Jonathan Strahan is a reader who let his love of science fiction get terribly out of control. Busy with a day job and a family, he’s found time to edit eighteen books, publish three or four more, and even edit a semi-prozine for a while. He lives in Perth, Western Australia with his wife, two young daughters, and a very, very large ‘to read’ pile.
1. You’re having a lot of success with your anthology collections – the Years Bests and your new The New Space Opera, which is to see a second volume (yay). Do you enjoy collecting the best of a year or producing an original work more? What kind of work is involved? Which is harder work?
At the moment I’m enjoying doing original books a bit more than the year’s bests. I think that’s because the originals are a newer thing for me. After I left Eidolon I was lucky enough to get to edit a number of year’s best annuals, and I enjoyed that a lot. It’s only been with Eidolon, The New Space Opera, Eclipse and The Starry Rift that I’ve been able to get back to editing stories, and that’s exciting because there’s something special about dealing with a work while it’s still in a state of flux. The work involved in doing an original is quite different from the work involved in doing a year’s best. For a year’s best you’re more like a collage artist or mosaicist. You’re reading a lot – which gets a little tiring – then picking the stories you think best, and arranging them into a book. Because the stories themselves are finished pieces, it feels less like editing and more like you’re assembling something. With originals you’re like a movie producer. You’re developing a concept, bringing creative people in to help you make that vision a reality, then working with them to make their work as good as possible. With a year’s best your main creative input is writing the introductions and stuff, while in an original you’re helping writers bring out the best in their stories. Which is harder work? Hmm. A year’s best is more work, certainly. A lot of time goes into finding stories, reading stories, and taking notes and so on so you know what you’re going to use. An original is actually more demanding work, though, because you really have to think about stories and be very meticulous about what you’re doing. I’d hate to have to choose between the two kinds of book, though.
Q2. Do these projects take up all your time or do you have others planned for the near future? If so, what?
Well, I have a day job and young family, so editing projects can’t be allowed to consume all of my time. The two projects that take up the majority of what time I have are The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year series and the Eclipse series. Eclipse is a series of unthemed original science fiction and fantasy anthologies that I’ve just started work on. The first one will be out in October, and I’m pretty excited about it. They’re not the only projects I’m working on, though. I have an anthology of original SF novellas, GODLIKE MACHINES, due out late next year from The SF Book Club. The stories for that all feature some kind of ‘big dumb object’, and it’s proving to be a lot of fun. There’s also THE NEW SPACE OPERA 2, which is only taking shape at the moment, and which I hope will prove to be a biennial series, and I’m putting together an original anthology of cat stories too.
The other thing I’ve done recently is edit a couple of single author collections. Earlier this year Terry Dowling and I edited THE JACK VANCE TREASURY, which was a lot of fun, and I then didASCENDANCIES: THE BEST OF BRUCE STERLING. Both books were great experiences, and I’m hoping to do one or two more books in that vein if I can.
Q3. What kind of obstacles did you have to overcome to break into the international market as an editor? What advice do you have for others who might want to follow in your footsteps
Truthfully, I haven’t really experienced many obstacles at all. I never planned to become an editor or anthologist. Rather, I started doing things with friends that led me to where I am now. I went to a convention for fun, and some friends wanted to do a fanzine. I joined in because I thought it would be a hoot, and it became Eidolon. I took a trip with my Eidolon co-editors, which led to my meeting my future wife, Marianne. She was Locus’s managing editor. We wanted to spend some time living together, so she got me a job at Locus. I got on well with Charles Brown at Locus, so he helped me meet people and shared a lot of knowledge with me in the process. I reviewed for him, and then became reviews editor. Charles introduced me to Bob and Karen Silverberg. Dinner with them at WorldCon led me to co-edit some year’s bests with Karen. That gave me the profile to sell some other books. I also met Jack Dann through Eidolon, and he was very generous with his knowledge too.
What advice would I give to those who want to do what I’m doing? Put yourself in harm’s way. Go out and meet people. Be open to opportunities. Go to conventions, in Australia and overseas. A lot of being an anthologist is showing up. Be there, and grab any chances that show up. Also, try to broaden your perspective as much as you can. You can’t be a successful anthologist if you just restrict yourself to Australia.
Q4 Do you read much of the Aus spec fic scene? What’s the best thing you’ve read this year?
I don’t read any novels these days because of my commitments, but I do I read as much short fiction as I can find. The people at Andromeda Spaceways have always been very good about sending me their stuff, so I read it diligently. I also read Aurealis, Orb and Borderlands whenever I can. And I try to keep an eye out for anthologies, collections and so on. Bill Congreve, who does the Australian year’s best with Michelle Marquardt reads something like a million words a year of OZ spec fic. I don’t quite get there, but I do read everything I can find. The best stories by Australians I’ve read this year would be Greg Egan’s “Dark Integers” and “Glory”, Jack Dann’s “Cafe Culture”, and Terry Dowling’s “Toother”. I thought they were all pretty extraordinary.
Q5 – And finally, if you had the chance to get it on with the fictional character you fancy most, who would it be?
I’m weird, but I don’t usually fancy fictional characters. I guess Sarah Michelle Gellar was pretty hot in Buffy.