If there was any doubt about the resurgence of interest in weird fiction, they should be assuaged by the October publication of Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volume 2 from Undertow Books. Looking back to last year’s debut of the series, it might have seemed perilous to risk launching such an endeavor with so many other popular “Best Of…” anthologies in the fields of horror, dark fiction, and related genres that intersect with the weird. However, the release of this second annual volume would seem to indicate that the series is finding its own unique space and an audience that is hungry for more.
For Volume 2, series editor Michael Kelly and guest editor Kathe Koje have pulled together a remarkable table of contents, with authors ranging from the well-known (Julio Cortázar, Karen Joy Fowler, Caitlín R. Kiernan, etc) to the new and promising (Usman T. Malik, Isabel Yap, etc ) and everywhere in between. The stories have been selected from publications as diverse as Granta, Lightspeed Magazine, Tor.com, Crossed Genres, and even WeirdFictionReview.com itself. These are only a few of the primary sources from which these pieces have been curated, and it may serve as an excellent indicator of the health of the field that there are so many venues for high-quality work in the weird.
We caught up with guest editor Kathe Koja to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the second entry in this anthology series.
WFR: Give us an idea of how this volume came together. Also, why did you decide to edit it?
Mike Kelly asked if I was interested, and I was! Simple as that.
WFR: What sort of criteria did you look for in your weird fiction stories when deciding whether to put it in the anthology? What makes a weird fiction story successful?
All pleasure in reading is idiosyncratic. So what makes a story — whether weird fiction or not — successful, is subjective, beyond the writer’s ability to write well, to make “characters” become individuals, to create and present a narrative — that’s a given, that’s the price of admission.The rest, for me, came down to each story’s sensibility, to authorial voice: Was the story one that spoke to me? If it did, it went onto my list.
WFR: I’m interested to know how you think your volume compares or contracts to the first volume (edited by Laird Barron). Do you think there were some stories you chose that Barron wouldn’t have?
I wanted to come to the task without any guideposts or editorial presence, however subtle, from the first YBWF, so I scrupulously did not read it. With YBWF2 finished, I can be a civilian reader again!
WFR: Were there any stories you felt deserved inclusion but for one reason or another you were unable — maybe copyrights prevented you or you felt the story didn’t fit in some way?
I was able to include all my choices, thanks to Mike hunting down permissions and doing all the editorial heavy lifting.
WFR: Do you feel like you’ve gained anything from editing YBWF2, and would you ever consider being an editor again?
It’s a tremendous amount of work. When I received the stories from Mike, I read seriously, and tried to keep my mental palate cleared between stories, which meant not gulping them down, letting the stories sit, then rereading. All this takes time, which was by far the hardest aspect of the job.
WFR: What projects are you currently working on, or what have you worked on since YBWF2?
I finished a new YA novel; and the third book of the UNDER THE POPPY trilogy, THE BASTARDS’ PARADISE, is about to come out (November) from Roadswell Editions, so I’m planning launch events in NY and elsewhere, as well as being a special guest at this year’s World Fantasy Convention. And I’ve adapted, and am directing and producing, DRACULA with my performative fiction ensemble, nerve, for a Janaury 2016 debut. Whew …
WFR: What advice would you give to writers of the Weird who may be seeking to be included in future volumes?
Make sure Mike Kelly gets your stories! Mike was diligent and sent many, many calls for submissions, through many different channels of communication: writers, make sure you keep your ears open. No editor can love and choose what s/he doesn’t get to read.