Brian A. Hopkins is the three time Bram Stoker Award-winning author of books like The Licking Valley Coon Hunters Club, These I Know By Heart, and Salt Water Tears. He's been nominated for both the Nebula and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards. His short fiction has appeared in magazines like Cemetery Dance, Mystery Scene, and Realms of Fantasy, and anthologies like Historical Hauntings, Sol's Children, and The Darker Side. He is the editor of the Extremes anthology series and, most recently, 13 Horrors, an anthology celebrating the World Horror Convention. He's also the man behind Lone Wolf Publications. This year Brian's book, El Dia de los Muertos, has been nominated for both the Bram Stoker Award and the International Horror Guild Award. Steve and Melanie Tem's Imagination Box, published by Lone Wolf Publications, is also a nominee for both of those awards. You can learn more about Brian and his work by visiting his website.
Simon Owens: When I picked up a copy of Stephen King's On Writing, I was most interested in his failures as a writer. He described the spike he had driven into his wall and the rejection slips he pinned onto it. He talked about a personalized rejection he got from the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction when he was very young and also highlighted some of the most valuable lessons he learned as a young writer. Rather than asking you to write a lengthy book on how to get published, I'd like to hear about your failures: the first stories you wrote, the first rejections, the first personalized rejections, and then finally your first sale. What was it in your writing that you feel held you back until that first sale?
Brian A. Hopkins: Failures, eh? Way to start off with a downer! <laughing>
Actually, I'm going to throw your whole interview off-kilter by saying that the first story I wrote for publication won an Honorable Mention in Hubbard's Writers of the Future Contest back in 1989 and then was bought by Dragon magazine for about 8 cents a word ("Ivory in the Blood," Issue #158, June 1990). However, this was in 1989, when I was 28 years old. I had been writing, off and on, since the third grade -- what would that have made me, about 7 or 8 years old when I started? So I "practiced" writing, if we can call it that, for 21 years or so before trying to sell something. Certainly, had I tried to sell some of that earlier work -- some of the novels I wrote in high school for instance -- I would have probably met with failure. (And actually, now that I think about it and to be completely honest, I guess I did, since my grandmother had taken one of my early novels, typed it for me, and submitted it to Ace and DAW, both of whom responded with form rejections. I was probably thirteen or fourteen at the time.) As it is, however, by the time I decided (I was actually forced into it by friends, if you want to know the truth) to try and write professionally, I had already worked my way through much of the learning process with respect to the mechanics of storytelling. Plus I'd been reading even longer than I'd been writing, and the one sure way to become good at anything is to study those who have gone before you. I've always been a voracious reader.
That's not to say I haven't had my fair share of rejections. Trust me, my files are full of them. But my first sale came on my first attempt and it was a professional sale to boot. As I continued to write and submit my work, personal rejections were common; I had them from Stanley Schmidt, Kris Rusch, Kim Mohan, George Scithers, Algis Budrys, and others. These rejections had a pattern to them: "I really like this story, but. . . ." The "buts" were generally pretty annoying to me. The editor had bought a similar story just the month before (probably by a bigger name, if you want to know the truth). The story read too much like science fiction (for a horror market) or too much like horror (for a science fiction market). They wanted a different ending or some crucial element of the story changed (I was nearly always more satisfied with the story as I had originally written it and declined the invitation to rewrite and resubmit). And so on. These editors generally asked to see more of my work, but I was easily frustrated by their rejections. Eventually, I quit submitting to them and would send new stories straight to the small press where they'd sell. This is perhaps one way to build an oeuvre, but it's not a strategy I recommend to new writers. I'd love to have a lot of those stories sitting in inventory today.
SO: I first stumbled upon your work when browsing through the archives of the webzine Dark Planet. I knew you as a science fiction writer, but after becoming a fan of yours I noticed that you publish primarily in the horror genre. Harlan Ellison, among others, has always hated being categorized as a "science fiction" writer, or indeed as being limited to any genre or style. What about you? Your most successful (award-winning) work has been in the fantasy and horror categories. Do you consider yourself to be a horror writer?
