The War Stories Anthology Interview with the editors and publisher
Posted November 5, 2013on:
Something especially interesting was kicking around the twittersphere last week. Something about a new military science fiction anthology edited by the very talented Jaym Gates and Andrew Liptak, and published by Apex Publishing. you know how sometimes you catch something out of the corner of your eye, and you just have to see what it is, you just have to learn more? The War Stories Anthology is that thing. And what better way to learn about it than by chatting up the editors and the publisher?
Not sure if a military scifi anthology is for you? Chances are you’re already reading Military Science Fiction, you just don’t know it. Enjoy Ender’s Game? How about Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga? How about Max Brooks’ World War Z? Dune by Frank Herbert? John Scalzi? Ever play Mass Effect? or Halo? see? you’re already a fan!
Jaym and Andrew have already talked extensively about this project, over at Reddit, over at Fantasy Book Critic, at Toonari Post, at Book Life Now, at Dribble of Ink, and elsewhere. If the Kickstarter succeeds, an especially unique anthology will see the light of day. Military science fiction is so much more than any hokey Baen Books cover art would have you believe.
My guests today:
Jaym Gates is the editor of the zombie anthology Rigor Amortis, which was a Barnes and Noble Top 10 pick in 2011, and short fiction author (published in The Aether Age: Helios). She is the publicist for the Science Fiction Writers of America, Candlemark & Gleam and Pathfinder Books. She helped launch several Kickstarter projects, including Geek Love, the highest-funded anthology in Kickstarter’s history.
Andrew Liptak received his Master of Arts in Military History from Norwich University (the nation’s first private military academy), and has written extensively about military science fiction for io9 and SF Signal, and has written for such websites as Kirkus Reviews, Geek Exchange, Tor.com, Strange Horizons, and magazines such as Armchair General and the Norwich Record. He is currently an editorial assistant for Lightspeed Magazine.
Jason Sizemore is the owner and operator of Apex Publications, a small press publisher dedicated to producing exemplary works of science fiction, horror, fantasy and non-fiction.
The Links you need:
Let’s get to the interview!
LRR: First things first, what’s the “elevator pitch” for the War Stories Anthology and what’s the time frame for publication?
Andrew: A kick ass, relevant, interesting and exciting anthology with stories about how war impacts the people involved. The kickstarter completes itself on November 14th, and the book will be due out sometime in 2014.
Jaym: An updated, ground-level view of the modern and future war, and its impact on hearts and minds.
Jason: One of my prime directives with Apex Publications is to produce titles that will challenge and/or broaden our reader’s perceptions…War Stories fit this perfectly. Plus, I’ve known Jaym for years, and was interested in the opportunity to work on a project with her. Having Andrew in the mix was a nice bonus.
LRR: What are some of the more popular themes in military science fiction?
Andrew: Military SF as a subgenre really looks to an extension of US foreign and military policy, taken to the future. Keep in mind that many of these stories came from the height of the Cold War, and are, in a number of ways, an artistic reaction to the US/USSR Military buildup. Starship Troopers glorifies this in some ways – it’s steeped in military culture and doesn’t question it. The Forever War takes it on from a new angle, and it doesn’t cheerlead the conflict as much. There’s some more modern Military SF stories – Adam Robert’s New Model Army and Karl Schroeder’s Crisis at Zefra take on more modern iterations. In many ways, what’s popular with Military SF is usually the state of the military at the present day. There’s some internal momentum (authors writing Cold War stories, for example), but that’s starting to change (and I hope that War Stories is part of that!)
Jaym: Looking forward, I think I’m seeing a shift inward. With war less universally-disruptive, the engagements are smaller, the effects are more concentrated, and so I think the voice will be, too. This would probably change if we did launch into a major, world-wide war again, but for now, it seems to be more about exploration, evolution, and the soldier/civilian/family in the immediate reach of conflict.
LRR: For the segment of readers who aren’t familiar with Military Science Fiction (I include myself in that group, by the way), what’s in this anthology for them? Could I consider this a good introduction to military science fiction?
Andrew: This is something that I’ve ranted about online for a couple of years now: what is military science fiction? Is the entry point any time your story involves the military? Warfare? Soldiers? I’ve come to think of it as a subgenre that comes out of novels that came during the height of the Cold War: Starship Troopers and Dorsai!. They’re good and interesting reads (and certainly controversial!) but they leave a sort of rigid set guidelines for imitators. They’re certainly relevant to large parts of the US population, and exciting, but I think military fiction can encompass more than stories about honor, the band of brothers elements and duty to one’s country. There’s much more.
Is this a good introduction to the subgenre as a whole? I don’t know, honestly. The stories that we’ve got so far are very strong, and they’re certainly about warfare, but they don’t really line up to the Starship Troopers lineage. There’s power armor to be sure, but there’s some very different stories. I think it’ll be a good introduction to where the subgenre is headed.
