TIH 492: Short Story Collection and Anthology of the Year, This Is Horror Awards 2021

TIH 492 Short Story Collection and Anthology of the Year, This Is Horror Awards 2021

In this podcast we announce and speak with the winners of the Short Story Collection and Anthology of the Year in the This Is Horror Awards 2021.

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Soft Targets

Author Carson Winter presents Soft Targets, a novella of new weird horror out March 22 from Tenebrous Press.

The Girl in the Video by Michael David Wilson, narrated by RJ Bayley

Listen to The Girl in the Video on Audible in the US here and in the UK here.

Michael David Wilson 0:07

Welcome to This Is Horror, a podcast for readers, writers and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson, and every episode alongside my co host, Bob Pastorella. We chat with the world's best writers about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Now, today is the second of our This Is Horror awards 2021 episodes, and today we are going to be announcing the winners of the short story collection of the year and the anthology of the year. Two episodes ago in Episode 490, we announced a novel a novella of the year. So if you miss that, do go back and listen to it as both winners are so richly deserved. Now before we jump into the main episode, let us have a quick advert break.

RJ Bayley 1:31

It was as if the video had unzipped to my skin, slunk inside my tapered flesh and become one with me.

Bob Pastorella 1:39

From the creator of This Is Horror comes a new nightmare for the digital age. The Girl in the Video by Michael David Wilson, after a teacher receives a weirdly rousing video is like to send to the paranoia and obsession. More videos follow each containing information no stranger could possibly know. But who's sending them and what do they want? The answers may destroy everything every one he loves. The Girl in the Video is the ring means fatal attraction for iPhone generation, available now in paperback ebook and audio. Author Carson winter presents soft targets and develop new word horror out March 22. From tenebrous press a pair of Office drones to discover a loophole and time that makes some days less real than others, allowing them to act on their darkest impulses without fear of reprisal. Their morals become more slippery and their fantasies more violent. And soon they will have to decide what line they won't cross soft targets in a timely reality bending novella about the easy surrender to violence and the addictive appeal of tragedy is entertainment. More information at tenebrous press.com.

Michael David Wilson 2:40

Okay, well, it is now time to find out who the winner of the short story collection at a year is. And the nominees are beneath a pale sky by Philip for a Cassie. folk songs for trauma surgeons by Keith Rosson in that endlessness and by Gemma files, the dangers of smoking in bed by Mariana and recast and the ghosts sequences by AC wires. So, let us go over to the winner of the short story collection of the year right now. And now it is time for the short story collection of the year. And we have in that endlessness and by Gemma files and Gemma files is with us right now. Congratulations.

Gemma Files 3:52

Thank you. Thank you very much. I've been really, really happy with how well this this collection seems to be doing and how much it seems to be appealing to people. General General or of darkness and, and horrible depression.

Michael David Wilson 4:11


Gemma Files 4:12

it'd be. Yeah, very, you know, like, very objective. Rather. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 4:18

Objective. Yeah. And I mean, in terms of that mood, it starts with the powerful, evocative title. So I'm wondering, you know, at what point did you know, that was going to be the title for the collection, and where did it come from?

Gemma Files 4:41

It's actually a line from distant dark places. And in that endlessness will be our end. And I yeah, I was I was trying to figure out what possibly could be the the title and that just occurred to me and I asked around with Little and went,

Michael David Wilson 5:00

Oh, yeah, okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah,

Gemma Files 5:04

well, we'll get sucked into the hole will get sucked up into the moon will end up in space. Who knows? Because you know, it's like so many of my stories it's like, orbiting the idea of mortality the way that yeah, generally, we all are a bit the rim of this big black hole. None of us know where we're gonna end up when we go in there. But we we all know we're going there.

Michael David Wilson 5:30

Yes, so

Gemma Files 5:35

she said, laughing wild. But

Michael David Wilson 5:37

yeah, we're just easing in with something like to begin this segment. But, you know, sometimes we got to let people know the reality of the situation. And we're all going there. We're all going to this. Yeah.

Gemma Files 5:52

And you know, that's right. And all of the stories in in this endlessness are and were written either pre Trump or just post Trump. And the interesting thing is that most of them weren't were written before the pandemic. But it was really like this. There's big existential crisis that was looming. And then it was there. And then it was like, oh, no, it's getting worse. No, it's like you thought it was you thought maybe it wouldn't be quite as bad. So yes, it's it's exactly that bad.

Michael David Wilson 6:30

Goodness, I'm wondering, do we go to distant dark places? Because you brought it up? Or do we kind of go more chronologically,

Gemma Files 6:40

but the interesting thing with the interesting thing with this is how it's how it ends. And a couple of people have said this to me is that it reads like a pandemic story. Right? Written pre pandemic.

Michael David Wilson 6:54

Yeah. And

Gemma Files 6:58

I had had an idea for quite a while of the split of this wave of Doppel Doppel plague incorporate the Earth. Yeah. And, you know, we're, we're, you know, another version of you would pull itself out of your body and you end up fighting to the death and yeah, you know, whoever survived survived, but then you wouldn't be sure. Am I duplicate? Or am I the original? Yeah. And you know, what happens if it happens again, and again and again and again, and I wasn't entirely sure what to do with it. I thought it was very Cronenberg, Ian, and, you know, I love Cronenberg stuff. Like any good Canadian, it's a it's a little it's a little hard to shove into, into a short story. And then at a certain point, I realized that, you know, it could be done. It could be, you know, just the story of one person, one person going through this thing. And so I guess in a way, it's like my, my Dawn of the Dead.

Michael David Wilson 8:07

Yeah. Dawn of the dupe.

Gemma Files 8:09

But also that thing, which later came true of watching something develop on the internet, and then watching it come closer and closer and closer, until it's you until you're in it, literally in it, literally in bed with another version of you. And the two of you are just Yeah, killing each other. Yeah. I've had, I've, you know, as as we moved into it, people have been saying that a pandemic was coming for years and years. And, you know, the last year that I covered the Toronto Film Festival, the TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival, was the year that SARS broke. And yeah, that was the last time I did it. For the person, the people that I was previously writing for, and oh, and the two and the twin towers came down pretty soon after that. So, you know, it was sort of like a world, two world changing events, one, considerably smaller than the other, but the minute that sort of started to spread, everything shut down in terms of production in Colorado, they kept saying, watch out this is going to move a little further out. But at that time, it was just it was just a threat. You know, and every time since then, in much the same way that you know, when the when the Millennium turned and nobody got raptured and people were like ah, you know, the millennium bug was a was just a threat. It was just you know, something people do weaved in, but it didn't actually happen. You know, and the world's gonna end in, you know, 2011 the world's gonna end in 2012 the world's gonna end, according to the Maya calendar, the world's gonna end according to this, you know, the planets are all gonna line up and the world's gonna end and, and I says, what the pandemic taught me more than anything else is that the world doesn't end. It just keeps going. Right? People now we're talking about the idea of a soft apocalypse. And I think a lot of the stories in in that endlessness are kind of about a soft apocalypse. The Apocalypse you have to live in. Yeah, not not even necessarily live through. We all think that everything's gonna, you know, it's like, one day, she's the grid goes down, and people start rioting in the streets, and you know, a bomb falls somewhere. And whatever, you know, a Brian Keene apocalypse, which I love. Yeah, obviously. But, but no, I think my, my life is far more about trying to figure out how my characters negotiate their way through a series of soft apocalypses. Yeah, and it becomes very much about, you know, what, if you just couldn't sleep? And you just went on and on and on? It's like, how, how far can you keep going with that? You know, what if you hear a weird noise in what you think is the next apartment, and a strange smell, and you can't get anybody to deal with that? And it just goes in directions that you don't think it's gonna go in? What if you? What if the reason that your light fixtures don't work is there's an eldritch abomination, lurking behind your walls? Yeah. And, you know, figuring that out is going to cause it to release itself, and it'll eat your boyfriend in front of you. Before you know it, you'll be living off the grid. And until, like, people do turn off everything that uses electricity, because we just don't know, we just don't know. And it definitely is also I think about horror infiltrating your normal life. There are many, many things, in that. In in that endlessness that come from directly from my life bulb comes directly from my life, in terms of how it begins, you know, only only after three comes directly from my life. Or always after three rather, comes directly from my life. Somebody used to hot box behind the wall of my son's room, and you could never figure out who was doing it. And you could never do anything about it. You know, just like, oh my god, we just had weed coming from. Right. It's like, why is why do I only smell it in the baby's room? Generally cheese and. And the puppet motel? Yeah. The story of the puppet motel begins in real life. For I don't know, I'd say about three months. I was managing to Airbnbs in Toronto for a friend of my husband's and. And one of those Airbnbs was I swear to God the puppet motel. It was that creepy?

