and thought this would be a good way to start the New Year.

From the Shadeaux,

David Niall Wilson

Column

Where to start is always my problem when it comes to these columns. I have a lot to say about a lot of things, and sometimes I have to draw back the reins on my lips and contemplate what I might say that would be useful in an other-than-venting-and-therapeutic sense. I could talk about the war, but I think enough people are talking about the war. In fact, you can turn on any news channel and see two things happening simultaneously. You can see the press intruding ridiculously and mindlessly where they have no business, replaying the same footage ad nauseum until something new "breaks"?reporters waving microphones at military leaders and congressmen and whoever they can find who will talk, asking why they won't "please tell us all the vital secret parts of what you are doing, when you are going to do it, how you will do it, and how it makes your brother-in-law in Kansas feel to KNOW you are doing it so we can broadcast it to the world (and the enemy) and render your plans useless. You owe it to us, you know, because we are the free press. Enquiring minds, and all." Screw that. It's a freaking war. People are dying, and somehow I don't believe those men and women of the press have that in the forefront of their Pulitzer-seeking-missile of a group mind at all. I think they see the story.

The second thing you will see is the phantom we call history in its nebulous, early stages. The fundamental error in most people's perception of history is that they believe it is possible, likely, and even in some cases a gospel certainty, that events will be recorded as they actually happened, and that ten years from now a person can look at the recorded history and get a clear, accurate, and honest impression of what has come before. It's a fool's hope. For a...

Column

I really can't start this column without a rundown of Hurricane Isabel. You just don't live through something like that without it changing your perspective on things. We hunkered down in our big old house (about 92 years old) in NC and waited for the storm to hit. Now, keep in mind that nearly every year at least one storm threatens our coast, and the news gets in an uproar. Bottled water and tape become extinct. Batteries are not to be had. I guess, for me, the media had called "wolf" one time too many, and this time I didn't bite. Figures.

Trish and I went to bed late Wednesday night (or possibly early Thursday morning) worrying about what would happen. Internet sources were vague, and the news actually seemed to be holding back actual updates to get people to tune back in later. Ratings before viewers, it would seem. No surprise there. All we could do was wait, and, oddly we both slept through until about 8:00. The phone rang then. Trish got up and was talking to one of her many step-daughters when I decided to roll out and join her. Coffee was made, and I got a cup.

Just as we were about to head into our office to check reports on computer and television, the power went out. It would remain out until late Monday afternoon, but I'm getting ahead of myself. We shuffled about, dug the few batteries we had in drawers out, forbade all children and adults alike to open the refrigerator, wanting to preserve everything we could, and finally managed to get a radio working. We gathered around that and listened, but still, reports were vague.

By this time, it was raining pretty hard, wind was up. I brought the dog in and put him in his sky kennel in the dining room. This is where he lived for a long time, but very recently I'd...

Column

I want to take the words and time allotted me here to write a little bit about the other side of the writing game?publishing. There are a lot of sites on the Internet, and a lot of newsletters, fanzines, and even slick hardcover manuals to help you decide where to submit your work as a writer, explaining guidelines and print runs, genres and formats that will help you to find your way into print.

What you won't find much of is instructions or guidelines for becoming a publisher. There are literally thousands of publishers now, of various types, levels, and competence. You can go from the photocopied fanzine or the book on a floppy disk all the way up to Putnam and Simon & Schuster, and there are so many levels in between it can boggle the mind.

And there are differences. What I want to cover here is my own thoughts on smaller, independent publishing, things that should be, things that are, and things that should not be. I want to cover the responsibility of setting yourself up to publish, the costs and labor you can expect to incur, and how to keep from imploding before you get up a good head of steam.

I'm not speaking just off the cuff here. I published "The Tome" for several years, was involved in Macabre Inc., a small-press venture that published limited collections, and I've been on the periphery of a number of presses, both smaller and larger, seen them grow and fall, fly and fail. And I've written for a great number of them.

