Sunday, June 22, 2008

Charles Tan Interviews Ellen Datlow

In your opinion, what are the strengths of an unthemed horror anthology? Do you prefer working in a themed or unthemed anthology, at least when it comes to horror?

From the reader’s POV it means that she can approach the anthology with no expectations and can be constantly surprised by each story.

From the editor’s POV, initially at least, anything goes. Instead of worrying that a submission fits the theme she can just enjoy the first flush of submissions. Eventually of course, the acceptance window narrows whatever type of anthology one is editing. You begin to notice patterns and perhaps push for different kinds of stories. At the end of the process the narrowing goes even further and one becomes very picky about what to include.

I enjoy both. I’ve mostly worked on themed anthologies, only relatively recently editing unthemed anthologies in any subgenre of the fantastic. When I edit a theme anthology, I try to expand that theme as broadly as possible which keeps it fresh for me, and hopefully for my readers. If anything, editing an anthology on a theme perceived as “stale” is a challenge, which is why I loved editing my two vampirism anthologies: Blood is Not Enough and A Whisper of Blood.

What was your criteria for accepting stories in Inferno?

First of all, most of the submissions were commissioned, that is, I approached the writers whose work I admire and want to publish, as always leaving some room for serendipity (via word of mouth). I was looking for fresh approaches to horror and a variety of types of horror stories from the quietly disturbing to the visceral. But most importantly, I picked the stories I loved and knew I’d enjoy reading and rereading.

What do you think are the advantages of short horror fiction (as opposed to novels)?

I think that short horror fiction is usually a better form for horror, especially supernatural horror fiction. I’ve said this many times and will repeat it. It’s much easier for a reader to suspend her disbelief in the supernatural for the length of a story up to novella than for an entire novel length piece of work. And of course, in short horror fiction you can experience a short sharp shock which is impossible in a novel. Third, short stories are more convenient to read if you have limited time. I only bring novels to read on long trips. I just don’t have the time to read them otherwise (of course, that might be because I’m constantly reading short stories for various original and reprint anthologies).

Our fundraising anthology, Jack Haringa Must Die! is now available. Price: $10

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