Diabolical Plots: Year Three Available for Pre-Order!

written by David Steffen

The newest anthology from Diabolical Plots, Diabolical Plots Year Three, is now available for pre-order from Amazon and Kobo (other vendors to follow).  Pre-ordering is a great way to help ebook vendor algorithms promote it more, so if you think you would like a copy anyway pre-ordering is a big help.

Note the wonderful cover art, an original illustration by Amanda Makepeace, the same artist who made the awesome fox cover art for The Long List Anthology Volume 3 in December of last year.  She illustrated the story “For Now, Sideways” by A. Merc Rustad, and she did a wonderful job with it.  I love how a good illustrator can tell a story with an image like Amanda’s done here, how your eye is drawn to different parts of the image that imply the conflicts and resolutions of the story.  Cover layout was done by Pat Steiner, who has done all of the anthology covers for Diabolical Plots and continues to do great work.

Thank you, and have a happy weekend!

The Inside Scoop on Anthologies with Mike Resnick

interview by Carl Slaughter

In the 1990s, Mike Resnick launched more careers with his anthologies than Asimov’s, Analog, and F&SF combined. He’s at it again with Stellar Guild. He gives Diabolical Plots the inside story on the nature and process of anthologies.

CARL SLAUGHTER: Which is a better/faster way to build a resume as a speculative fiction writer, anthologies or magazines?

MIKE RESNICK: The digest magazines. Then the print anthologies. Then the e-zines. But mass market novels are the quickest way of all.


CS: Which pays better?

MR: Depends on the market. Jim Baen’s Universe was paying a quarter a word when I was co-editing it with Eric Flint. Most of the print zines pay 7 to 9 cents, most of the SFWA-accepted e-zines pay 5 or 6 cents, though a few pay double that. The average anthology, at least the ones I’m acquainted with over the past half-dozen years, pay from 7 to 10 cents a word. Even when I was editing them twenty+ years ago, we never paid less than 6 cents. Which is to say, in sum, that it’s a crap shoot.


CS: Which involves surrendering fewer rights?

MR: Any legit magazine will buy first serial rights, and keep the option of buying it again for an anthology of stories from the magazine. Usually they want a six-month worldwide exclusive. Most anthologies will buy first serial rights, plus a worldwide non-exclusive (which means they can sell the anthology to other countries, giving you a pro rata split; but you can market the solo story anywhere you want.) That’s standard, but of course not all contracts are standard.


CS: From conception to publication, what’s the timeframe for a typical anthology?

MR: From conception, I assume you mean from the day the editor signs a contract with the publisher. If it’s an original anthology, figure twelve to sixteen months; if it’s reprint, maybe seven to twelve months.


CS: What’s the average number of stories per anthology?

MR: Varies wildly. Twenty is a nice safe average number.


CS: What’s the average word count per story?

MR: 5000 to 6500 usually. Which isn’t to say that flash fiction and novellas are totally absent from all anthologies.


CS: How well do anthologies sell?

MR: Not very. Most sales are made in the contracts, not the execution. And if a publisher is shelling out well under $10,000 for an anthology — and 95% of the anthologies go for four figures — then the only way he can get hurt is to spend $50,000 promoting it, or printing 300,000 copies, or hiring the equivalent of Frank Frazetta for the cover art…so he handles it like a $7,000 book…and lo and behold, it sells like a $7,000 book.


CS: Does every major speculative fiction publisher have an anthology division or are most anthology editors freelancers?

MR: Almost all anthologies are freelance edited.


CS: Where does a freelance anthology editor get capital for their next project?

MR: You talk to “Names” that will make the book marketable, and when you get enough commitments, you take your anthology idea to the various publishing houses until someone likes it enough to sign a contract and pay you an advance. I should add that almost all advances are half on signing and half on delivery…and since you budget about 90% of the advance for stories, the editor is often a few thousand dollars out-of-pocket until he delivers. (And mass market publishing is historically a month or two late on the signature advance, and two to four months late on the delivery/acceptance payment.)


CS: Are most anthologies open to submission or by invitation only?

MR: Most are invitation only. For sound economic reasons. If I sell an anthology for $8,000, I’ll budget it at $7,000…and someone always has diarrhea of the keyboard, so it’ll cost me about $7,300…which means I’ll make about $700. Now, if I’m dealing with journeyman writers whose work I like well enough to invite them, I can usually do the editing in a few days…but if I open it to submissions, I’m going to get about 600 stories, maybe 500 all-but-unreadable, and it’ll take me a month to wade my way through them…and if I’m only earning $700 a month, I’m in the wrong business.


