Interview with Uncanny Editors

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1) It was last year that Lynne and Michael stepped down as editors at Apex. Now, suddenly, Uncanny. Was Uncanny always the plan, or was it just that hard to stop editing having once started?

It was just hard to stop. We took time off for our daughter’s spinal fusion surgery. Her recovery went well, and we felt the need to scratch that editorial itch again. We love this community, and we were anxious to get back in the game!

2) I notice that most of the editing team is spread pretty far out, but also all are members of at least one Whovian club. Would Uncanny exist without Doctor Who?

I think we can safely say that Uncanny would not exist without Doctor Who. Lynne’s editorial career began with co-editing Chicks Dig Time Lords with Tara O’Shea. If it hadn’t won a Hugo, Lynne might not have been offered the editorial position at Apex Magazine. Michael’s editorial career also started at Mad Norwegian Press, the publisher of the “Dig” books like his Queers Dig Time Lords and many other Doctor Who nonfiction books. We met Deborah Stanish (a Chicks Dig Time Lords essayist), Steven Schapansky, and Erika Enisgn through Doctor Who conventions. Erika, Deb, and Lynne are now all members of the Hugo-nominated Verity! Doctor Who podcast. Though we didn’t initially meet Managing Editor Michi Trota at a Doctor Who convention, Michael did meet her on a Doctor Who panel at a general SF/F where he found out that she was a fan of the “Dig” books, and Lynne got to know her better at a local Doctor Who convention, Chicago TARDIS. So yes, Doctor Who had more than a tiny role, if only in bringing us into contact with excellent, intelligent people with whom we enjoy interacting. They get our jokes!

3) Follow up: Which Doctor is best Doctor? Each editor may answer separately and weapons are permitted.

Michael: Sylvester McCoy. All arguments against him are wrong. Lynne: I don’t go with “best” because what’s the metric for that? Splendid chaps, all of them. Sylvester McCoy made me a fan of the series, but I would rather travel with David Tennant to the ends of the universe. I’d travel with Tennant and Ace together, given my druthers. Emo AND explosions!

4) As a better/less stupid follow-up question: What are the challenges of working as a team while separated by physical distance, international borders, and possibly time zones, and how have you (or how will you) overcome them?

Lynne and Michael live in the same house, so that’s easy. Luckily, pretty much everything we do for the magazine is done online. Thanks to email, Skype, Twitter, and Google Docs, we can accomplish everything asynchronously without physically seeing each other. Occasionally we even use this thing called a “telephone” if we have no other choice. Once in a while, we even get together in person when we can manage it.

5) Why does the world need Uncanny?

Because there aren’t enough space unicorns out there for everyone. We need to address this imbalance. Seriously, we think that the field has more room for emotionally evocative work. The stories that stay with us are the ones that make us feel, using interesting ideas, gorgeous prose, and characters that fascinate us, evolve, and are changed by their uncanny experiences from the universes we know and the ones we haven’t imagined yet. We would like to put even more of those into the world, because we like them!

6) EDITOR MODE: What makes a story a good story? What separates out the great stories?

Good stories have compelling characters, tidy plots or thematic arcs, and elegantly executed language. Great stories have all of these things,and a distinctive voice or viewpoint, without which the story would ultimately fall apart. Great stories sing. Every editor has a different viewpoint of what makes a great story (some prefer more jazzy, more classically constructed, more punk-rock or deconstructive), but we’re all basically spending a lot of time making story mix tapes for our readers.

6a) SEMI-OPTIONAL BONUS: What’s one of your favorite stories and why?

Let’s go with the obvious answer. Rachel Swirsky’s “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love,” which we published in Apex Magazine won a Nebula Award this year, and is up for a Hugo, so we’re rather fond of that one.

7) What’s the deal with speculative fiction anyway? I mean, like, you know? Man.

I know, right? What’s the deal with all of this insistence upon putting imagination and fun and serious stuff all together for people to consume, consider, and enjoy? People might figure out that we’re trying to get them to think or something!

8) Gossipy story time! What’s the weirdest/most lunatic situation you’ve encountered as a direct result of working in speculative fiction?

We once had a submission at Apex that was a story about a rejected writer who went to a convention with a gun and threatened to kill all of the editors who had rejected him. We passed.

9) What’s a day in the life of an Uncanny editor like?

Sending a metric ton of emails. Eighty percent of editorial work is organizing and wrangling multiple people to more or less go in the same direction, at roughly the same time. It’s a lot like herding cats. With spreadsheets. About twenty percent of our time gets devoted to the glorious part where we read stories in search of the ones that make our hearts skip a beat. Lynne also has a day job, and Michael is the main caregiver for our daughter Caitlin, who is special needs. Occasionally we do laundry.

10) Tell me – and remember, this is for posterity, so be honest – how do you feel? (About the future, about the magazine? Probably not about your immediately physical state, but if you ARE strapped to the Machine in the Pit of Despair and want to let someone know, I suppose now would be the time to mention that.)

How do we feel? Excited and scared simultaneously. We have faith in ourselves, and in the writers and artists we work with. But success is never guaranteed. All we can do is work as hard as possible, be nice, select great work, and hope that people like what we do, ultimately.