Art of the Genre: Art of Anthologies

Art of the Genre: Art of Anthologies

Stephen Hickman brings the Man-Kzin Wars to life as a beautiful anthology produced by Larry Niven
Stephen Hickman brings the Man-Kzin Wars to life as a beautiful anthology produced by Larry Niven

I’m not really sure if this can be classified at ‘art’, but certainly there is an art to the creation of anthologies. I mean, for all intents and purpose, Black Gate is an anthology, the scope and size of these new issues making it more a book than a magazine.

John O’Neill, our venerable editor, has done a fantastic job of giving his readers both the feel of an anthology while also being committed enough to each story as to provide wonderful art with it. That artistic contribution, in my opinion, is something that helps define what Black Gate is trying to do, and although the art direction in each issue’s very essence isn’t held to a single vision, the coherence of the product is still maintained in the highest quality.

Black Gate also weaves a thick quilt of characters within its pages, the repeated inclusion of certain authors allowing stories and characters to build, grow, and foster a relationship with a reader that many contemporary anthologies can’t produce. I’ve seen reviewers try to knock this, but in the end several have come around to indicate that John’s repeated choices are one of their favorite pieces of the magazine.

The art of the short story in its very nature is a simple entertainment, a microcosm of imagination that I fear is too often read like a teaser trailer found before your main attraction at the local Cineplex. In them we are often required to be told rather than shown a story, and I’m reminded of the musky depth of Don Lafontaine’s voice when I’m provided back story inside stories of already limited words… his signature opening ever echoing in my brain… ‘In a world where…

Anthology ‘art’, therefore, in my assessment, must hold to the ability of an anthology to preserve cohesion between plots, genres, art, and even characters. If you manage to create these things, and I believe Black Gate does so, then your product transcends a patchwork tag into something greater.

After taking my trip to Wisconsin in June, and having an opportunity to speak with John, I decided that the art of the short story, at least to me, needed another outlet beneath the Black Gate umbrella. It seems I’ve become too much a fan of the short story, and maybe that’s John’s fault, but whatever the cause I want more.

Walter Velez spun a perfect artistic role for the TW anthologies edited by Robert Asprin
Walter Velez spun a perfect artistic role for the TW anthologies edited by Robert Asprin

You might be asking, how do you define more? Well, the simple truth is that it takes a long, long, and again long time to publish something like Black Gate, and the wait time to see a continuing story, and any story for that matter, can mean years of waiting. I firmly believe, however, that this growing digital age provides us as readers a fantastic opportunity to promote speed of publication. I mean, Beneath Ceaseless Skies publishes two short stories ever two weeks, so 52 high quality fantasy stories a year ready and waiting for download any time you like.

Still, if Black Gate comes out twice a year [ok, stop laughing!] as it’s supposed to, and each issue features 25 fictional tales along with art, then that’s 50 short stories a year, just 2 behind Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and somehow that math just doesn’t seem right to me. I mean, BCS is non-art digital format, and for the life of me I’m convinced online fictional websites can do more.

Sure, I’m a dreamer, an almost stupid dreamer if truth be told, and in all likelihood I’m just a crackpot who has absolutely no idea what it takes to put out more than a short story a week, but by God I’m willing to try.

For this purpose, I’m launching a short story world-building competition on my nearly defunct blog site [because hey, it’s more fun to blog on BG these days!], and I hope those of you who believe in artistic vision, the short story, and the joy of pulp fiction will come over, have a look, and even participate in my lunacy. If nothing else, you should at least have some fun reading my mad visions!

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C.S.E. Cooney

Looks like a fun project! Best of luck with it!

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