BH: I've written science fiction, fantasy, horror, mysteries, weird westerns, and even mainstream -- not to mention technical essays, poetry, and damn near anything else you could name. And I have a penchant for blending genres, something not uncommon in speculative literature. Do I consider myself a horror writer? Do I resent being labeled one? I honestly don't think about it and don't truly understand Ellison's complaints. (And Ellison's not the only one. Recently, while [I was] soliciting stories for the anthology 13 Horrors, Richard Matheson declined, stating that it was a horror anthology and he no longer wanted to be known as a horror writer.) I write the stories that interest me and then let others decide what genre(s) they fit best in. If a particular story seems to be horror and readers decide I'm a horror writer for having written it, that's fine. The same story might strike other readers as being science fictional; if they want to view me as a science fiction writer, that's fine, too.
All I really care about is being the best writer I can be and having readers recognize that my work is good, no matter what genre(s) it falls into. I trust my readers to be intelligent enough to follow my work as I sometimes jump genres. I've met very few horror fans over the years that didn't enjoy a well-written science fiction story, and vice-versa. "Five Days in April" is a good example of a story that has managed to appeal to all kinds of readers. The fact that it was nominated for both science fiction and horror awards is probably an indicator that, like much of my work, it can't be pigeon-holed into a single genre. The Licking Valley Coon Hunters Club is another good example, I think. Is it horror? A mystery? Action/adventure? What about the genetic science that's included in the novel -- doesn't that make it science fiction?
SO: There are several professional markets you have yet to place stories in. You mentioned to me once before that when you were younger you submitted to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction several times, but have you submitted anything to F&SF, Asimov's, or Analog since you've won your Bram Stoker awards? You work primarily by request, but can you see yourself in the future submitting to these markets?
BH: Early on, I became frustrated trying to break into these markets. Now that I think I'd actually stand a much better chance of placing a story in them, I'm no longer submitting much. It's certainly not that I wouldn't love to be published in those magazines. I'm just not sending out submissions for several reasons. First, I'm a very slow, meticulous writer. In a good year, I might write only 6-10 short stories. I like to think quality is more important that quantity. Now that my work has begun to gain an audience, most of my new stories are written to spec, for specific anthologies or magazines that have sought me out. Case in point: I was interviewed in Cemetery Dance magazine late last year. Editor Bob Morrish contacted me and asked to run a story with the interview, so I had to sit down and write one for him because I had nothing in inventory to offer up.
Second reason I'm not submitting short stories is that I've been trying to concentrate on some longer works: novellas and novels. I've had several publishers approach me for novellas, PS Publishing and Cemetery Dance to name just two of them. It's actually my favorite length to write at. I've long had a fear of novels -- I'm trying to overcome that and have several novels in progress now, another reason I'm not writing many short stories.
SO: So what are your future goals as a writer? What is the next step? Up until now you've published your longer works with small press publishers. Will there be the pursuit of a literary agent in your near future? Or do you like the feel of the small press writer, the writer who is forced to keep his writing sharp because if it isn't then it just won't sell?
BH: Goals -- yikes. I'm supposed to be setting those, aren't I? In a lot of respects, I'm not much of a businessman. Writing is something I love to do, and because I have a great day job that pays all the bills, I've never really approached writing as anything resembling a business or money-making enterprise. That's not to say I don't want to reach as many readers as I can or that it wouldn't be nice to earn enough from my writing so that I no longer needed the day job, but if it comes down to changing my approach to writing or my love for the craft in order to "sell" . . . well, then, small press I'll remain. I've no doubt that nine out of ten other writers would have parlayed three consecutive Stoker Awards into a real career. I'm that one oddball. I still don't have an agent. I'm still not submitting to major markets or knocking on the doors of New York publishing houses. I'm probably one of those writers you'll hear more about after I'm dead. Ha!
SO: What would you estimate your writing output to be? Would you consider yourself to be a prolific writer?
