It’s now September. Which means we’re just two weeks out from the street date for The Humanity of Monsters!
Holy crap. Two weeks!
That appears to have happened really fast. But, honestly, it’s been a long damn road getting here. Though I expect people will find the book worth the wait :)
And at this point I’m immensely curious to see what people make of the book. I’ve had a little bit of feedback on the text prior to its release, and that’s been overwhelmingly, generously enthusiastic. So that’s quite gratifying (and takes the edge off the terror). But I’m curious about the wider reaction.
The content of the book itself is wide-ranging, and runs a gamut of styles and approaches. As is true of a lot of the better — or at least more interesting — anthologies in the field. Though with a reprint anthology you can be fighting prior perception of work, depending on how well people know the pieces you’re using, and I find that fascinating. It creates an entirely different whole out of the anthology’s component parts than you get if you’re working with entirely new, or even partially new work.
Think of it this way: Reviews and reader reaction — especially word of mouth — shape the way a story is received in larger discussion. A review casts a story in a certain light. That interpretation may be inaccurate, or it may be apt. Either way, that perception now exists as part of the strata of how the story is interpreted. It becomes a part of the work’s existence in popular culture. Given that we’re talking about short fiction, and that there’s so much of it, often that discourse is limited to a smaller audience unless we’re discussing pieces that become canonical works and thus reach a much wider audience. But still, the effect of discussing and examining a story helps shape how it is perceived. Thus stories exist inside their own stratification of reactions, opinions, interpretations, and perception vs. intent.
Now put that story, with attendant buildup of discourse, inside an anthology.
What happens? You’ve just created an archaeological site cobbled together from constructions of different eras, origins, and cultures. Sometimes literally so.
And so reading a reprint anthology is an act of literary excavation. You are retrieving new meaning and context from pre-existing notions surrounding the work. You are finding new context through the proximity of the work to incongruous and yet related pieces. It is an exhumation and re-evaluation of existing context.
If a reprint anthology is put together really well, you see stories in an entirely different light from their first outings. Or question what you thought you knew about those pieces and how they spoke to you. And how that alteration manifests itself can be different depending on whether you encounter the stories as part of a themed anthology, a year’s best, or a single author collection. Each brings with it different context for you to explore, and the same story in a different kind of anthology will read radically differently depending on who its neighbours in a Table of Contents are.
Stories are always in conversation with each other, just more visibly so in a ToC.
For my part, I prefer to craft a ToC by having some element of neighbouring stories inform each other — each acting as a comment on the other. With a different shared element or component moving you from one story to the next. Each a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) shift in the conversation being had.
That’s a personal preference for how to build a ToC, and there are other effective methods as well.
But in this case I want to see what kind of conversations people use this book to have. I’m looking forward to seeing what narratives it shapes, and what discourse it inspires. I’m a fan of more critical and academic discourse in a lot of ways, but I love seeing reactions to the work I do in whatever way those reactions appear. And here, with an edited anthology, I get to see an entirely different kind of reaction to my work than I’ve seen before: a perception in aggregate.
Oh yes, I am looking forward very much to seeing how people react to the anthology.
Just two more weeks to go, friends. Just two more weeks to go….