Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)


with 4 comments

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.

Written by Martin

13 November 2009 at 11:32

Posted in books, sf

Tagged with ,

4 Responses

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  1. […] History Of Science Fiction, edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel (and previously mentioned here, is up now at SF Site. The introduction is blunt but to the point: The Secret History of Science […]

  2. You’ve twice now publicly stated that we included stories by ourselves in FEELING VERY STRANGE. We did not, as someone who reviewed the book ought to know.

    It would be nice if you corrected this assertion as loudly as you have made it.

    John Kessel

    23 February 2010 at 11:15

  3. I apologise unreservedly to both you and James Patrick Kelly. I had such a strong memory of this that I failed to perform basic fact-checking. This was totally inappropriate given the force I gave this as a criticism. I will also Rodger Turner to ammend the SF Site with a correction.

    Once again, my sincere apologies,

    Martin Lewis


    23 February 2010 at 11:40

  4. Thanks for the apology. I wish we could have a dialogue about this instead of a slanging match. I suspect we may have things to say to one another that might be useful to both of us. But I have to note that the tone of your review makes it hard to turn the other cheek enough to listen to your substance, even when I recognize that your viewpoint is a valid one.

    Anyway, I suspect we may cross paths in future, and I hope it will not be on unpleasant terms.

    John Kessel

    23 February 2010 at 19:35

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