BH: I am terribly UNprolific. And slow. And undisciplined. I think my highest output was back in '92 or '93 when I actually wrote a dozen short stories one year. I've had years when I only wrote two or three. Right before all this award-winning business started, I became extremely frustrated and didn't write anything for 8 or 9 months.
SO: Like most writers, you have a day job. What is it? Do you feel that the experience helps you in your writing? Do you think that the day job slows you down in your writing?
BH: I'm an electronics engineer. I've been in management since 1990. I have about 90 engineers that work for me. They do all the hard work. I sit around in meetings, make decisions, sign my name to a lot of paperwork -- that sort of thing. The engineering side of me -- the analytical side of my brain -- is probably obvious in much of what I write. Engineers are also very creative. They're problem solvers and they want to know how things work. I think this shows up in my writing quite often, too.
When I write, I teach myself things, and I like my readers to walk away understanding a bit more about the world and the people around them. The day job does, of course, rob from writing time. I acknowledge that I'd get much more writing accomplished if that was my primary job, eight hours a day, five days a week. As it is, after sitting in front of a computer screen most of the day, it's hard to go home at night and plant my rump back in front of a computer. But it's not just the day job; there are a hundred other activities that siphon away my time. It's a tradeoff, though. All of those activities provide fodder for my fiction. No good writer spends all his time sitting and writing. Life must be experienced if it's to be shared in the written word.
SO: Do you ever "cheat" in your stories by having real-world elements break rules that you (as an engineer) know very well?
BH: There have been times when I've intentionally monkeyed with facts for the good of the story -- in El Dia de los Muertos, for instance, the afterword explains how I tinkered with dates -- but I generally try to stick to the facts. I like a story and its world to be as "real" as possible, because I believe it makes the fantastical elements (on which suspension of disbelief hinges) that much easier for the reader to swallow. That's not to say I haven't or won't write purely fictional worlds whenever the mood strikes me, but those worlds will adhere to certain rules consistent with the story I want to tell. I have occasionally written about technicalogies that I know won't work the way I portrayed them -- again, in the interests of a good story. An example: in the Martin Zolotow story I just finished, "The Bikini Bottoms Optional Oyster Bar," our hero must track some bad guys. He does this by placing a GPS receiver in the chain locker on their boat. Since I own a GPS, I know this wouldn't work -- assuming all GPS receivers have about the same antenna/reception capabilities anyway. My GPS wouldn't pick up the satellite signals through the fiberglass door of the chain locker. But this is a minor thing. I think it's cool that readers completely unfamiliar with GPS technology will walk away from the story understanding a bit about how they work.
SO: What horror and fantasy plots do you consider to have become cliché?
BH: Oh, there are dozens of them that I grew tired of ages ago: vampires and werewolves and mindless slashers. The whole apprentice-wizard-coming-of-age schtick in the fantasy genre. My own boredom with these plots doesn't seem to have affected the ardor of most readers, though. Look at the popularity of the Harry Potter books/films. Anne Rice novels. And so on.
SO: How do you break through these clichés and turn them into something new? Any specific examples in your stories are welcome.
BH: In Coon Hunters, I used genetics to create faux vampires. In Cold at Heart, I expanded the werewolf theme to cover shapeshifters in general (nothing terribly original there, Jack Williamson did a far better job in Darker Than You Think after all) and pulled in a lot of historical information to support the storyline. A good writer can still breathe some life into these staples, but it takes finding a new angle, something that's become astronomically difficult in recent years because there's just so much good material out there. For example, why write historical romance vampire novels, when Yarbro has already done such a wonderful job? Why take vampires into space when C.S. Friedman did such a fantastic job in The Madness Season (named one you aren't familiar with, didn't I?). Vampires who feed off anguish and misery? Simmons' Carrion Comfort. Vampires on the Mississippi River? Martin's Fevre Dream. And I could go on.
