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Interview

Ann VanderMeer, fiction editor at Weird Tales – Page 2

The fiction editing process, at Weird Tales...

READERSVOICE.COM: Where is the Weird Tales office and does it share an office with other publications? How many staff does it have?

ANN VANDERMEER: The business office for Wildside Press (the publisher for Weird Tales) is in Rockville, Maryland. The editorial office, i.e. my home, is in Tallahassee, Florida. Weird Tales is the flagship magazine for Wildside Press. They are also the publishers for HP Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror and Fantasy Magazine (http://www.fantasy-magazine.com), which has just recently become an online zine.

Not sure exactly how many staff members there are, but I can count at least six full-time employees and various part-time ones.

RV: What sort of routine do you have as a fiction editor each week?

AV: I have a very demanding full-time job as the software manager of a computer company, so most of my editing work is done nights and weekends. I have an email account and try to check it every day to answer queries, etc and to process incoming submissions. I read submissions most every day, and reply to the email submissions at least once a week. I work on the hardcopy submissions at least once a month. I have six annual publication deadlines for the magazine and keep a spreadsheet of accepted stories that I use to determine issue assignments for each story.

Most of my reading is done on the weekend; however, I try to use lunch breaks and evenings to read as well. Contracts are also processed once a week, as necessary.

RV: Can you talk through the process of how you get a manuscript and what steps you take in editing a manuscript?

AV: I receive manuscripts two ways; either thru email or as a hardcopy to my P.O. Box. Sometimes other editors will bring my attention to a story they’ve seen that they think I’d be interested in.

Once I read something that I like, I always hold onto it for a second read. I don’t impulse buy. Depending on the length of time, I may contact the writer to tell them I’m holding it for a second read.

If I decide to accept the story, I contact the writer and send contracts and an acceptance letter. The story goes into my spreadsheet and my first decision is which issue to place it in.

When the time comes to start working on the next issue, I take a look at the stories and work on the order. I then read them all the way through one time in that order to see if it works. If it doesn’t I play around with the story order until it feels right to me.

Once I’ve got the order, I read through each story again, but this time I work on each story, seeing how it flows, and if it needs any kind of editing. I don’t do any of this work at night, only during the day when I am fresh and at my best.

After all edits are done, I pass the files to the publisher (this is all done electronically). I then put together the bios of each contributor and send that to the publisher as well.

RV: When did you first become interested in fantasy and can you give a bit of a chronology of your reading of fantasy over the years?

AV: I’ve been reading fantasy all of my life. Many children’s books, of course, are fantasy. I had a baby sitter who used to read us fairy tales before bed. Puss in Boots was one of my favorites, mainly because it was one of darker tales Mary Emma used to read to us. Later I read to my sister every night.

Susan and I enjoyed stories with animals, especially talking animals, like Winnie-The-Pooh. Some might not consider those books to be fantasy, but I don’t see how they can be called otherwise.

Then we found Roald Dahl and become hooked on his books. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach. You can see that we tended to the darker side of fantasy, even at that young age.

But the books I remember most where my dad’s collection of Oz books. Not just the original Wizard of Oz, but all the books. My dad had a complete collection from the 40s, beautiful books from when he was a child. I loved those books. He also passed along his Lewis Carroll books, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass with the original John Tenniel illustrations. More talking animals and of course, Alice. I guess in some way we both wanted to be Alice, Dorothy or Ozma of Oz.

At the age of 10 I picked up Animal Farm by George Orwell, thinking it was just another one of those talking animal books. It really turned my head around. Even though I didn’t understand everything that was going on, I knew there was something more to this book. That eventually led me to Orwell’s 1984 and then to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

As a teenager, I began to read a lot of science fiction, in addition to fantasy. Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov. Phillip Joseph Farmer and Theodore Sturgeon. One writer led me to another, which led me to another.

Of course I read Tolkien’s The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. At that time it was unlike anything I had ever read before. I have to admit that I was in college before I read those books. It’s funny because I was reading Tolkien alongside of Dostoyevsky. Quite a contrast, but then I usually have more than one book going at a time.

As a criminology major, I read a lot of crime non-fiction but then started to read a lot of horror. Stephen King, Peter Straub, Dean Koontz and then Clive Barker. I also fell in love with the Anne Rice Vampire novels in college.

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