CS: For the ones that are invitation only, how does an aspiring writer get on the editor’s radar?

MR: He keeps his eyes and ears open, he networks, he talks to pros, to other beginners, he attends conventions. I know it seems like “invite only” means “no beginners wanted”…but I bought more first stories for my anthologies in the 1990s than Asimov’s, Analog and F&SF combined.


CS: For the ones that accept submissions, how do they spread the word? Post on Codex, WOTF, Hatrack, and Critters; advertise in the SFWA newsletter; if it’s a horror anthology, advertise in the Horror Writers Association newsletter; if the subgenre is vampire or zombie, do they notify the Vampire Writers Association or Zombie Writers Association (I’m joking, are there such associations?)?

MR: You can whisper, very softly, that you accept submissions, and you’ll be whelmed over with hundreds of them within a couple of weeks.


CS: Novel editors put stories through extensive revision. What about anthology editors. Do they request multiple rewrites? Do they do the rewrites themselves?

MR: If it’s a theme anthology, and 90% of them are, that means it’s a story that wouldn’t have been written if I hadn’t commissioned it…and that means I have a moral obligation to the writer. I will return any story for revisions if it needs them…and on those occasions that the author simply can’t give me what I want — and it’s only happened three times in over fortyanthologies, I’ll pay him a kill fee, since as I say he’d never have taken the time to write a story on that particular theme if I hadn’t assigned it.


CS: What percentage of stories in a typical anthology are by new writers?

MR: I can’t speak for any other editors. I’d say about 20-25% in my anthologies are by new or newer writers, or to be more blunt, by names we can’t put on the cover because they have absolutely no following or value at present. This, I should add, is not a permanent condition. 10 of the writers I have bought from made the Campbell ballot after I bought their stories.


CS: How often do we see anthologies with all new writers? Is it too much of a risk for publishers? Aren’t readers keen to check out new writers?

MR: My guess is: Never. I did one for SFWA, published by DAW, called NEW VOICES IN SCIENCE FICTION, a few years back, and it contained only writers who’d broken into print in the past five years…but even so it contained some bestsellers, a bunch of Campbell winners and nominees, etc.


CS: Who are/were the heavy hitters in the anthology industry and what is their greatest contribution?

MR: Anytime between 1980 and 2005 I’d have said there was Marty Greenberg and then there was Everyone Else. With Marty gone, no one has begun to dominate the field the way he did. John Joseph Adams is putting out some nice anthologies; so is the team of George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. And there’s something new afoot — the Kickstarter project. The best so far have come from Bryan Schmidt, Marty Halpern, Alex Shvartsman, and a few others…but it’s very early days in that field.


Carl_eagleCarl Slaughter is a man of the world. For the last decade, he has traveled the globe as an ESL teacher in 17 countries on 3 continents, collecting souvenir paintings from China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Egypt, as well as dresses from Egypt, and masks from Kenya, along the way. He spends a ridiculous amount of time and an alarming amount of money in bookstores. He has a large ESL book review website, an exhaustive FAQ about teaching English in China, and a collection of 75 English language newspapers from 15 countries.

His training is in journalism, and he has an essay on culture printed in the Korea Times and Beijing Review. He has two science fiction novels in the works and is deep into research for an environmental short story project.

Carl currently teaches in China where electricity is an inconsistent commodity.

Review: Unidentified Funny Objects – Online edition

written by James Hanzelka (intro by Frank Dutkiewicz)

When Alex Shvartsman announced his speculative humor anthology project last summer, and asked for some volunteers to help him out, I jumped at the chance. For three months I received a steady stream of fantasy, science fiction, and every murky definition in between, written with the intention of tickling my funny bone. Some stuff I found to be hilarious, and more than a few very funny stories were left on the cutting room floor. With a small army of associate editors, Alex wanted to be sure that he picked only the best for his collection. But what is funny? That answer proved to be very subjective. Alex told me he didn’t have one story that received a unanimous thumbs up from his associate editors. Everyone had a different opinion of what was funny and what wasn’t, but by the end, a consensus of 29 stories were picked for the upcoming anthology. That still left some wonderful stuff behind, so Alex decided to give his customers a little something to whet their appetite.

The UFO publishing website has offered seven stories for all who are looking for some free, original, and funny, speculative stories to read. They are a little taste of what the print anthology will be like. But are they funny? I asked our own James Hanzelka to give us his opinion†–


“The Alien Invasion as Seen in the Twitter Stream of @DWEEBLESS” by Jake Kerr

The aliens have invaded and offered Canada as a relocation point for all peoples of Earth. Unfortunately they have chosen to announce this using Twitter and YouTube. This means of communication is fraught with shortcomings, not the least of which is the people interpreting the message. Will they understand this is not a movie before it’s too late?