So many writers are hooked on setting horror in sleepy little New England towns where our heroes return to confront some ancient evil or a secret from their past. Stephen King rode that pony into the ground, folks. It's time to expand your horizons. I started the Extremes anthology series to entice writers into visiting other cultures, other locales, other monsters. And you'll notice a strong penchant in my own writing for locations outside the United States. This is just one technique for keeping your work fresh.
SO: Have you noticed a shift in the writing style in the speculative fiction genre? Personally I've noticed that there have been a lot of stories published lately where you don't really know what is going on through most of the story. The story is told in a disjointed prose that is very jumpy, and also very poetic. The example I'm thinking of right now is Jay Lake's "In Defeat of Transcendent Epiphany" in Ideomancer. Do you know any fiction that falls into this category? If so, do you like it? Or would you much rather prefer the straightforward, classic approach to writing?
BH: I generally like to know what the hell's going on when I read a story. If I read that last paragraph and my reaction is "Huh?" then I know I'll have forgotten the story a week, or even a day, later. I haven't read the story you mentioned, but I've read others that fall within this category. They're exceptional at building atmosphere, but I think they ultimately fail as stories (by any definition I've ever seen). That's not to say the only acceptable approach to telling a story is straightforward. Certainly, there are thousands of successful stories out there that are told in nontraditional styles, that dispense with linearity, and that intentionally leave elements to the reader's imagination. Writers who set out to intentionally confuse the reader, though, just aren't my cup of tea.
SO: What scares you the most? What is it that Brian Hopkins fears? And how do you use these fears in your writing?
BH: Oh, gee, I fear the same thing everyone else does. Death. Losing the ones that I love. Disappointing the ones that I love. Violence scares me. The kind of mindless violence that comes so fast and unexpected that there's nothing you can do about it. I've written about all of these things.
SO: When writing short stories, do you prefer writing for themed anthologies or do you like the open-ended ones? Do you feel the themed anthologies limit your imagination or open it up to things you might not have imagined?
BH: For the most part, I enjoy writing from my own creativity, rather than funneling or filtering my imagination through a theme. The interesting thing about writing for themed anthologies, however, is that it does take your mind in new directions; stories are born that might not otherwise exist. For instance, I just finished a story, "The Land of the Awful Shadow," for an upcoming DAW anthology, Renaissance Faire (edited by Jean Rabe and Andre Norton). Rather than alter a story I'd been wanting to write for years (one of the many sitting in my "creative inventory," if you will), I had to sit down and dream up something totally original that would fit the theme. I did this by going back to my childhood and finding an event and a friend worthy of documentation. If not for the theme, it's a story that might have gone untold, which would have been a real shame. Themes don't always give rise to new stories, though. I also just finished a story for another DAW anthology, Haunted Holidays (Russell Davis, editor). Here I took a story I'd been wanting to write anyway -- a story I would have eventually gotten around to writing, with or without a theme or specific market. This story is "The Secret Sympathy." It takes place in Salvador, Brazil.
SO: Do you have any rituals when finally sitting down to write? For instance, Frederik Pohl had to be chain smoking when writing, and when his doctors forced him to quit, he couldn't write for a year and a half.
BH: Nope. No rituals here. Excuse me while I toss this dead goat out of my office, though, okay?
SO: Not too long ago your story "Diving the Coolidge" was chosen for Robert Silverberg's Fantasy: The Best of 2001. It was an eerie ghost story that took place on the U.S.S. President Coolidge. Did Silverberg stumble onto this story or was it submitted to him by you or someone else in the anthology it was originally published in?
BH: Silverberg either came upon "Diving the Coolidge" himself or the publisher of the anthology submitted it to him. I have a bee up my butt about "Best of" anthos, and unless specifically asked, I don't send my work to them. If the editor finds the story, because he/she is actually taking the time to survey everything that gets published that year, that's great. Personally, I don't think that happens. There's just too much out there to read. I think that generally the editors who put together those anthos have a cadre of writers whose work they appreciate. Come the end of the year, they look to see what stories those writers wrote that they want to include. If something else is pointed out to them, they'll read it. If something gets a lot of award attention, they'll read (though, oddly, this didn't inspire anyone to include "Five Days in April" in any "Best of" anthos). Silverberg is the first editor to ever include any of my work in a "Best of" antho. Even the "Best of the Small Press" type anthologies have ignored my work. You explain that to me, if you can. I can only presume I haven't hollered and screamed and waved my arms at them enough -- and that's just not me.
