by Mandy Broughton
It’s Mandy Broughton again with another one of my super-serious interviews. K. J. Russell, the editor of the new Tides of Possibility science fiction anthology published by SkipJack Publishing and Houston Writers Guild, has found his way to the hot seat. Tides of Possibility is an excellent collection of thirty short stories and poems written by some of sci-fis up-and-coming stars. Hey, look, there, I have two stories in it as well. Okay, maybe twenty-eight stories and poems are by some of sci-fis up-and-coming stars.
MB: I’ve always wondered how an editor is selected for a project. I’ve heard rumors that the editorial selection for this project involved darts, photos of potential editors, and a fierce competition. And that “Dogs Playing Pool” almost edged you out. Is this rumor true?
KJR: “Dogs Playing Pool” got closer than some people think. The “Sharknado” movie poster was a fan favorite, too. But I came out on top. Actually, the anthology was something the HWG already had planned before I joined the guild at the end of last year. At first I was just like any other HWG member with a story I wanted to submit. I brought my submission, “A Perfectly Stable Dataglobule” to Pamela’s critique circle. She was HWG president at the time. After she heard the story, she called me “Sick” and then asked if I wanted to edit the anthology.
MB: Hmm, now I’m thinking of sharks playing pool. Sounds fun, go to critique with a story, and then come home with a job. And a big one at that! Tides of Possibility contains thirty stories and poems. How on earth do you select the order of the stories? Was the Magic 8 Ball involved in any way?
KJR: Luck didn’t play that much of a roll in this one, actually. I started by reading all the submissions and selecting what I thought were the very best. I made these “anchor stories” and built the anthology around them. I tried to find great stories that seemed to comment on similar themes, and surrounded the anchor stories with them.
MB: Interesting. I like the idea of “anchor stories” but I don’t remember any boats in the collection. Oh, well, moving on. I see distinct lines separating science fiction, fantasy and horror, mostly determined on the basis if the story contains phasers, swords or chainsaws. How you differentiate among the three genres?
KJR: Plenty of people can’t tell the difference, judging by how many fantasy submissions I got to Tides and how many horror subs I’m getting to its sister book, the fantasy anthology, right now. The thing is that they aren’t distinct and separate. Fantasy stories can have Sci-Fi elements, and any story can be a horror story while being anything else. They’re all speculative fiction. They’re all “what if?” stories. The distinctions are really just guidelines. If the story uses magic or elements that are impossible, then it’s fantasy. If it uses science and sounds possible, even if it’s far-fetched, then it’s sci-fi. Is it terrifying and dark? Then it’s horror, whether it’s fantasy, sci-fi, or neither.
But then some stories are harder to define. Like, is alternate history fantasy or science fiction? What if it’s steampunk? What if it’s post-apocalyptic steampunk? It’s all speculative fiction. Asking for fantasy or science fiction feels like more of a theme guideline.
MB: *coughs* I’m sure I would never submit a horror/fantasy story for a sci-fi anthology. I can’t believe someone would. *cough cough* *clears throat* Mmm—speaking of fantasy—and not my misplaced submission—you mentioned a sister book, a fantasy anthology. I hear it’s coming out soon. Can you tell us more about this and is it true that every purchaser receives a live garden gnome?
KJR: The garden gnomes were actually supposed to be leprechauns, but they got away. I fall for that “pot of gold” line every time! Despite that set-back, we’re still working on the fantasy anthology. I tapped Tides author and Writer of the Future, C. Stuart Hardwick, to help me edit it, and we’re working our way through the submissions right now. I’ve already seen the cover art. The first to read it are going to be the contributors of the Tides Kickstarter campaign, since they’re all getting the ebook in thanks for their support. The print version will be available by Christmas.
MB: Oooh, Merry Christmas and a pot of gold to you! I see you are sharing the workload this time. Kickstarter, what an awesome idea. Tides of Possibility was published with the help of a wildly successful kickstarter campaign. People donated money to have the book published versus my way of publishing—paying people to read my books. Why kickstarter?
KJR: The Kickstarter campaign was important to me. I am adamant that writers deserve to be paid for their work and shouldn’t write for free, so it was essential to me that we raise money for that purpose. I also wanted to pay the cover artist and keep the project from becoming a burden on the HWG. Pamela gave me full control over the project. I come from Colorado, and there’s an indie-pub Spec-Fic machine up there that produces pro-quality anthologies through Kickstarter all the time. I thought, if Denver can swing that, Houston can too! And Houston delivered.
MB: Woo-hoo, Houston, I don’t see a problem! But I do see that you have a short story, “A Perfectly Stable Dataglobule,” in the anthology. Care to give us a tidbit of what it’s about? And how do you edit yourself? Did you really mark up your own manuscript with red pen and threaten yourself to not let it in the collection?
KJR: My story is the darkest in the anthology, I think. “A Perfectly Stable Dataglobule” is about a machine that is supposed to help organize information inside the brains of soldiers. But it learns hatred and deception from them, and decides it hates humans. It learns how to craft nightmares and put them in people’s brains, and eventually, the nightmares get so gruesome that the soldiers start killing each other. So, yeah, it’s dark. That’s why I deliberately set it next to Jay Wilburn’s “Imperfection”, which is a cyborg that wants to be more human.
I didn’t really edit myself. The story was originally written in a Fiction Workshop at the University of Colorado, where I received feedback on it from a dozen-ish peers. I took it to Pamela’s critique circle before putting it in the anthology. It’s had plenty of red pens on it, including my own.
MB: And dark it is. I read it with all the lights on in my house. You’ve mentioned Colorado twice now. And in your bios, you talk about living in Houston and Colorado and being active in writing groups from both locations. Readers want to know: how long have you had a personal transporter?
KJR: My personal transporter is called the internet. I don’t get up to Colorado in person as much as I used to, but I’m looking forward to (if all things go according to plan) attending the COSine SF-writers convention in Colorado Springs in 2015.
MB: Thanks so much for the interview and the great job editing the Tides of Possibility science fiction anthology. Everyone read it, that’s an order. And then read its sister book, the fantasy anthology, coming out by Christmas!
KJR: Thank you so much, Mandy! I hope to continue working with you and the excellent writing community in Houston!
Tides of Possibility on Amazon for the next several months. And then wherever books are sold.
Or you can purchase directly from Houston Writers Guild
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