So here's rule number one. Dig it, you can't become a publisher or an editor, just by saying you are one. I started out publishing "The Tome" because I was convinced that I could do better than other publications I was familiar with. I learned how to be better, the hard way, but if I'd had this...

Column

Since I'm currently back in the position of editor, if only for the length of a single project, I thought I might take this opportunity to spew my opinions on this subject, particularly on the subject of anthologies in the genre. I sometimes get an idea in my head that itches itself into an irritation, and that is the case with this subject. The more I think about it, the more I have to vent those thoughts or risk allowing the irritation to blossom into outright frustration.

I've been writing horror fiction for a long time now. In that time, I've sold to a lot of magazines, and a number of anthologies. I've worked with good editors, bad editors, editors with amazing qualifications, and those with none at all. I've worked on themed projects, those without rhyme or reason, and structured shared-world fiction. I state all of that for the sole purpose of noting that, if from no other point of reference than experience, I have a good idea what I'm talking about.

I am going to attack this from three sides, that of the editor, the reader, and of the author. What I want to point out is a trend that I find ridiculous in the extreme, and then, in the age-old clich

Column

The rub is, we're born into a world where the two states of being are a craving for the things and situations that we feel will bring us satisfaction, and a variety of systems of belief hinged on atoning for those same things when we attain them. Most belief systems that last beyond the first generation begin to take on the aspect of the ravings of lunatics, on close inspection, and the further they range from sanity, the more fiercely their supporters cling to them and fight to enforce their tenets. The state of most spiritual consciousness is a delicate balance of the inability to truly believe and a burning desire to force others to believe what we cannot.  The world turns, hell burns, and at what stop do we exit the bus? Are there any answers to eternal questions, or are they more aptly named than we suspect, complete in and of themselves?

Just what the hell is this guy talking about? Everything and nothing, worlds and the head of a pin co-joined in a philosophical meander down weird street.

We live in a world, my friends, where you can spend fifty dollars on a genuine vintage disco shirt, but a first edition book can be had for 4.99 most days of the week, if you are patient. We live in a society where politics are things that interrupt Buffy the Vampire slayer on television and the line at the airport. Our children care more about the newest Pokemon adventure, or hitting "sweet air" on a skateboard than they do about their own futures - where pants that show your underwear are "stylish" and you can't function in polite society without a cell phone, a beeper, laptop and - if possible - a personal digital assistant. ( God forbid they all go off at once ).

We continue to put men and women in charge of our world that we loathe,...

Column

I sat down here at the keyboard, and I wondered. Can the world stand it? Can the Internet support it? Can another diatribe in the wilderness make a difference, or will it just piss more people off, end up rebutted on a bunch of flaming bulletin boards and deepen the gloom. I stand on the brink of nonsense and hesitate. Ah, what the hell.

Horror. The genre, the publishers, the writers, the critics, the fans. Where is it? Where has it been? Where is it going? Everyone seems to know, and that is the only truth that stands out in the crowd. There is no lack of advice on the subject, no limit to the opinionated diatribes that filter out through keyboards and pens across the nation. Is there a problem in the genre? I don't know. I'm still uncertain, after all the years I've written horror, dark fantasy, sci-fi and fantasy, what comprises this genre. In truth, it seems nothing more than a marketing scheme dreamed up in the early eighties to take advantage of certain trends among readers. Those of us who prefer dark fiction have gathered under that dubious banner, and hunkered down to defend territory that might not even exist.

Most independent and smaller publishers of horror would tell you that there is a small, fanatical crowd who buy most of what is printed. There is a reason most of the things they publish are in limited edition formats and smaller circulation magazines. There is a reason that a magazine with a circulation of 10,000 is considered successful in a world where a magazine on Beanie Babies could generate 100,000 without blinking an eye. Do I really know that reason? Not exactly.

I know that almost everyone I know and meet on a regular basis loves a good horror movie. Most of the readers I know have sifted through King and Koontz, at...

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