SO: How did he contact you?
BH: I was contacted through Tekno Books and Marty Greenberg, who had packaged Historical Hauntings (which is where "Coolidge" was originally published) for DAW Books. It came as a complete -- and very pleasant -- surprise. After Silverberg's book came out, I contacted him and thanked him for having selected my story. He said that he and co-editor Karen Haber had really enjoyed the story and that he expected he'd be seeing my work in many more "Best of" anthologies in the near future. We'll see if he's right. As an aside, there's also a wonderful audio edition of Silverberg's Best Fantasy anthology. I highly recommend it.
SO: How would you compare this achievement to your other accomplishments as a writer, like your Bram Stoker Awards and your Nebula nomination?
BH: It's hard to compare the two. While I'm thrilled with the awards, I've got to tell you that it's a special feeling to know that someone like Robert Silverberg read and enjoyed my work enough to include it alongside the work of Poul Anderson, Ursula Le Guin, and the others in that anthology. These are people whose work I was reading in grade school -- legends in the field of science fiction and fantasy. To receive such a nod from Silverberg -- wow. It didn't come packaged in a nice trophy so I could put it on my mantle, but it damn sure feels like an award. Same with comments I've received about my work from writers like Gene Wolfe, Michael Bishop, Ed Gorman, Joe Lansdale, James Morrow, and others. Impressing those guys with my own work is like paying them back for all the reading pleasure they've given me -- and I hope it's also something of a tribute, in that I wouldn't be the writer that I am without their influence.
SO: At the time of this interview, your novella, El Dia de los Muertos, is nominated for a Bram Stoker Award and an International Horror Guild Award. What is the main idea behind El Dia de los Muertos? How would you rank it with your other writing?
BH: James Morrow called El Dia de los Muertos "a searing journey into the mythic soul of Mexico and the intolerable heart of loss." Try as I might, I don't think I could write a line that better summarizes it. Muertos is all about Fate and how one man tries to change the hand that he's been dealt. As for ranking it, reviewers are touting it as the best thing that I've ever written. Personally, I have difficulty comparing most of my work. When I've finished something, I generally evaluate it on its own merits, on how well I feel I accomplished what I set out to do with the story, on how well I think it'll connect with readers, etc. I don't think in terms of it being any better or worse than my other work or whether it'll win awards. What I'm asking myself is could I have done it any better. Am I satisfied with it? Often, I'm not (I am my worst critic). What I can tell you about Muertos is that I was very satisfied when I wrote "the end." In a lot of ways, it epitomizes my writing style, I suppose: foreign setting, heavy on emotion, researched inside and out, etc.
SO: Who do you consider to be some of the best new speculative fiction writers, ones who have just broken through in the last year or two? I'm sure you've published a few first-hand in the anthologies you've edited.
BH: Oh, man, I hate these type questions because I'll leave so many people out. I'd do better telling you which writers are running around screaming about how great they are, when they really aren't. Ha! But, let's see, good writers. . . . Keep an eye on Jeffrey Thomas, Simon Morden, Michael Laimo, James van Pelt, Judi Rohrig, to name just a few. I just wrote an introduction for a collection being shopped around by Canadian Michael Kelly; he's another who's just finding his voice and has a lot to say.
SO: I, personally, think the stories coming from new writers can be the most entertaining, probably because their stories have to push through the slush, past all the already-established writers. Despite some people's opinion, I think that there is a market for new writers, you just have to offer something new and get past the clichés that usually plague the stories of new writers. What is your opinion on the short story market? Do you think a writer should start submitting to the lower-paying markets and work their way up?
