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Scheherazade in Blue Jeans
freelance alchemist
As previously mentioned, we're moving in late May. When we moved to… 
29th-Dec-2011 11:23 am
As previously mentioned, we're moving in late May. When we moved to Boston, we had little notice and I'd just emerged from a weeklong hospital stay, so we pretty much just threw everything into boxes and went. Over the past few months, we've been getting down to some extremely necessary weeding of the books.

Yesterday, we tackled anthologies.

Adam: "The name Martin H. Greenberg on the front of a book sure was a sign of quantity."

Yeah it was.

So many Greenberg anthologies. And also a slew of those late-80s, early-90s sex-and-horror anthologies. What was that trend? Why did that happen? Why did we buy all of them?

I feel like that's a big question here at Gojirawitziev. "Why did we buy all of that?"

But with the Greenberg anthologies, I feel like I can answer that a bit.

A note for those of you who don't have a Greenberg anthology infestation: I think like six of these things come out per year. They have titles like $THING Fantastic, mostly. They mostly have the same ten to twelve writers in them. Two or three of these will be good writers. The rest will be, not always awful, but mind-numbingly generic. It's a mediocrity farm. It's the McDonalds of genre fiction. Even the good writers will often turn in something mediocre because it's Yet Another Theme Anthology.

Why do we have dozens of these?

They were all we had.

This is the thing, man. In those dark days, we did not have an internet. So we had no Clarkesworld, no ChiZine, no Strange Horizons, et cetera. We had bookstores, is all. And no bookstore near us carried Asimov's or Analog or any of the other genre magazines. No. If we wanted a fix of short genre fiction, it was a mass-market paperback anthology, probably edited by Greenberg et al, probably full of meh but with enough interesting stuff to be worth the five bucks, especially in the absence of anything else. If nothing else, it would have a Charles de Lint story and probably also a Tanya Huff, and that was worth my five bucks. (This, of course, was before CdL's short fiction was invariably eventually collected; nowadays it's more cost-effective to wait for the collection.)

So why did we have dozens of these things? Because it was the only way, man.

Those were dark days.

These anthologies are still coming out quite regularly, and I'm actually curious about their sales figures. Because now we have stuff like the Interfictions, Clockwork Phoenix, and Eclipse anthologies, which all have great stuff anyway, but especially compared to the Greenberg ones - and Interfictions has a policy that a writer can only be in one volume of Interfictions, so there'll never be the same few authors churning out the same story on a different theme. Now we have the internet. Now we have a lot of choices, a lot of venues, a lot of ways to get a fix of the high-quality stuff.

We kept a few - because a few had early stories by authors who didn't fall into the Greenberg pit, who went on to do nifty stuff, and their stories sparkle in comparison to the rest of the volume. But it says something that those stories stood out so much. And that they didn't stay.
29th-Dec-2011 05:25 pm (UTC) - Mediocrity farm...
So I guess mentioning that my first two pro publications were in Marty Greenberg anthologies wouldn't win me any cool points, would it?
29th-Dec-2011 07:12 pm (UTC) - Re: Mediocrity farm...
No - like I said in my final paragraph, there *was* some great stuff there!
29th-Dec-2011 07:53 pm (UTC) - Re: Mediocrity farm...
Oh yes, I did see that, but it's pretty common you see, the love of despising Greenberg anthologies. And I do still cringe every time I see it, knowing that my first two 'pro' tics are down to that rather tarnished slate. Adds to the Pretender Syndrome, you know?

But the truth is, I'm so bad at marketing my work that I would never have been published at all if not for the Greenberg puppymill process. So I might be less cool for it, but it's better than nothing for me. And it would be nothing for me, the alternative. I know myself that well.
(Deleted comment)
29th-Dec-2011 07:03 pm (UTC)
It's not just me, apparently! I was limited mainly to what was available at used book stores in the late 80s and early 90s, and my mother isn't a reader, much less a reader of speculative fiction.
29th-Dec-2011 05:41 pm (UTC)

god. I'm someone who rereads good SF/F ad infinitum. But I remember the Greenburg anthologies were so unbalanced in quality that I would break my YOU DO NOT WRITE IN BOOKS training to circle which stories were worth reading in the table of contents. 'cause so many were just a waste of time.

That I remember was one of my favorite parts of Marion Zimmer Bradley stuff -- I didn't care for much of her writing, (some of it was good the first time through but I just couldn't re-read it, though more was kind of eh), but her collections of other people's work was great. Her fantasy magazine was one of very few I bought on a regular basis.
29th-Dec-2011 06:28 pm (UTC)
I do love living in a world that has the online anthologies. I love living in the science fiction age.


Despite their unevenness in quality, those Greenberg anthologies remain a symbol of my parents' love for me... a tidal shift from their initial exasperation that I would do nothing but read all day long to an appreciation of the person I became. Those anthologies started appearing among my birthday presents and holiday presents all through my teens and college years. The very cheesiness of those anthologies as I view them today makes me smile at my parents' attempt to love the alien in their midst.
29th-Dec-2011 06:36 pm (UTC)
I am reminded of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword-and-Sorceress collections, which I got because that was what there was, if I wanted to read fantasy with female protagonists.
29th-Dec-2011 06:59 pm (UTC)
There's more backstory. There were good anthologies for a long time, with Groff Conklin, and Terry Carr (frequently with Donald Wolheim) as anthologists I remember fondly.

Then Roger Elwood hit the field with a huge number of mediocre anthologies. Generally, the only story which would be any good would be by Lafferty.

I assume that people stopped buying anthologies, or at least they stopped coming out for quite a while. Then the Greenberg anthologies, which at least weren't awful and were aimed at particular tastes, started appearing.

I recommend the Greenberg/Schimmel anthologies.

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