Michael David Wilson 13:45

Yeah, let's, let's indulge. Let's hear more about that. Because the puppet motel is one of the most unnerving stories within the collection, I guess. Because like, it's just so like, I guess relatable in the sense that it's like that could kind of happen. And so I want to know, you know, the origin of the real life things that were going on there.

Gemma Files 14:16

Okay, so one of them was fine. We had some problems there. But they were all about, you know, the fact that he wasn't supposed to be renting an Airbnb out of a condo that he was that he wasn't living in. And, you know, people would eventually I had to shut that one down because people pulled on us all the time. To the condo board, but but the other one nobody had ever lived in there. And I don't think that there were there that many people living in the building generally. So yeah, there was a lot of traffic in and out of the puppet motel. I swear to God, it was done. decorated exactly like that. The inside of the bathroom was black, even the marble was black, you know, everything was black and gray. And you looked out the window, and all you saw was the interior courtyard, which was made of concrete. And the light was always very strange, and there was a tone in the room, often you would feel like you lost time, and all the bulbs would blow off, you'd have to, you'd always, you know, you'd come in, turn on the lights, the bulbs would blow, you'd have to go round, you know, with like a bag of bulbs. Like what the fuck was going on? Nobody, nobody knew. And so, you know, no one ever really complained about it, which surprised me, although at least one bunch of people, I think, only went there to drink. And we're out for most a drink and watch sports. But I would never stay in that place ever, you know, I couldn't see myself wanting to be more be there for longer than it took for me to change all the sheets, and do the laundry. And, you know, run the vacuum cleaner, and get the fuck out of there. And with and make sure that I had my phone set as an alarm to me, so that I didn't end up staying in there longer than I had to. So even after that thing that happened, even even after that experience, I was like, I have to use this, I have to use this somehow. And I began thinking about the idea of a place being haunted somehow even though it was, you know, freshly built, and nobody had lived there. And nobody had died there. And you know, it's like, nothing terrible and ever. It's just wrong. It's just like, you know, it's like this. It's like, you know, Lovecraftian some kind of angle problem in there. And it's just touching on something. So what's the worst thing that could happen? If you were managing a place like that? You would have to stay in it? Yeah. So I removed my husband from the, you know, from the picture, I make it a, you know, unreliable boyfriend. And, and I make it so the main character has to go and live in the puppet motel. And at that point, you know, the worst thing that can happen to you is that you have to go to the place that you don't want to go and you have to stay there long enough for whatever it is that you think might happen to happen. And yeah, I had a lot of fun writing that story, because it was just like, it was it was this gleeful sense of, you know, it's like, whoa, what's the worst thing that you can see? Yeah, so the wall. Oh, that's bad. That's really bad. Okay, these days, I would sketch that thing. Yeah, but yeah, yeah, I had a lot of fun writing that. And then the response to so positive, you know, just people going, you know, oh, my god, that scared the crap out of me. Yeah. Yeah. The thing with the non Euclidean geometry of the floor, I actually took from another apartment that I stayed in New York once, where it literally made you feel queasy, to be in that room. And it took me a while to figure out why. And then I was like, oh, everything is off. Yeah. If I had a marble, it would zigzag down the floor. If I stuck it at one. I wouldn't even have to, you know, I can just let it go and fuck it probably because, you know, it was an old tenement apartment. And I think it had been sinking for quite a while. But, man, yeah, to have that feeling when you walk into a new apartment and have an apartment where it's like, everything should be fine. Everything is shiny and new except for the dust and the weird. Shadows and what's just the bathroom light never work. So you have to take a shower in the dark.

Michael David Wilson 19:37

Yeah. You know, you've mentioned this, Airbnb. You've mentioned the New York place. In case there's something that you're missing. I want to know what the weird is still most unnerving place you've ever stayed at or experienced is.

Gemma Files 19:55

Oh, okay. All right. Well, when I was in High school I went to I went to a college where they were performing a play that I had written called The Revenant. And I had to stay overnight. It was like dead winter, Ontario, Northern Ontario. And I had to stay overnight at a place that they called the squid house, which was entirely inhabited by physics students. And I had never been in a place where nobody lived but dudes before. And it was dirty in ways that I had never encountered before in my life. Like, if you went into the bathroom, there was a ring of beard and shaving cream stuck to the inside of the sink. Yeah, I'm not going to talk about the toilet because it was horrifying. Yeah, there was just a strange combination of smells, nothing seemed to work particularly well, nobody cared. And in front of the TV, there was a coffee cup that somebody had left. And it was on its side, on top of a stain, a coffee stain. And it obviously been there for a very long time. And because the stain was totally dry, and the inside of the coffee cup was totally dry. So I'm sleeping downstairs. And you know, I don't know any of these guys. I have no idea what they're like, at all. Because, you know, you'd hear people moving around, but nobody ever came downstairs. So I'm downstairs. Ouch. You know, so I'm sleeping on this couch. And there was something wrong with the lock on the front door. And it was snowing. And the wind would blow the front door open, and snow would start to come and get up. As I was trying to sleep, I'd have to get up out here this click. I almost need sleep. And I'd hear this click and I'd have to get up and go over and shuts the door in such a way that it wouldn't immediately open again. And yeah, you know, so I basically got about two hours sleep I think slept with all my clothes on and my boots on this couch. With one year cocked constantly for the tornado, cold snowy wind to start blowing over me with this constant thought of you know, what if some guy comes down in the middle of the night, some physics guy, some squid, who's you know, it's like, oh, there was a woman that my house, you know, comes down and does something to me. And I'm sorry, I realized that insults all physics students everywhere, but like, even even to just like wake up and have somebody like standing eating cereal or something. Yeah. You know, going like why didn't she take her boots off? Yeah, that was that was the creepiest place I've ever been. Is that creepy in the right way? I don't know. I mean, I think you actually could do something with that. I'm glad you think of that.

Michael David Wilson 23:42

Even just the image of like waking up and it's kind of almost snowing inside and then there's just a guy or a person standing over me silently, slowly eating cornflakes. That is so terrifying.

Gemma Files 24:02

Yes, you know it and it was one of those one of those nights that just seems to go on forever. And you really feel like because you know, because the because it was snowing all the time. The light was It was winter. The light was very weird anyways, so you know, even during the day, you you'd be sort of like Is it morning? Is it afternoon? Is the sun going down? Or coming up? I can't tell.

Michael David Wilson 24:28

Anyways. Yeah, yeah. I totally

Gemma Files 24:31

fucked up my plate. But yeah. And they didn't even put my name on the program. They presented it as though you know, you've heard of a you've heard of a movie that directs itself. It presented it as though this was played the road itself.

