Edit: The last paragraph of this post accused Kelly and Kelly of including their own stories within Feeling Very Strange, an anthology they edited. This is incorrect and I should have checked this prior to publishing this post. I apologise to both James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel.
I’ve just received a copy of The Secret History Of Science Fiction, edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel, to review. It is the third in a series of themed anthologies they have edited for Tachyon, following Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology and Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology. It looks interesting but as yet I’ve only had a chance to flick through it. There is one immediately apparent flaw though: Kelly and Kessel have included stories by themselves. Paul Witcover raised the same issue in his review of the book for Locus and helpfully John Kessel popped up in the comments to explain his actions:
We probably should not have included our own stories in the book–that was my doing. I explained how that happened in an interview we did with Matt Cheney, which has not come out yet. And we had a list of at least 20 other writers we would have liked to include in the book, including most of those you mention as we should have taken. We did not have money or space to include everything we wanted (one reason Kelly and I are in the book is that we did not get paid for our stories), and we did not want the book to be overweighted with writes from “within” the genre.
Fair enough that that they didn’t get paid but then again I never thought their primary aim was to line their pockets, I just wasn’t sure what there aim was at all. Now it appears it was simple expediency. At the same time this explanation doesn’t really stack up. They ran out of space? Why was there exactly space for two stories by them then? They ran out of money? Why does this matter if they didn’t have the space to publish anything? They didn’t want too many writers from within the genre? What are they if not genre writers?
It is a pretty weak excuse and admits that the stories are nothing but filler. Including your own stories is always a bad idea but, as Witcover says, in is particularly unseemly when it is in an anthology with a polemical purpose.
The fact they are repeat offenders only makes it worse; apparently the exact same set of circumstances arose whilst they were putting together Feeling Very Strange.