Jaym: I think we have a few stories that link back to the genealogy of military SF, as well as a lot that, I hope, show where it’s going. Military SF is a surprisingly diverse genre, so I would call it a good introduction to a facet of military SF.
LRR: What have been some of your favorite Military SF novels? which ones do you most recommend?
Andrew: There’s the three classics: Starship Troopers, Forever War and Ender’s Game. They’re each incredible, complicated novels. But, there’s others. I mentioned New Model Army and Crisis at Zefra earlier (free!), which I greatly enjoy. Nancy Kress’s Probability Trilogy, Karin Lowachee’s Warchild, Karen Traviss’s Wess’har Wars series, Timothy Zahn’s Cobra and Conqueror’s Books, and Myke Cole’s Control Point / Fortress Frontier are all excellent.
Jason: For me, there are the old standbys, such as The Forever War by Joe Haldeman and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. I’ll add a couple more titles that might not be considered your standard military SF, but I think deserves mention and works in the spirit of Jaym and Andrew’s anthology: The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie, World War Z by Max Brooks, and Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson.
LRR: For a project like this, do you have authors in mind who you have invited, do you accept open submissions or reprints? Can you tell us what authors you already have on board? If an author has a story they think you might like, how can they get in contact with you?
Andrew: We did: we came out of the gate with a couple of authors that we knew we wanted. I’d already read stories from Jake Kerr and James Sutter, and knew that I wanted them, but I also knew that we wanted authors like Karin Lowachee, Ken Liu, and T.C. McCarthy to be involved. As we did more planning, we found that other authors, like Yoon Ha Lee and Janine Spendlove would be the perfect fit as well. Since we’ve opened slush, we’ve come across an incredible range of stories, and some that jumped right out at us – we recently announced authors Rich Larson and Thoraiya Dyer, who blew us away. There’s a long and growing list of other authors that we’re either waiting to announce, or who we’re seriously considering. We’ve collected over 340,000 words of fiction thus far.
We’ll be reading submissions through November 30th – our guidelines can be found here: warstoriesanthology.com/submissions/
Jaym: We’re also still waiting on a bunch of stories from authors we’ve either worked with before, or we just love their work. Plus, the best part of a slush pile is finding those authors you’ve never read before but that automatically end up on the top of your invitation list for the rest of your career.
LRR: Kickstarter is a great way for innovative projects to see production, and for fans to “put their money where their mouth is”. Have any of you done crowdfunding like this before? What has been the biggest surprise with the Kickstarter/crowdfunding system?
Andrew: I haven’t run one, but I’ve talked with people about them before, and I’ve certainly contributed to my fair share.
The biggest surprise for me is at how many people that we’ve never heard of have found our project, contributed and then gone on to talk about it to their friends, encouraging them to pledge as well. I’ve done that myself, but it’s certainly exciting to see it from the other end!
Jaym: I just did the Geek Love anthology Kickstarter late last year, so yeah, been there, done that, still getting surprised. Kickstarters are rather like snowflakes: they’re all different and quirky.
Jason: This is only the second Kickstarter project Apex has been involved with (our Glitter & Mayhem anthology being the first). Although it shouldn’t have surprised me… just the incredible amount of work involved to produce a successful Kickstarter is a real eye-opener.
LRR: I’ve noticed you have some pretty incredible extras for people who back the Kickstarter, I see Interior Art cards, additional Apex Books titles, and WOW, Tuckerization! You better let everyone know what Tuckerization is, and how you managed to convince your authors to go for that.
Andrew: We’ve spent a long time planning this out, and we did a lot of work trying to figure out what types of rewards we should provide. Galen Dara did our cover artwork, and will be doing some interior artwork, so that was a logical perk. We’ve had nothing but good comments about her cover for us. We asked a bunch of authors if they were interested, and they all jumped at it. it’s a neat perk.
Jaym: Tuckerization is a way for people to take part in stories by their favorite authors. Your name, or the name of a loved one, is used as a character’s name in the story. It’s a fantastic holiday gift!
LRR: With Kickstarter the old fashioned promotion model gets flipped backwards – Promotion to customers is heaviest before publication to gain funding, rather than afterwards. How is this project being promoted? What types of promotion are most helpful?
Andrew: We set up a twitter and facebook page for the anthology a while ago, and we started following and talking to people who were talking about Military SF, and we started talking about Military SF things, ranging from real-world military tech to Ender’s Game to books and movies, which had about 175-200 people following along with us. Since then, we’ve talked with, followed and answered questions about the project to those who were interested. I like building communities, and we’ve found that there’s a good population of people who like military SF, but are somewhat turned off by the politics of it. Now that the project has gone live, Twitter and Facebook have directed almost a third of our backers to us.
As far as promotion goes, it’s more than just throwing the link out there, saying GIVE US MONEY!, although it feels like that most of the time. I’ve been trying to highlight that we’ve got a set of incredible science fiction stories that we want to show the world.