Michael David Wilson 24:49

Yeah. Yeah. That is a continuing problem of right as not being fully credited for what they do. I wrote or for the original source material that is something that has come up numerous times as

Gemma Files 25:07

I guess you should expect it more often when you're 17 or whatever,

Michael David Wilson 25:12

right? Yeah, yeah. But no, I'm, I kinda hope that you do something with you know, this stay in his place when the door opens and the snow comes in and you've got all these, like people that live in the house too, but you never really see them you never

Gemma Files 25:34

see. I'm Yeah, absolutely. It's very it's very Akemon really, when you think about it, that weird liminal space, you're stuck inside somebody else's hours. How did you get there? Can you leave? Is it possible? Right. It's like the endless endless journey, right?

Bob Pastorella 25:52

Yeah, as soon as you said that. I was like, Yeah, that's definitely Probert Aikman.

Gemma Files 25:56

That's true. It's absolutely true. I never think of myself in context with Aikman but I was reading Linda you records most recent collection and she can do Aikman like chef's kiss. It's, she's she's got that thing. She's got that particular knack of writing strange stories, not just weird stories. But ya know, those those things that sort of feel like, Is this a dream? Am I here? What's Where are we going with this? I'm, I'm fascinated. And I am definitely excited and terrified as the old meme goes.

Michael David Wilson 26:40

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. No. Yeah, I guess if you were to indulge this story, friend as well, if you could come up with a reason why the protagonist had to stay in the house for an extended period of time, because they're not sleeping properly, that gonna get more and more insane. They might start having hallucinations as well, because of the sleep deprivation through like, like, I guess with the snow, it's like, just turn it into some crazy snowstorm. So then there's a reason why they can't possibly leave.

Gemma Files 27:19

Yeah, absolutely. You know, the trains are frozen. The you know, you the roads are blocked. You know, you can't get out on Yeah, and of course, because the protagonists would be me. I can't drive. So. It's like, this, this, this always adds a weird sort of horror to traveling generally. Because it's like, I got I get in a car. Somebody drives me somewhere. And if they leave, I'm screwed. It's like, I'm gonna Yeah, I'm gonna walk back from you know, again, an aqua I'm gonna walk back from over to here. Yeah, some some part of some part of Ontario that I made up, you know, I'm gonna be, you know, stopping at a, at a store on the in Lake of the North District. And going, Oh, my God, do you have a phone? No, yeah, we took those out. But, anyway, yeah, there's always some sort of weird. Yeah, I don't know, Toronto's Toronto's a bit like that. Definitely the part of Toronto that I live in, because we live right downtown. And we're almost, you know, often my mom will want to walk down to the lake shore. And the entire lake shore is was constructed by laying stone and concrete out into the lake. So, that's the, you know, I live in, I live in the place that's going to disappear. When the leg starts to rise. People will be, you know, boating out out the front door. And there's and there's this sort of tenuousness about, particularly now, with the pandemic. You know, a lot of places have just shut and you walk by a place and you're like, wasn't that open like a week? Or a month ago or maybe it was a year ago? Shit. I haven't been out as much as I usually am. Birds you've never seen before suddenly showing up in the lake. It's like, wow, those were what the hell are those? Oh, apparently they come from the Arctic. Why? Everything seems sort of low grade liminal and low grade. No slippy slidey. flecked and the layers of oddity, just sort of press down and press down until you're looking through them like a strange, funnel old piece of old glass from, you know, like the Victorian era. Right? All right, a window made of bottles. Bottle bottoms.

Michael David Wilson 30:28

See, now I'm imagining you kind of looking out onto the lake and you just see, there's a house kind of just moving. And you know exactly where I'm gonna segue now into come closer. Okay, come closer. Yes, yeah. And I was,

Gemma Files 30:46

again, I was very surprised at how people took to come closer. And, and once more, this was based on real events. Two real events. The first one was that I was walking past a house, which was completely covered in vines, and completely dilapidated, and completely, you know, just looked like, you couldn't understand why it was still there. Like it was being held up by trees. Has nobody thought to rid themselves of this terrible house. But, but the weird part was that it was right next to the University of Toronto. So it's like over here, nice, neat, clean, brutalist architecture, you know, it's like from the 70s, at the absolute most, and over here, Vine house. And so about the week after, and I took a picture of it. Because it was just so work. And about the week after I saw the house, I was walking down one of the streets, near where I live, and following a path that my family and I used to take to go to the Cooper CU, y, on Cherry Street, and which we haven't done for a long time, because it's endemic. And I thought, you know, what have you really weird would be if that house was on this street. If I was like, I looked across the street, and I went, what is that house, I took a picture. Every time I walk down the street, the house was getting closer, it was just moving along the street. And again, this is like an inversion of the same way that the puppet motel is like an inversion of the old model of the haunted house. So it becomes you know, haunted apartment haunted place without history, new place? And what is it haunted by it's not haunted by ghosts per se. This is like an inversion of the haunted house model, where it's the house itself that is pursuing you. It's the house itself that is haunting you. And eventually, what can possibly happen, except the house will engulf the place that you live in. And you will wake up inside the house. Yeah. And there's also that idea that that I think runs through a lot of my stories, that if you notice something, it will notice you. Yeah, the very act of the very act of observing. Create creates a sort of connection between you and the thing that you observe the Act of, you know, going well, that's a little strange. Creates the strangeness. So yeah, you know, but it was it was fun. It was it came out really fast. Which was, which is always nice. Because sometimes I think I'm a very slow writer. Right. And other people are like, fuck you talking about written like, 150 short stories. I'm like, over over 30 years. But But still, you know, I think every writer wants to write faster. Mm hmm. And, you know, to get the idea and then the story just craps itself out, you know, Tommyknockers style, you know, it's like you go to you go to sleep with something on your head. And in the morning, you wake up and there's a book there. Yeah. Oh, this is brilliant. Fuck. It's like one day wrote it. But, but yeah, it came out really fast. And that final thing of waking up inside the house that was nightmarish in a way that actually seemed like it could have been a nightmare like that I had. So that's always happy, happy making thing for me. Yeah, sounds odd, but it's true. That's like, that's gonna scare people.

Michael David Wilson 35:07

Yeah. I mean, on, on that note, have you ever written something can in writing get at times, perhaps that kind of time between, you know, sleep and consciousness where there's part of you? That's like, Wait, was that a story? Was that real? Did that actually happen to me? And I wonder, too, and this is, this is going in a somewhat interesting direction. But do you think, and I asked Jonathan, gents about this, too, that in creating something in writing fiction, do we make some of these realities kind of real? Do we make the fictitious part of reality on some level?

Gemma Files 35:57

You know, it's a good question. I do think that, I do think that, you know, I guess I'm a fan of the of the multiverse theory, the idea that if you know, whatever you think of, can possibly be in some other version of reality that, you know, the minute that something is contemplated, it sort of creates itself in, in an alternate time, slash space space. But But what I will say is that, I think that that AI idea of dreaming awake is very precious when you're writing horror. I see it all the time. And Brian Evans sins. work where you just like, I don't know where you got that from? I have no idea. And it's beautiful. You know? Yeah, we're great. You're just like, oh, okay, so, so you have to go into the space suit and go through the spacesuit and ended up in a completely different spaceship. And that's the only way to get out of this spaceship. Okay. I swear to God, he must have like a pet like a pad by his bedside where he's just like, you know, he's almost asleep, and writing. But one of the things that I will point out is that sleep hygiene. Yes. Is not only about insomnia, it was written during a period where I was super insomniac. And almost everything that was happening in the story was happening to me. And to the extent that about a year after I wrote that story, I was looking through my stuff that was on my, on my hard drive on my desktop, and, and I was like, sleep hygiene. Is this mine? Yeah. Did I write this? Oh, fuck yes, I did like the story. I wrote it when I was severely sleep deprived. I don't remember anything.

Michael David Wilson 38:19

That was your Tommyknockers moment.

