Working on this collection with my co-editor Megan has been a rather interesting experience of the kind that I think the publishers intended when they sent out a call for applications for people interested in working on the project.
First, the selection process was rather different from my previous editorial work. Not because it was collaborative, as I have done that before, but because I had never met my co-editor when we were assigned to work together (and we haven’t actually met in real space yet). Further, the response to our own call for submissions was if not overwhelming, then certainly quite substantial, especially in light of the space we had, so we could select only about one-in-ten (not suggesting, or excluding a priori any references to what this percentage has been made to imply after Kinsey).
Because of that, i.e. the limitations of space, and to my chagrin, there were great pieces that have not made it into Birkensnake 6: Neverending Tales. They would have been too long (even though in our CfS we did say everything from 8 to 8888 words qualified, it turned out not to be so easy to toggle larger pieces with the limited space at our disposal, and that was non-negotiable with such a huge number of variations of this issue coming out at the same time), or they addressed the topic another piece we had already selected did (not frequently, but it did happen a few times), or the editors had a very different opinion on the pieces (this happened the least often, but it did happen).
I have still not reconciled fully with my own rejection of a great story of apparitions and dreams and mystery happening in a former US colony in South East Asia (well, the only former US colony anywhere on earth, really). I think that piece would have made a great contribution. But the two of us had already used a third of the allotted space by selecting the pieces we were both equally enthusiastic about and were in the process of selecting additional ones (a third each). If I had chosen that piece, which I liked a lot, I would have had to stick to it alone and perhaps another one. And so in tune with my Gemini Moon and not my quadruple Scorpio, I opted for variety over the mesmerising allure of individual mystique.
I think I did not make a mistake in choosing to showcase the works of more authors, but a lingering regret of not letting the readers walk down the winding path through that enchanting tale, but keeping that privilege only for myself remains. There were a couple other pieces I really wanted, but I had to give up on them too in order for this to be a collaborative effort. I imagine Megan must feel the same about some stories she liked.
Secondly, I want to say something on the issue of collaboration itself. It was interesting to see how much the two of us matched in tastes and general outlook on what good literature is and how to do selection and editing, this coming between people from rather different backgrounds, life histories, gender, and age and only vaguely similar in belonging to the broad field of teaching of what is usually lumped as “humanities and social sciences” — read: “not the big money-making technical, financial and marketing, and show biz fields”.
Mind you, that is not to say that the matching was always perfect; indeed we had important disagreements on one or two contributors pieces, at one point near the end, perhaps because of a “fatigue of the material” (as everything tends to get jaded as the excitement of the novelty wears off with time and under the pressure of deadlines) even serious ones. But, exactly because we agreed most of the time, and in the case of one special piece in this book we did so immediately and wholeheartedly, we were able to work through the differences and come up with the collection that now lies before you, the reader — flesh and bones, and in a few cases viscera, in full sight.
We are humans, and fallible, so this anthology is probably not perfect, but in the real world we live in it is a fine selection, pretty representative of works we got overall (i.e. of writing today and indeed globally, with contributors living on three, and originating on four, continents, and often with first languages other than English), and packed with some rather fascinating reading between the covers. I do hope those who have the privilege to read it the way reading should be done — without having to think as an editor — will feel the excitement that we did.