BH: Writers should always start with the higher-paying markets and work their way down. There's a more obvious and much more important reason for this than just getting paid decent money. Those higher-paying publications reach more readers, get more attention for awards (which again, means more readers), draw the attention of professional agents, publishers, and other editors, etc. This is that point where I always give the "Do as Brian says and not as Brian does" line. Be very picky about where your stories go.
SO: Who are your proofreaders? Who are the people who get to nitpick over your first drafts? How well do you take constructive criticism?
BH: My wife is generally the first person to read anything that I've written. I have a few friends who also do this. My wife, however, refuses to read anything until it's finished. My friends will often read fragments for me whenever I'm seeking feedback -- though this can be aggravating for them, as I'll often get part way through something and then just shelve it for months or years. I take criticism well, though the story is first and foremost mine, and I often don't follow the advice of my first readers. This used to aggravate my wife. She'd get mad when she told me something that she thought would improve a story and I decided not to use it. She's since gotten used to it. <laughs> There have been plenty of times, though, where her comments or the advice of friends has sent me back to the drawing board. I can remember changing a crucial element in the ending of my short story "Wrinkles at Twilight" because of something friend and fellow writer Judi Rohrig said when she read it.
SO: What is Lone Wolf Publications? How was it first thought up? When and how did it make the transition from being a thought to something concrete?
BH: Most people would call Lone Wolf an electronic publisher. I prefer the term multimedia publisher. I started the company in 1999 when I published a collection of my own work, Flesh Wounds. Flesh Wounds was published on a signed, limited edition CD-ROM. Had I waited just 6 months to a year, POD technology would have probably caught my eye instead, and Flesh Wounds would have been produced as an actual book. It was the print-on-demand concept that I was after with the CD-ROMs. I could burn just enough copies to maintain an inventory; I didn't have to absorb the expense of producing the total print run up front. When Janet Berliner and George Guthridge saw Flesh Wounds, they asked me to produce a collection of their work, Exotic Locals. Because the technology allowed it, Janet and I came up with the idea of including audio on the CD-ROM. This is really where Lone Wolf came into its own. From that moment on, all of the Lone Wolf titles have included multimedia extras: art, photography, audio, video, Flash cartoons, etc.
SO: You've offered several new forms of media to the small press: E-books through compact disks, and recently you've begun to publish audio stories. What other curve balls are in store? How will you make your publications even more interactive?
BH: I suspect that I will actually be slowing down with Lone Wolf Publications. It takes up an enormous amount of time -- time that I really should be devoting to my own writing. That's not to say that Lone Wolf will quit publishing. Our focus will just shift to projects that are really intriguing, projects that require little editing on my part (anthologies are therefore out), etc. We will be looking for totally innovative concepts, things that couldn't be produced in any other fashion or by any standard publisher. Steve and Melanie Tem's Imagination Box is a prime example of the sort of thing I'm talking about. Steve and Melanie came to Lone Wolf because no one else is publishing the sort of multimedia extravaganza that they had in mind. We have similar projects in the works right now. But I think I'll be mostly an opportunist where Lone Wolf is concerned, snatching up worthy projects that are brought to my attention; you won't see me out soliciting much of anything.
SO: As an editor who is investing his money into this small press, do you feel you have to mentally force yourself to read a story for its merit rather than the credentials of the writer? What are some suggestions you have for editors to overcome this obstacle? I know the editors for Ideomancer tell you not to include a bio in your submissions, and the judges for Writers of the Future and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine delete the byline completely before reading them.
BH: I generally don't have any problem here. I read everything on story merit alone, whether it's for a Lone Wolf project or something else. While reading for 13 Horrors, for example, I rejected a Peter Straub story -- wonderful story, but it just didn't fit the anthology. Yes, it would have helped sell the anthology to have included Straub, but I believe in remaining first and foremost true to the work at hand. I don't go so far as to ask writers not to include a bio or to delete their byline or anything, but it is the work that counts. For Lone Wolf projects, most submissions are sent as email attachments, which means the cover letter is usually the accompanying email, which I promptly delete after saving the attached story to my hard drive. It might be months later when I get around to reading the story, which means whatever was in the email has long been forgotten and has no influence on my decisions. So, a writer might as well not bother. But I don't go out of my way to pare down the information that I consider to story alone.