Gemma Files 38:23

It was my tummy knockers moment. But you know, I remember right again? Yes. Like after I thought about it. For a while. I was like, oh, yeah, I do remember writing that. You know, it was one of those. Again, it's sort of like Jemmott, didn't I ask you for a short story? Oh, shit. You did? Gotta

Michael David Wilson 38:45

put something together. Yeah, yeah.

Gemma Files 38:50

Similarly, the church in the mountains. For years and years and years, I have had this memory of watching a movie that involves a girl coming home to her to her weird aunt's house, which is also like a church. And, you know, her mother has died and she's come to get her inheritance. And that, you know, her back breaks open and something comes out. Yeah. And I, you know, I know, I saw this film, and I've described it to a bunch of people. And they'd been like, oh, that's sort of sounds like x or if that sort of sounds like why and I'll check out X or Y and I'm still not sure which, which one? Which one of these? It was if it was any of them, or if it was in nightmare that I had at one point. Yeah. When I was asked to, you know, to write us a story about, you know, a cursed or haunted film. I, that's where I went. I was like, Yeah, all right, well, pursue this. Let's pursue this to the end. Let's go as far as we can go. Let's do that Cronenberg game thing. Yeah. All the way all the way through it to the end. Yeah, let video drone takeover crop out a piece of new flesh. got eyes everywhere. Are those fingernails?

Michael David Wilson 40:27

And so dangerous and dangerous tactic to let videoed your own takeover. This is not anything that people listening can sue us for. We are not responsible. This is purely anecdotal.

Gemma Files 40:45

Yeah, exactly. You know, if you start hearing the signal, that's not my not my. Yeah. Your your personal, your personal video drums stream, like mud wall that looks wet and maybe electrified. So, yeah, I've been so happy with this collection. And I'm really, really glad that you guys liked it, too. And that everybody did.

Michael David Wilson 41:15

Yeah. And I mean, to be with grim scribe as well. I mean, John Padgett this. It just feels like the it is the perfect match. You know, it's got the existential ism, it's got the absolute on ease, you know, that there is something LIGETY about it, if, I guess in just approach in terms of the way in which the world is viewed, if that makes sense. I mean, it No, I

Gemma Files 41:52

think I think that's true. I mean, I know when I had to do a story for legati tribute. I, at first, I thought, how can I possibly do this? Because his language is so specific. And the way the way that archers historys very, very difficult to replicate. And then I was like, Gemma, just look, you know, look for an idea that has legati in themes that maybe you're already working on, you'd be noodling around with and then immediately, it fell into place. And I, you know, I think he and I do share a lot of a lot of attitudes, not all at it, you know, I'm not, I'm not exactly, you know, an anti needleless. Yeah, I did have a kid. So it's hard to do that, you know, and live with yourself. I think if if you're an anti natal list, right. You know, but there is this part of me that is just like, well, how can how can we debate that the life that we know and the, the domestic details of that life are a very thin scrim over a scream of existential agony? Hmm. It's hard to debate that. Yeah. Yeah. You know, it's like, we can forget it. And we can ignore it. And we can try to live with it. You know, but we are, we are animals, you know, that we're going to die. Yeah. And, you know, that's, that's kind of what we measure. maturity, by, I think, is the moment that you realize that. Yeah, everything's a little impermanent. Yeah. She's smiling widely.

Michael David Wilson 43:46

Do you remember in the moment when you came to that realization?

Gemma Files 43:52

Yeah. Yeah, I do. I remember the first moment. And it was. It was when I read Robinson Crusoe. And I was pretty young, I think. I think I might have been seven. And, you know, it's the kind of household that we were. But yeah, I was reading through Robinson Crusoe. And we get to the end of the chapter where he swims back to the boat, and he takes everything that he can off of it. And many look at what he had brought. And he thought that with a little work, he could live comfortably on this island for the rest of his life. And at that moment, I thought, Yeah, but what then? Yeah, yeah. You know, that's, that's the, that's when things start to, that's when things start to percolate. You know, when when you're like, oh, what that okay, so eternity. But what that. Yeah. So your whole life, but what then? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I guess it's the slightly older child's version. But why? You know, and we were, you know, it's like, I knew that the sky was blue over black pretty early on, because my parents took me to the planetarium. I knew that there were bones inside of the body pretty early on, because my parents took me to the museum. You know, I knew that people died because my dad was interested in history and archaeology. And so was I. And if people don't die, then how did how are they buried? Why would you bury them? And how do they have tombs, etc. And, you know, so, but there's that moment where it clarifies and you're like, but not me. Yeah. And then you're like, you, too. You too.

Michael David Wilson 46:00

Yeah. But what then? Yeah, I remember.

Gemma Files 46:04

So yes. The big black hole that we orbit is the center of in that endlessness our end. And increasingly, I guess it's the center of everything I do. But I I tried to make it a good ride. I tried to make it enjoyable. Yeah, tell you some fun stuff, you know. Yeah, you know, tell you some fun stuff. Maybe there's maybe there's some hearts, whatever going on, you know, fun characters. But yeah, I'm really I'm really happy where I am right now, which is, which is really pleasant. You know? And I don't, it's you there anything else that you want to ask?

Michael David Wilson 46:51

Well, I'm almost terrified to ask this. And this could say more taneous Lee be an impossible question. To answer. And at the same time, could be something that goes on forever. But I mean, I'm wondering what your own personal beliefs in terms of what actually happens after death, because there seem to be like a number of different things going on in terms of what you're saying and occurs? Like, I mean, yeah, please.

Gemma Files 47:30

I mean, we, I think we talked about this at one point. Yeah. And basically, how I like to think about it is, you know, a bit like, a bit like, that endless monologue at the end of God, but what is called? Anyways, the point being that I like to think that we're energy that is, briefly given form. And that while you're in flesh, you love people, and you get love from people, you try to be kind, you know, as I get older, I realized that anger really is an energy, and it's an expenditure that I'm not prepared to give any more. It's not practical for me. You know, so I, I try to be, I try to be kind because it's easier than being hateful and hurtful. I think when you damage other people, you damage yourself, in a lot of ways. You hold a lot of a lot of pain, and a lot of, well, not evil, but you know, you know what I mean? It's like it's kind of a line and, and you. You make yourself less sensitive, you make yourself, you think you're making yourself strong, but you're actually just making yourself numb. And so I think that, that to some degree is the is the lesson of being alive. The lesson of being alive is to try and be kind and to live with other people and to not damage other people and to not be damaged by other people and to love other people and to be loved by other people and to help other people and be helped by other people. But the fact is that we all face that last moment alone. And at that point, I think the best thing to think about it is, you know, Dan Cummins, the podcaster slash comic says Is that he believes in mystery. That, you know, just Nobody knows, nobody can know. And so why not look forward to it? Why not, you know, be like, well, it might be good might be great, you know. And if it's not, you're not going to know. Either you go to sleep or you open your eyes on something bigger and stranger and more amazing than anything that human life can offer. So yeah, that's like, that's the way that I try to think about it. And then I, you know, then it's like, five o'clock in the morning, and I haven't slept all night. And I'm like, I'm gonna die.

Michael David Wilson 50:46


Gemma Files 50:47

yeah. But yes, I hope that we're that. It's that we're energy that is reintegrated with a larger stream of energy. And suddenly you are like Dr. Deborah tutto. everywhere at once. Yeah, I think once. Everyone at once, and then you stop worrying about it.

Michael David Wilson 51:09

Yeah. And I I know that we had previously spoke about it briefly. But I did think you know, number one, I'm knowledge and thoughts constantly evolving. And it's been a number of years. Oh, absolutely. Yeah. You know, what, what are your thoughts now?