I think I’ve actually gotten this Twitter stream. Nicely done. The humor in this is there for all to see, however it may cut too close to home for some of us. I also liked the underlying theme of our self-absorption in our own lives, leading us to be totally oblivious to the real world. Well worth the few minutes it takes to read, and I found it hilarious right down to the Nickelback references.


“The Ogre and the Piemaker” by Tarl Kudrick

This is the story of some not-too-bright Ogres who attempt to fill their desire for pies. Led by their only slightly less dim leader their tale is one of struggle and comic failure, but ultimate success, even if they fail to grasp the manner in which they achieve it.

I found this story quite odd. There is nice comic theme that runs through it, but I was never fully caught up in the story. For those that like wry humor based on the failings of dense, bumbling monsters this is your cup of tea, but it’s definitely not for everyone.


“You Bet” by Alex Shvartsman

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but a man walks into a poker game with a witch, an alien, a fairy, a robot and a vampire. That’s the premise of this story, an odd collection of characters involved in a game of Texas Hold ‘Em. But who is this Joe that wandered in, even he doesn’t know. Maybe if he can figure it out he can hang around and not fade away like others before him.

I liked this story a lot. Loved the premise and the little nuances thrown in along the way, like the references to the crop circles and Twilight. The poker game provided a nice vehicle to allow for the conversation and each character is given a believable personality. Very well done.


“A Midnight Carnival at Sunset” by Terra LeMay

Suppose on your way home from work you decided to stop by a zoo full of mythical creatures. Would you be upset if you didn’t see much in the fading sunlight? Or would the sight of more activity after the light fades make you nervous? And who would you need to bring along with you to actually know if there is a unicorn in that stall?

This story is set up as a series of suppositions (see above). I thought it was a novel way to present a storyline. I also thought the premise was inventive and the writing was clear. I just didn’t find a lot here to make me laugh, beyond the single twist at the end. Nice story though.


“Demonology for Nerds” by Andrew F. Rey

Computers can be such pesky things, particularly when your anti-curse software is out of date. Demons are more difficult to deal with than a call center in Mumbai. The only saving grace is that math and physics aren’t their strong suits. Just make sure you keep those programs up to date, it can be devilishly tough otherwise.

This story is nicely done and the author did a nice job of weaving the technological world with the mythical world of demons and devils. The writing was clear and concise and the structure of the story was solid. The author does a good job of injecting his sense of humor through the piece. I would recommend it.


“Morte Cuisine” by Kara Dalkey

Chef Galbadon’s cooking class for his Zombie staff is rudely interrupted by two livelies wielding a shotgun and an axe. They proceed to wreak havoc on the small culinary staff, until the smell of blood rouses them to action. Chef Galbadon’s concern that their frenzy will waste the precious raw materials proves to be unfounded as the staff rises to the occasion.

This story has a nice wry sense of humor, but if you’re not into black humor it may not be for you. The story is very engaging and the author does a good job of creating a believable story out of the absurd situation. If you’re not too squeamish give it a read.


“Mr. Terwilliger Confesses” by Amanda C. Davis

A night full of drink causes one Mr. Terwilliger to confess to his mates he’s from the future. Determined to find out more, one of them gets him drunk and cajoles out the whole story of how he came to be in this time. Mr. Terwilliger, it seems, was the victim of pure happenstance and he has survived for five years by his wits. The two determine to expand the scam to the higher echelons of London society when Father Time intervenes again.

Nicely set is late 1900s England this is a well turned tale of time travel with comic consequences. The writer has done a good job of drawing us slowly into Mr. Terwilliger’s world. The story strikes a nice blend of humor and speculation. Well done and a good read for anyone interested in the subject.


When I asked what Jim thought of the stories as a collection he added “I liked the stories and the premise of the anthology. I would be interested in reading more of them.

If you would feel the same way Jim does, by all means pick up a copy of Unidentified Funny Objects.

As an added caveat, Diabolical Plots’s own David Steffen will be reviewing the printed anthology. Can’t wait to see what he thinks.


James Hanzelka is a published author, aspiring writer, and accomplished reviewer. Thousands and thousands of people have read his published works in the form of army technical manuals. His reviews have found a more pleasing audience however as they are often quoted by authors he has praised. Jim is working hard at his own fictional career. He has been submitting to the Writers of the Future contest for the last couple of years where he has received Honorable Mention honors on a consistent basis.