SO: Do you like keeping the amount of copies you publish down to around three hundred or do you eventually want to expand the readership?
BH: For the moment, Lone Wolf's print runs are about commensurate with the readership. Electronic publications -- especially those that are too large to be sold as downloads for PDAs -- are still a niche market. While I would like to see the Lone Wolf titles reach a broader audience, that's something of a double-edged sword. Lone Wolf takes up enough of my time as it is. Were it any more successful . . . well, I might just have to sell it to keep it from killing my career as a writer.
SO: I took a peek at the Lone Wolf website and it looks like Lone Wolf doesn't get a very large cut of the profits. Can we agree that this is purely a labor of love?
BH: Definitely. Lone Wolf earns exactly what every contributor (authors, artists, editors, etc) earns on each title. It operates in the black -- and that's all that matters to me. Seed money to start the company originally came from the sale of ten lifetime subscriptions. With that money, I opened a company bank account and haven't had to dip into my own pocket.
SO: What are some of the problems you've encountered that probably wouldn't occur with a print publisher?
BH: Just the things you might expect: file format problems and such. When you're talking multimedia, there are a million formats for things like audio, video, etc. There's resolution to worry about. Audio quality. Transferring information between various media types. These are things that a print publisher doesn't have to be concerned with. Fortunately, I'm fairly computer savvy.
SO: How do you choose your other editors? Are they friends of yours that you ask to take on projects or are they editors who come to you with proposals for Lone Wolf anthologies?
BH: Both. Garrett Peck and J.F. Gonzalez proposed the Tooth and Claw anthologies to me, and I gave them the green light. Same with Laimo's Bloodtype (though I came up with the title) and Jean Rabe's anthologies. For Stones, I conceived of the anthology after seeing some of Judi Rohrig's cemetery photos. I asked her to edit and insisted that she include her photos. Some of the assistant editors are friends who have stepped forward to help because they enjoy the work. Mark Lancaster, for instance, has been an enormous help on the Extremes anthologies, doing some final editing and some first reading of submissions.
SO: On average, how many new titles does Lone Wolf publish a year?
BH: We're looking at possibly getting out 6 to 8 titles per year. Since I do all the programming and design work, it's doubtful that you'll ever see more than that. They can be purchased online at the Lone Wolf site, and they're also carried by some online booksellers like Project Pulp and Shocklines.
SO: And finally, I just want to leave this final question open. What are your thoughts on the speculative genre as a whole? And how does it compare to what was and what will be?
BH: I think science fiction's in great shape. Fantasy is even better off. And horror is making a slight comeback. The danger with horror is that we don't want to repeat the glut of the '80s; don't flood the market with poor material. We're in danger of doing that now, I think. Printing books has become remarkably affordable. More and more beginning writers start small presses just to see their own book in print. The buddy system is also thriving in horror. All of this is ultimately detrimental. In the long run, though, the genre will survive. It always does. Readers face the difficult task of sorting the good stuff from the crap. A trend I've noticed in recent years is that the so-called critics and reviewers aren't helping. When was the last time you read a review that actually panned a book? How many reviews these days do more than summarize the plot?
Copyright © 2003 Simon Owens
Simon Owens won the Emily Dickinson Poetry Award in the summer of 2002. He has several short story sales to his credit, his latest sales have been to SDO Fantasy Magazine, Alien Skin Magazine, and Penumbric Fiction Magazine, and his latest fiction publication was in this month's print magazine issue of Creative Compost. He's also an assistant editor for the literary magazine, The Reflector (which has published such authors as Dev Hathaway and Dean Koontz), and a journalist for The Slate.