Gemma Files 51:27

And we went through a whole pandemic? Yeah. Yeah, last time we spoke, I think I just come off of a panic attack the day before? And, yeah, you know, it's like, but like I said, I just feel that whatever we're in, we're in it. And to some degree, what we're in is our lives. Yeah, we, we know that. You know, that everyone's life is a soft apocalypse. You know, it's like, it's a process of losing things. It's a process of, you know, your body breaking down. It's a process of, you know, it's it's a process of learning things that you don't want to learn. And, and then it ends. Yeah. slow or fast, sooner or later. And, yeah. And in the meantime, write some more. Make you feel better? Or worse? Who knows? But it's the only thing that I can use to I keep on Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 52:34

Yeah. Well, thank you so much for joining us. And congratulations, again to you. And in that endlessness, our end on short story collection of the year.

Gemma Files 52:50

Thank you very much for having me. And I am so so grateful. And happy to receive this honor, because it is an honor. Should I mention some some of the stuff that's happening right now, I have another collection coming out with grim scribe in October, probably. Here, I've got a Oh, you got a new collection out right now. called Dark is better from trip Adagio. Both of those follow my usual stupid model of, you know, these are stories that have already been published somewhere. But a lot of them have been published in places that people might not have seen the stories. So bringing them all together is is a fun thing to do. Dark is better contains each thing I show you as a piece of my death, for example. But it also has a lot of similarly creepy urban stuff from many other different places, many of which might be a little more obscure. And, and as you mentioned, I have a podcast called no darkness, but ours, in which I and Simon Bestwick the brilliant, the brilliant Simon Bestwick and very fun. Simon Bestwick Yeah, we interview people. Most recently, we interviewed Paul Ashe that isn't up yet. But our interview with with Linda you record is continuing I think the first part of that is up now. And we interview people and we also talk about various types of horror. And it's really fun to write to buds.

Michael David Wilson 54:56

Yeah. Oh yeah. We will put a link to that in the show notes and cool. I know from from Bob's reaction to we're both really looking forward to that new short story collection as well. And it's fantastic to to see each thing to show you is a piece of my def in a collection because that's such a bloody Yeah, no

Gemma Files 55:25

worries. I'm

Michael David Wilson 55:26

glad that's finally happening. Yeah, yeah,

Gemma Files 55:31

definitely it took it took a really long time, mainly because all I'll say is that it was with one publisher, and then it went to trip Adagio, and it just took a really long time to come out. But it's out. It's out. Yes. Oh, well for the Rams Stoker award for we're here to hurt each other. And man, if you if you if you guys haven't read that you should read it. And if you know and think about interviewing her because she is really cool, and really fun to talk.

Michael David Wilson 56:15

Well, congratulations once again to Gemma files, one of the best writers in the genre and a another richly deserved award. And if you would like to hear more Jama files on This Is Horror than we have recorded a number of episodes to refer. So do check out episode 163 164 and 165. For our conversations in 2017. And for our 2019 conversation, then please check out episodes 293 and 294. And now it is time to find out who won the anthology of the year. So here are the nominees. Last Contact edited by Max booth third, and Laurie Michelle. Professor charlatan Bardot's travel and psychology to the most fictional haunted buildings in the weird, wild world, edited by Eric da canard, the bad book edited by John F. de Taff. There is no death, there are no dead, edited by Aaron J. French. And just Landry. And when things get dark, edited by Ellen Datlow. Well, wow. Let's go over to the conversation with the winner right now. And the winner of the anthology of the year is when things get dark, edited by Ellen Datlow. Ella and congratulations.

Ellen Datlow 58:25

Thank you so much. I'm delighted. You know, this is like a It's really an honor. Thank you very much.

Michael David Wilson 58:32

Well, I wanted to begin by talking about how this anthology came to be.

Ellen Datlow 58:41

Okay, well, initially, I go to the the reader con every year, which is outside of Boston, it's in July, and they give the Shirley Jackson award there. And I'm on the advisory committee, which means I just recommend things as I read them for the years best. And because the Jacksons are given there, a lot of people talk about Jackson all the time. And it I don't remember if someone brought it up or what. But someone might have said, you know, why don't you do it a Jackson inspired anthology. And I thought, well, that would be interesting, but I'd have to get the blessing of the family and I don't want to deal with it. It's like, it's like it would be horrible, I would think. So I basically forgot about it. And then only like two months later was Worldcon and I think Glasgow was it a few years ago. And I was at a party with people from Titan. And George Sanderson and I would talk and we met for the first time and I probably it's something you actually shouldn't do, but it came up and it was alright. You didn't not supposed to pitch at parties. You really shouldn't pitch creditors. But somehow we started talking about you know, Oh, I'd love to do an anthology for you. I'd love to do a non theme anthology. It's like, oh, yeah, that's a great idea. Because that's what I always want to do a non theme anthology, although it's rare that I can choose to do them. And season one, let me bring it back to people. And they'll talk about and that was like in September. And at that time, I just think, Oh, good, I can do him. He's gonna buy a non theme anthology. And of course, that's not what happened. And over the course of discussion, well, we don't know if we want to do that. And out of the blue, he said, What about a Shirley Jackson is by it anthology. And I'm not exactly sure if there was some bicentennial. I mean, I don't know what, where they got that idea from. And at the time, I did not actually say that was Yeah, I had thought of that two months ago, but forgot about it. So anyway, it turned out that they wanted to do it. And I said, Only if I can get the blessing of the state. And couple of the at least one person, one of Shirley Jackson's children, what came to readercon a few times the daughter, and so I was able, I didn't get in contact with her. But I tried to find out well, who actually represents the estate? And I was put in touch with one of the sons. And I can't remember, I think Barry, but I'm not there to and I can't remember which one. And he was great. I mean, he said, Oh, I mean, I said, this is what I want to do. I wouldn't lose the writers, I would be interested in publishing. I don't know if I'll get them. How do you is that a what do you think? And he said, that sounds like a great idea. So I felt okay, I've got the blessing. I don't have to worry about them yelling at me, unless I hate the finished product, of course. So then I went back to Titan and said, Yeah, I really would like to do that. And so that's really how it came about. And I tried to think of writers, mostly a method of writers who I thought already write in the Jackson tone, or subject matter. And so some of those people I knew I wanted, like Liz hand and Kelly link, and some other people and other and other writers. I don't know how it came up, I kind of it would be a long shot. You know, for some of them. And I just said, you're at all interested in writing the story inspired by Jackson. But Jackson's work. I mean, I don't want no pastiches I don't want you to write I don't want Shirley Jackson to be a character. I just want you know, tonally and maybe theme thematically, and I got a bunch of really great stories. And interestingly, I remember one writer said, I don't I am not really I don't really like Jackson. Okay. I mean, it really surprised me. I've never heard of anyone who said I hate to throw. I mean, she didn't say she hated her. But she just had no interest in writing about, you know, it's like, okay, that's really a shock. But alright. So that's basically how it came about. And, you know, some of the stories very Jackson esque. I don't know if that's a correct expression. And then some don't necessarily feel like it. I mean, I thought they most of them did. And once in a while, you know, some critics of last night, a Jackson story at all. It's like, Well, tough luck. Like, I'm sorry, did you like the story? That's what happened in anthologies. I mean, you both I mean, Michael, you've edited anthologies, haven't you? Yeah, Ringer is really like, it may not. If I can justify it fitting the theme I will fit it in. If I really love the story, if I can justify it to myself, and express that justification in public, then I'll take the story. You know, yeah. And hope that you know, and hope people won't care because it's a really good story.

