- Would you like to introduce yourself as an editor (or writer, or any other hats you also wear…)
Gladly! I’ve taught first-year English classes at the same Canadian university for 26 years, and in the past three years I’ve been allowed to teach Creative Writing there too. I’m notorious for my grammar tests, and as the rules of grammar come to seem more and more arcane to younger and younger students, I think of myself as Professor McGonigle in the Harry Potter novels. (I sometimes wear my witch hat.)
As a freelance writer, I’ve had approximately 100 stories (mostly erotic) in print anthologies, plus three current single-author collections, and an erotic novella. (The novella and one story collection are both historical, woman-centred, and available from Lethe Press, which publishes Heiresses of Russ.) I have several out-of-print works that I plan to revise and send out again during my upcoming sabbatical. (More on that later.)
I’m fairly new to editing, and I think I’ve been unusually lucky so far. In 2013, I co-edited (i.e. copyedited) OutSpoken: Perspectives on Queer Identities, a collection of non-fiction pieces that began as a series of presentations on queer subjects. This was work by my more-accomplished colleagues in the Ivory Tower, and I was nervous about approaching them to ask for revisions, but the authors were all grateful for my attention and willing to follow my suggestions.
When Steve Berman invited me to co-edit Heiresses of Russ, I knew this would be a different process because all the available stories had been published at least once. In this case, the editing was like selecting the best 17-20 chocolates from a box of fifty or so.
- Summarise your latest book from Lethe in five words!
If Heiresses of Russ can be considered “my” book (although the contributors made it what it is), I would say: entertaining, truer-than-life, terrifying, heartbreaking, magical.
- Was there a specific kind of story – a feel, a style, a character, etc. – that you were looking for when choosing stories?
I was looking for variety, especially a variety of tone: something creepy and gothic, something that would be hilarious to anyone familiar with lesbian (feminist) culture, some plausible science fiction, some variations on traditional myths, a dash of woman/woman sex.
I was also looking for three-dimensional characters who would fall somewhere on the assertiveness spectrum between the Too Stupid to Live romance heroine stereotype and the Kick-Ass Heroine who was born in full armour from the head of Zeus.
- Is there an elusive story somewhere that you’d love to find but never quite have? (In other words, what’s the perfect recipe to get into the next anthology…)
Since every volume of Heiresses of Russ has a different guest-editor, I can’t offer a recipe for getting into the next anthology! However, I’ve already started encouraging a few writers and editors to send relevant recently-published stories to Lethe Press to be considered for the 2016 edition (of stories published in 2015).
Re: whether I was satisfied with the available smorgasbord of stories, the answer is yes! I liked the utopian lesbian fantasies of the 1980s when they were newly-produced by small, brave presses. When reading for Heiresses of Russ, I was hoping to see a complex picture of the political structure of an all-female (or female-dominant) society, with major characters in the foreground, but I suspect that kind of thing requires the bigger canvas of a novel. Short stories have a more specific focus.
- In your reading, did you come across any new names (whether they are included in the anthology or not) that are ones to watch for the future?
I came across several impressive writers who are new to me, but I doubt if any of them are new to writing.
Nicola Griffith is probably too well-known to need an introduction, but she is still fairly “new” to me in the sense that I haven’t read enough of her work. I had admired the work of Annabeth Leong and Stacia Seaman before I chose stories of theirs for this anthology, and I hoped I wouldn’t be unreasonably biased in their favour. (I told myself that I wouldn’t simply reach for familiar names, but Stacia Seaman’s version of “The Little Match Girl,” set in a dystopian, too-true-to-life American city, was irresistible.)
Seanan McGuire is a writer I hadn’t known before, and I had trouble choosing between her two nightmarish stories about genetically-modified food, loosely speaking. (One story is a sequel to the other.) I would advise readers to look for more of her work.
B.R. Sanders, Ken Liu, and Alex Dally MacFarlane are all writers whose work I hadn’t read before, but all had more than one excellent story published in 2014. Therefore I had to make hard choices about what to leave out of the anthology.
I would recommend all the contributors to Heiresses of Russ, even though limited space discourages me from mentioning them all.
- What are your future plans?
I’ve recently been granted a full-year sabbatical to work on a book about censorship, loosely speaking. Over a year ago, I had a conversation about this with the director of the local university press and the acquisitions editor there, and they were encouraging. I came to realize that I couldn’t possibly write a book while teaching full-time and squeezing out the occasional short story. I’ve already given presentations about erotica and censorship, and I’m willing to expand on what I’ve already written, but I’ve been asked to write about my personal experience as a past member of the local government film classification board, as a contributor to Herotica 7 (published, then withdrawn by the publishing collective), and as a concerned bystander in the Feminist Sex Wars of the 1980s. (My long, rambling 1999 essay on this is mentioned in the Wikipedia article, “Feminist Sex Wars:”
I also plan to revise several of my out-of-print works and send them out again, and write some new stories. I look forward to a year of writing dangerously. J