Crazy?

In 1997, I retired from editing. After ten years of editing short fiction first for Pulphouse, and then for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, I had had enough. I stopped editing to focus on my writing career.

I stopped for a variety of reasons. Mostly, I quit because the editing swamped my writing. People knew me as an editor only, even though I published three to four books per year and a lot of short stories. No one ever called me a writer, which irritated me, since I considered myself a writer first.

In 1992, Charles N. Brown, then the publisher of Locus, told me that at some point I would have to choose. Was I an editor or a writer? Because I couldn't be both. I thought him pessimistic. I figured he didn't know me and he didn't know what I was capable of.

Then, in 1996, I realized I'd been introducing myself to people as an editor first. And that was wrong. Because I was getting tired, and I was making the easy choice. Editing was easy for me, but I loved writing more, and the writing was starting to slow down.

I realized that Charles had been right: either I could edit or I could write. I couldn't do both.

I retired, turned down more than a dozen other editing jobs, and wrote. I wrote a lot. I still write a lot. I still turn down full-time editing jobs, which amazes me. People want to hire me, even now, fifteen years later.

I did take a few jobs quietly, helping organize a collection, working behind the scenes on a couple anthologies. But mostly, I stopped editing cold.

And I missed it.

What I missed wasn't the pile of slush that threatened to overwhelm me. I didn't miss the lack of time to do the work nor did I miss that publisher oversight I suffered at F&SF. (The publisher and I had a constant battle of wills; he didn't want to buy half the stories I thought worthy of purchase, and I'd wait him out. Then he'd give in, and those stories would win every award in the sf field.) I hated being hired for my judgment and then having it questioned at every turn.

I also didn't miss the prescribed reading. When I moved from Pulphouse to F&SF, my reading time diminished, and I found that I was only reading sf and fantasy. I'm a diverse reader. I read everything. So being limited to two genres really bothered me. It was like having pizza for supper every single night. Yeah, pizza can be made a hundred different ways, but in the end, it's all dough and sauce and crust with different toppings. At some point, I want a hamburger. Or a bowl of cereal. Something else.

Here's what I missed. I missed discovering new writers. I missed publishing great stories that no one else found. I missed sharing marvelous fiction with the world at large.

I managed to control some of that by teaching professional writers. I discovered some writers that editors had forgotten or overlooked. I helped some writers find their perfect genre when they'd been writing in the wrong one. I read great stories, and told the writers to send those stories to other editors.

Sometimes the editors were even smart enough to buy the stories. But mostly, the editors didn't buy the stories. Mostly, they asked for something else. And privately, I railed at them. How could they overlook such brilliance?

Then the publishing world changed. E-readers came into being. Print on demand made publishing inexpensive.

Dean Wesley Smith and I did something we vowed we'd never do again.

We started a publishing company.

This time, we hired a publisher and a talented book designer. We hired people to run it instead of us, and we vowed that we wouldn't publish other people's fiction—only ours.

Except . . .

We both missed editing. And we figured out a way to edit without the slush pile, without the oversight from someone who didn't trust us, without the overwhelming workload.

We came up with Fiction River, an anthology series that's really a magazine. It comes out six times per year (plus a special edition), and we're the series editors. Which means that other editors will do the work on some of the anthologies. I'm editing two of them, and co-editing one. Dean's co-editing with me, and editing two on his own.

We're not reading slush, although a couple of the guest editors might. In fact, at the moment, there's no need to read slush. I have fifteen years of great writers to introduce to readers. Plus I have my long-time favorites, folks whose work I published in both F&SF and Pulphouse. I'm happy to invite them to do something new.

Although I've already run into a problem. Word limits. I can only publish so many stories, so I'm having to send out invitations much slower than I want to. I'm paring down lists, putting names on next year's invites, because otherwise the anthologies would be too big and too expensive.

The editing will take almost no time (comparatively speaking). I can spend my usual hours writing. This is the perfect editing job.

Yet, I feel crazy. I've said no for so long that I wonder if I should have said yes. Then I look at my anthology list, the writers who have already agreed to give me stories, and I realize I'm not crazy at all.

I'm just giddy.

I did miss editing.

But I wasn't going to give up my writing to do it.

And now I don't have to.

Author's note: The first issue of Fiction River will appear in April. Go to www.wmgpublishing.com in a month or so for more information. I'll also have notices on my website, www.kristinekathrynrusch.com, as Fiction River progresses.

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