Michael David Wilson 1:03:37

Right? Yeah. Yeah. And there is such an eclectic mix. Obviously, you know, you've mentioned some that I guess people would almost expect like less hand and Kelly link. But for me, one of the standouts and I haven't seen this mentioned a lot in various reviews or press, but it's actually Josh Malerman special meal. And that's Hillary has just stayed with me, and haunted me. And, you know, I'm reluctant to tell people that I know, math, but I don't think I better tell anyone and this idea of this dystopian world where if you know, math, you know, you're gonna be taken away. And it's just so trippy and surreal. And I'm, I haven't spoken to Josh about it. I'm assuming that I, he might have taken some substances to have come up with this, because it's just so far out there. But

Ellen Datlow 1:04:43

it was really excellent. And it felt like a Jackson story. And the thing is, I mean, it's ironic that you feel about math, but math has been my terror. I mean, I'm always I'm terrified of math. I hate math. I used to have nightmares about math, and failing it which I never do. But I didn't do great. Math has always been. I mean, I can do arithmetic. And that's it. I mean, I can add, I can add really well, and sometimes even in my head, but not greatly, you know, and multiplication, but division and subtraction. I'm okay. But anything beyond that algebra, like I took, I didn't take calculus, I took trigonometry. It's horrible. I hated them. I mean, they were like, Are you fucking excuse me? Are you kidding me? It's like, Why do I have to do this? I'll never use it again. It's true. I've never used it again. But I'm terrified of math. And that really didn't. It didn't have any effect on me reading the story. Interestingly, I mean, looking back at it, but I think the story is, is very Jackson esque. I mean, if anything, it's almost like the lottery. For real well. And yeah, I think it's a very good story. Very strong story. And, and pretty terrifying, I would think. Yeah, to some people.

Michael David Wilson 1:05:56

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I mean, I think I think the fact that the subject matter, or the thing that you're not allowed to know is math definitely elevates it. Because there's so many, you know, ways that you can use math in your life. But I think, really just the fact that it's something too, you know, that's forbidden, you could have substituted math for something else, and it would still be terrifying. Just being like, well, I know this, but I have to pretend that I don't know it. And I love to these just,

Ellen Datlow 1:06:33

it's not even as simple as math. It's using numbers.

Michael David Wilson 1:06:38

Yeah. Yeah. It's

Ellen Datlow 1:06:38

like, yeah. It's what math represents in the story. As far as you can't even you can't count. If you count, you can be taken away. You know, it's like, it's so many aspects of mathematics that are illegal in this world.

Michael David Wilson 1:06:57

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, as you say, even acknowledging that you know, a number, because it goes so early on, it's like, how old are you? You better not know that you better not have an answer for that. That is a number.

Ellen Datlow 1:07:13

Like, letter A, and anything you write, or, you know, just something that's so integral to the human mind. I mean, letter, whatever, a letter in any other country and other you know, I mean, a is not the same as well, but but not being able to lead a specific letter. Yeah. In speaking or in your, we can do it in speaking. But in writing, shall we say it slightly easier? You know, I don't think he could have avoided using a letter in length when you're actually talking. But yeah, I mean, it's a really terrifying story. I mean, yeah, I should ask. I never did ask Josh. Oh, where did that come from? And are you afraid of math?

Michael David Wilson 1:07:57

Yeah. Yeah. We've got him returning to the show in June. So I'll have to keep that on the back pocket. And we meet, we need to clear this up. Yeah. But I mean, you said when you setting out and you were commissioning these stories, you said you know, you didn't want pastiche is you didn't want to share Lee Jackson, as a character. So did you actually write a load of kind of roles in terms of what you didn't want to see? And then present that to the contributors?

Ellen Datlow 1:08:34

I don't think so. I mean, I'd have to go and look at look back at my guidelines. But I mean, usually I'm pretty, unless there's something I know I don't want. I mean, like when I did the poll anthology, I knew I want in that particular instance. People were influenced by post stories, and I wanted them on and his novels and his even someone Glenn Hertzberg wrote a story about a nonfiction article he wrote as a journalist, and I told the writers there that you have to tell me what you're writing about, because I don't want too many of this and too many of that. And like three people wrote how Celestra stories, but they were completely different. And I knew they would be because the voices in Jackson, I did not. I don't think there are not that I don't think that many people know all her work that they would say, oh, yeah, I'm gonna write and also her work is not well known enough to say, well, I'm going to write a lottery only maybe a couple of stories. I'm going to write a lottery type story. I'm going to write a story like an ordinary do with peanuts, you know, in that, in the case of that anthology, it's not as specific and I didn't ask for that. I didn't want people to tell me what they were writing about. But it was more it's like I want try to capture her tone in here, you know, I think they would not many strictures, as far as well just, you know, I don't want to as a character. And I don't want you to slavishly imitate I don't want you to emit paid her. Yeah, you know, there are more stories that felt closer to her work than others. And by people who you'd be shocked, Hawaii surprised wrote like Richard Kadri story. He's not known for his kind of settled domestic weird stuff. Yeah. And that's, you know, and he wrote this weird story that was very Jackson esque. You know? So? Yeah, yeah. I mean, it was a surprise. I mean, it's always, you know, is this gonna work? And is this writer going to be able to pull it off? You know, I mean, doing any anthology, I have to be ready to turn down stories, I don't think works in biology. But I was some really interesting stuff.

Michael David Wilson 1:10:45

Yeah. So. And, I mean, how, both for this and for anthologies in general. But how do you decide who to contact for stories? Because because, you know, so many more talented writers than there will ever be space in the anthology

Ellen Datlow 1:11:05

want to be in every anthology? And it's like, you can't be in everything. I'm sorry. You know, it's like, no, I can't ask everything I want to get to for writers, you know, and I mean, but there are a few writers who I will go to, because I know they write really interesting work. You know, Stephen Graham Jones, if I can, John Lang and Jeff Ford, Laird Barron wrote up. I mean, I think one of the best horror stories he's written in years, tiptoe to me was like, Really, amazingly creepy. But I do also try to get bring in new writers, people I haven't worked with very much. And that's always taking a chance, you know, and they're more likely to be turned down because I am taking a chance because the people who I work with regularly, even though they don't always hit homeruns. I mean, you know, once in a while, I get a story from someone who I really liked, who I've worked with before. And like this really doesn't work for the anthology, or I really am. It's rare. They say, this is a terrible story. I will say that usually, although there's only There's one story, I only said that to one person about one story once. I said I hate the story. That's terrible. Are you kidding me? And I can't really did with it. But But I, you know, I've tried to think what I've read by different writers who had the same a possible affinity for the theme, you know, and I also try, you know, serendipity, someone mentioned something that somebody else, or they read a story that they or they heard a story of read or something that they were a new writer who I think that person could do that. And I'll say, Okay, do one up, I'll get in touch with them and see, some of them. I'm always hoping to get newer writers. And, you know, I mean that I mean, that's what the year's best is really good for. Yeah, I mean, my best heart was more open than any other anthology I do. You know, and every year I kind of do a stat thing about, well, let's say there are six women and eight men or whatever. And then there are these people from these countries. And I also say these never published before. There are like eight people here, eight people who have never published before and maybe never even heard of before. Usually, I've may have heard their names. But once in a while, no. And it's really that's the real joy. I just, it's kind of the discovering of someone who's out there who you weren't aware of. And from that, I may ask someone to write a story in original story for me, but again, it's I mean, that's it, you're taking a chance. And how many if I'm doing a theme anthology, how many themes stories do I want to see that don't work, and will be around floating around the ether? Right, which is partly due open calls. And also partly I don't have the time to read hundreds of manuscripts, in addition to what I read for the year as best so. Yeah, so yeah, I mean, it's kind of working out who I think could write this story. And then once in a while, you know, I mean, like Delia Sherman wrote a post or I'd never thought she was in would be interested. Thing was called the Red piano. And it was like, we were friendly. So somehow it came up and she said, I could do a post I said, you can. It's like, really? You're interested in a poster, right? Because she mostly writes fantasy. And not very often dark fantasy, but she wrote a horror story. And as I'm sure she said, I don't read it write horror. It's like Yes, you did you read a horror story from me. Do you remember? Yeah, yeah. So once you get something that's totally unexpected from someone who you wouldn't expect it from, you know, and like, in this case, the Richard Kennedy story and when things get dark, and I got a very short story from John Lang and was extremely unusual because his stuff is usually late, usually long and they say it's usually enough Alice, he's always late.

Michael David Wilson 1:15:03

Yeah, yeah.

Ellen Datlow 1:15:05

Really? Words or something. It's like what?

Michael David Wilson 1:15:10

Like, John, are you feeling okay? Because, you know, normally his short stories. It's like he's got to he's got long, short stories and longer short stories. That's pretty much.

Ellen Datlow 1:15:23

Yep. That was kind of a shock. Now I'm waiting for a story from him now, in fact,

Michael David Wilson 1:15:28

all right, yeah. Yeah. Well, we've the writer who you told them that you hate the story

Ellen Datlow 1:15:37

was just for you kind of laughed. I mean, I mean, I have writers who I've turned down a story I bought. Some writers as they get old get off, get really not as Cognizant as they should be. Really elderly. And I have one writer, I had one writer who I bought a lot of her stories. I bought them from me, I bought them for anthologies. And then I didn't even turn down and I got a story that I didn't even turn down. But I wanted her to revise. And she like, went off to me. You hate all my stories, you hate everything. It's like, and I'm thinking, Are you nuts? I bought, like, all your stories, you know, it's like, and I want to buy this story. You just have to fix it, please. So I mean, usually, some writers are really paranoid. Okay. No matter what, no matter how many stories you bought from them. I mean, in the case of Jeff, it was a story that he wrote, I don't remember what it was. I mean, he did eventually publish it. And we joke about it. And I told him, I said, that stinks. It's horrible. And I felt, I guess comfortable enough with him to tell him that. I mean, I can't imagine. I can't imagine telling that to anyone else except Jeff. Because, you know, because I know he would. I don't think he would take it badly. Yeah, and most of these stories I love. Oh, but I would never say that to most writers. Even the ones I've published regular because I know they're paranoid. And then, you know, they'll, they'll be really depressed and they'll get really angry and bitter. And so, and also, it's cruel. You know, I mean, with Jeff, I knew that he knew that. I love most of his work. So but what narrowly I wouldn't be it to me, it's rude to say this story stinks. Exactly. If I read I don't think I would say anybody else. Oh, then if Jeff comes on, if he sees this, this video cast, you know, we can discuss it after the fact that I told him it stunk.

Michael David Wilson 1:17:41

Yeah, yeah.

Ellen Datlow 1:17:42

Well ask him what his reaction was.

Michael David Wilson 1:17:46

Ya know, I think you need a pretty special relationship and friendship with, you know, the editor to be able to have that. I think the only person who I could imagine, you know, just blankly being able to tell me that is max boof of ghoulish books, because me and him have such a good friendship that if he was like, yeah, that story fucking sucked. It's like, cool. I mean,

Ellen Datlow 1:18:18

did not work on any level? Yeah, yeah. And then it can also say, Well, I love that story. I love the voice. And you know, that's really cool. You know? And that's makes up. Yeah, I mean,

Michael David Wilson 1:18:30

yeah, yeah.

Ellen Datlow 1:18:32

I mean, when I'm editing someone who's new, I mean, who have not worked with before, when I've worked with someone a long time. I'm usually a little more blunt in my edit when I do my line edit or when I when I do the substantive. And ask question is like, I don't understand what the hell's going on. Can you please tell me and I can say that to someone more, but I have to be more polite about it. Yeah. But some are gentle. And I was just talking to actually talise who was visiting me analyzer from Blokus. That new sometime, at least once it's happened, a new writer, I, I said, you know, I asked him one, two questions, and they answered the questions. I said, Yeah, but he's supposed to fix it. Yeah, question. Yeah, just not. Okay. Now, will you put that in the manuscript, please? I mean, they didn't understand that. I'm not asking us it's my own health. It's like, because it means that something is not working in this paragraph. You know, and I, that was the first time I think, maybe the only time I came across that, that I assumed the writer would understand. If I'm answering these questions, it means that I want something done about them. Yeah. Okay. That's what it means. It's like, well, it's not on the page, please. Can you fix it? Yeah. So I mean, editing. You know, it's an ongoing thing that I learned all the time. I mean, I've been doing it a long time. I love doing it. I love working with you authors. And some writers are harder to work with than others. And some are deliberately harder to work with. I think I mean, friends. I mean, when I worked with Ed Bryant, he would like challenge me. Why do you think why don't you like that? Why doesn't that work? I mean, he was like, What's wrong with it playing? Oh, God, I have to actually articulate why it doesn't work. A little more than I had. This is like, 40 years ago, 35 years ago. It's like, okay, why doesn't it work? It's like, glim. And I have to figure out how to express what's wrong with this sentence. You know, and I've had arguments, I had an argument with John Lang and about something and he was definitely wrong. I mean, I don't even remember what it was it was story. And there was a line in it. I said, I don't understand this line. I don't understand what this means. He said, I don't understand what, what's your problem? I mean, it's obvious. I said, No, it is not it. You know, it's like, if I don't understand what the hell's going on, you have to tell me, what does this sentence mean? Are you missing a word? You know, and I don't remember what happened, you know, I assume my god, I'm gonna fix it, whatever it was, you know, and then there are things that are more minor that you'll say that you'll have a discussion about. I said, Okay. Let's revisit this. If the copy editor catches this, or looks at it, or questions it, we can go back to this. And unless you have a really good copy, no, they're not gonna. I mean, a tour that I have a very good copy editor who I adore, who's wonderful. She's very picky. But she's also extremely good. You know, she catches things that the author and that I miss, you know, and I'm very grateful for that. But I think a lot of editors, apologies. They may not be as perfectionist, shall we say? Yeah, they don't ask enough questions. You don't catch enough things that I wish they would catch. that I missed?

Michael David Wilson 1:21:55

Yeah, yeah. Well, how do you think that Shirley Jackson is influencing us today? Both in literature? And indeed, in terms of the wider coat? Yeah. And life?

Ellen Datlow 1:22:09

Jean, I that's hard. Like, I've been on a couple of panels with her relat with her children. And with there was an Irish panel business expert in Ireland. I don't remember the Dublin university that we had kind of a symposium panel about that. And always let the other people answer that. I don't know. I mean, I think that a lot of her sensibility was embraced by modern, contemporary, quiet, harder writers. I mean, she was never Well, I was gonna say she was never gonna hit you over the head. But with a lottery, it's pretty obvious. It's pretty to me, it's like, it's not very subtle. You know, it's like, but I think a lot of her sensibility and her domestic stories, I mean, also her nonfiction, which was about her family, I think that permeated the society. And because a lot of things have been picked up in the last five years or so for movies and TV series. Her work is being revisited. I mean, I don't know. I don't know. She. It's not. It's hard, because it's not like Lovecraft where she crit where he created worlds and created mythos which is like, everyone takes part which is really permeated the whole society, for various reasons. I mean, her stuff is much more subtle than that. And she doesn't create worlds. She's, she's reflecting the world of the 50s and 60s, in some of her literature, you know, in her short stories, and reflecting her own life as the wife of an academic who was kind of an MA, I was gonna say something that I shouldn't if the kids listen who's not who has mixed reviews as a, as a husband, let's put it that way. Yeah. Yeah. And so I think the dynamic of the power dynamic of male and female and husband and family and taking in the mother taking care of the family. I mean, I guess I'm thinking more for nonfiction, her like raising demons and stuff, which are all based on her own life, but are also the opposite end of what Emma Bombeck under him, you probably don't even know who she was. Who was like saying how happy everything is and everything is funny in the house in with the housewife and the family and domestic city. And I think Jackson showed more of the dark side of what it is of what happens if a woman is not allowed to blossom and be who she should be, which should be able to be here So has that influenced people in the real world? I doubt it. I don't know. And may, you know I really honestly don't know more than than what I've just lathered about. What do you turn it on you? What do you think? Both of you are either of you?

Bob Pastorella 1:25:22

I was gonna say, you know, to me, that's a brilliant contrast between, you know, say, Erma Bombeck and Joey Jackson, where you have these, these two visions of what domestic life is, ya know, from?

Ellen Datlow 1:25:40

was bombed back riding around the same time or later.

Bob Pastorella 1:25:43

She really she was lighter.

Ellen Datlow 1:25:46

You know who she is? Michael, do you know what ever heard of her?

Michael David Wilson 1:25:50

I don't know who she is. I feel woefully ignorant. So I need to remedy that.

Ellen Datlow 1:25:56

Sorry. I'm one I mean, it was a comedic writer. About domestic situations, but I don't remember. I mean, I have I don't even know if I read her stories. But I just always got the feeling. They were pretty light hearted. And dark side.

Bob Pastorella 1:26:13

Yeah, I think if there was anything dark, she would twist it to make it funny.

Ellen Datlow 1:26:17

Right? And she wrote fiction, it might have all been nonfiction. Maybe I'm not even sure. So it's actually never even occurred to me. But it's kind of an interesting contrast of these two women writers writing about their domestic situations when feeling constrained by the family, which was surely and who I mean, bombax work is not going to be remembered in the same way. I mean, Jackson's work has has permeated society or has influenced writers bomb back. I mean, yes, there are people who write about funny things about family, but nothing like it's not I don't think she influenced anybody. So it's a little side thing.

Michael David Wilson 1:27:04

Yeah, well, I have to go away and read some bomb back. And then I can contribute to this discussion forever. a later date.

Ellen Datlow 1:27:15

You know, I had years ago, when I was first got into book publishing, I was in book publishing before I got into magazines. And I had a blast Carol Rinzler. And she wrote a book, Nobody said you had to wash the floors. I came into the exact title, but something like that. And she wrote funnily about being a working mother and dealing with this stuff. And it was a little more sharp than Irma Bombeck. Nobody ever said you had to. I have to look it up. I can't remember what the last write was. You know, but it was, you know, she wrote in that vein, it wasn't I mean, did well, but not as well as a bombax books.

Michael David Wilson 1:27:56

Well, I'm wondering, as we're talking about the anthology of the year, what do you think makes a good anthology? And what makes a good and solid? Yes.

Ellen Datlow 1:28:08

Well, the stories that make up the anthology are what make it successful as far as quality, successful as far as commerciality is like, in the, you know, you never know. I mean, I edited final cuts, which I thought was really good movie anthology, all originals. And it came out right around when COVID hit. And it didn't do well. I mean, it did terribly. It was for big publisher, I think it was for oh, it's for God, the imprint of Blumhouse imprint anchor, it was a trade paperback, it's got a great cover. And it's so like, crap. And it has really good stories in it. Why did it fail? Who knows? I mean, it could have been that it was COVID Right then. But you know, I don't think the quality is any less than lesser than any other anthology I've done. I do think it's the the variety of stories or the variety of voices I think it helps if you have all the stories are the same tone, you're gonna not it's gonna be boring. So I think it's important to put to get together enough writers with different voices to make an equality anthology to make people want to keep reading or read however they read, you know, it's like I will say, Yeah, I can put in a particular order doesn't mean people read in that order. As far as what makes a good ologists hopefully, reaching out to the writers whose work you really love. And you have to love the story. I mean, if I'm doing an anthology, I have to love the theme. And I said, I'd love to I love to non theme ologies but they're very hard to sell. I've only done like two or three in my life, aside from the best of the year, and so If I will only take do an anthology, a thematic anthology about a theme that I can stand to live with for like two years or more, because that's how long it's going to take to put the book together. If I'm bored with the theme, everyone else can be bored with the theme, you know, so that's important for me to do. I mean, I, I've never been people have said, Hey, would you want to do this? Like, No, it just doesn't sound that interesting to me. You know, and then there are ideas that I've had that can't sell for years. And eventually, maybe it'll sell. But I think, Oh, you have to learn to say, No, you have to reject things. If you're gonna be a good editor of any kind, whether an anthropologist or just a magazine editor, or any cut or book editor, you have to be able to say no, and say no to friends, even though you know, you may love them as friends. And you may love a lot of their writing. But you have to not take things that don't work. And it's really hard to do that with some people, some writers, you know, obviously, I can say no to Jeff. You know, it's hard. It's hard to turn down your friends, and new anthologist. You know, I see a lot of very a lot of anthologies, especially this year of last year, 2022, I still have a pile here, I have to go through on my to my left. And I don't know who the writers are. But they read to me, like, the person who was the editor just took anything that came in, and they didn't have any discernment. They didn't say no to anything, they just say, Sure, sir. You know. And then as any editor, you have to be an editor. I mean, I think you need to actually work with the stories and work with the writers, because my job is to make the writer to get the story the way the writer actually wants it to be, you know, I consider myself kind of the ideal reader. You know, it's like, okay, this is this is a really, this is an interesting story that has some good things in it, but it has problems. And as an editor, I ask a lot of questions. In fact, I mean, at least Eliza who's never stayed with me before. She kind of was asking, I showed her a recent. Right before she came, I tried to finish I had surrounding not only am I still reading for an original anthology, but I'm starting the line of edit stories, I did the final line edit beforehand in the book. And I had just, I needed to finish his line edit before she came because I didn't know how much time I'd have while she was visiting. So last night, I was like, frantically trying to finish the last eight pages of the story to edit. And she came and I said, and somehow we started talking about editing, I said, Here, you can see what I you can see my edit with four pages of edit line edits, I gave this writer. And so you asked a lot of questions. They said, Yeah, actually, yes, that's what I do. You know, it's like, I'm not going to rewrite someone's work. But I will ask them well, what do you mean here? What's going on here. And sometimes I want them to describe, tell me what it sometimes with place, I, I read visually. And if I can't see where something's taking place, I can't figure out what's going on that part of the problem. I'll say, explain to me where everything is in this room, or this restaurant or in this compound, I don't get it. And sometimes you don't necessarily have to put everything on the page. But you have to put enough on the page so that the reader understands what's going on. That's part of my an important part of my job and editing something. Yeah, but I'll only edit things that I am committed to buying. I had once when I was unemployed, took a job editing, some magazine stories from some online magazine. And I realized I would never have worked these stories. And so it was hard for me to be invested in them. You know, I just didn't care stories were that interesting. And without having acquired that myself, it's like, it was very hard for me to work on them. You know, and I would never do that again. I swear I'm not doing I'm not gonna edit anything I haven't bought. Yeah, yeah. Because, you know, I mean, I, I was offered a lot of money from one, I don't remember what it was. This was a different situation where it might have been a prize or something that someone asked me to edit these stories that, but they had bought them already. And it's like, I don't want to do this. And they said, Oh, please, please, please. Like I said, No, no, no. And I said, you know, I there's nothing to be done. It is what it is you bought the story that can't be fixed. I said, but here's an editor. Here's a freelance editor who will do that will work with you. And they use that person. Fine. It's like no, it's like, I would never have bought the story. I would buy something different. There's nothing to be done with it. You know, yeah, I can do a minor line at it, but it's like, and they said it is you can't make a mediocre story. Again, Great story you can make in less media, right? Yes. Yeah. Totally rewrite it. But that's not my job. I'm not. I don't rewrite stories. I get the writer to revisit, write, revise them. You know, there has to be a spark there to begin with. You know, or I'm not I don't want to work with it.

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