This week’s interview, delayed from last week due to lots of personal circumstances, is with Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon, the editors of Apex Publications’ DARK FAITH and DARK FAITH: INVOCATIONS.
ANTHONY: Before we talk about the new book you’ve co-edited, DARK FAITH: INVOCATIONS, I’d like to talk about the experience of putting together the first DARK FAITH anthology. How did that come about, and what did you learn from that process that influenced your work on the new volume?
MAURICE: I host an annual convention called Mo*Con (http://www.mocon.indianahorror.org/). Each year I invite a few horror, science fiction, and fantasy writers in, we hold the convention in a church, and we discuss topics related to genre and faith. You tell people you’re having a convention in a church, all they hear is “church” and, again, there are preconceptions to what goes on there. With the great line up of writers that we have regularly attending Mo*Con, we talked with Jason Sizemore, of Apex Books, about doing a Mo*Con anthology. That project evolved into Dark Faith. I guess you could say that I’ve always been fascinated with hearing people’s stories about faith, no matter where that story takes them.
I think every writer should take a turn behind the slush pile to see what an editor faces every day. From the lack of professionalism, the inability to follow guidelines, to the ideas/stories they see all the time. That was my first major take away lesson. The second was that after we put together the original Dark Faith, we had a better idea of what kind of stories we were looking for. Our writers did also, which was reflected in the (much better) slush pile.
JERRY: Mo*Con gives people with wildly divergent views a place to discuss controversial issues. The respect for ideas and emphasis on civil discourse at the heart of the convention went a long way toward winning me over when Maurice brought up the idea of doing Dark Faith together.
ANTHONY: What is the focus of DARK FAITH: INVOCATIONS, and does it differ at all from the intent or theme of the first volume?
MAURICE: The focus honed in even more on the idea of faith. That being said, I think the second volume is lighter in tone overall, even as it is still soul crushing.
JERRY: Invocations is tightly focused on the testing of faith from a broad variety of belief systems (atheism to magic and everything organized in between). The book does have more fun with the subject. Imagine hunting giant Buddhas in a post-apocalyptic future or learning the secrets of the universe from a wish-granting vending machine.
ANTHONY: You held an open call for submissions for INVOCATIONS, correct? How many submissions did you receive, and how long did it take to whittle the slush down to your final choices?
JERRY: We received just over seven hundred total submissions, enough to fill twenty-six anthologies. It took about four months to whittle that avalanche down to a final table of contents. From a process perspective, we went through four rounds of cuts:
Round 1 – Top 150 stories
Round 2 – Top 75 stories
Round 3 – Top 40 stories
Round 4 – Final 26 stories
The first round involved weeding out the amateur, semi-pro, and off-topic stories. Once the easy cuts were made, thematic overlap, space constraints, and a whole host of editorial issues guided the rest. I posted a detailed deconstruction of the process on my website (http://www.jerrygordon.net/2012/06/01/behind-the-scenes-dark-faith-2/).
ANTHONY: You’ve co-edited both volumes. What is your process for deciding the final Table of Contents and then story order? Have there been any violent disagreements? (I’m picturing Editor-Dome in Maurice’s living room right now…)
MAURICE: The first time around was a lot easier. The stories that worked REALLY worked and stood out from the rest. This time around, there were so many GREAT stories that it was a lot tougher to get that final pool cut. I really feel like at times we were team captains and we were choosing up members of our side until we hit our word count limit. This whole process was made easier by judicious application of Riesling. Another place where Riesling is your friend is in figuring out the order. It becomes a lot easier to see a flow to the stories…
JERRY: We had forty stories left when we met to decide the final table of contents. We played with half a dozen potential approaches, discussing the merits of each story and how they might work in concert. In the end, we took turns drafting stories like NFL players. With each round we recalculated the word count, talked about the remaining stories, and made another round of picks. The last few rounds were positively heart wrenching. This is a small business, and putting on the editor’s hat means disappointing talented writers that also happen to be good friends.
ANTHONY: Do your individual editing styles differ when you’re working on an anthology of your own? What do you each bring to the table as co-editors?
MAURICE: I do quite a bit of freelance editing, but my style doesn’t really change. I’m looking for the best stories, ideas that intrigue me, or some ineffable quality that makes a story great.
I like to think that I bring a particular vision to Dark Faith. It’s a project that’s close to my heart and who I am.
JERRY: On the first book, Maurice set the initial vision and worked very hard to solicit a cadre of amazing writers. I honed that vision and handled the logistics. This time around we traded duties back and forth, stepping in for each other when our schedules turned from busy to insane.
ANTHONY: I won’t ask you each to pick a favorite story from INVOCATIONS, but I will ask what authors we can expect to see in the book and if there’s anything in particular you think will stun readers.
MAURICE: “Subletting God’s Head” by Tom Piccirilli kind of sets the tone for this volume (which is why it is first) then “The Cancer Catechism” by Jay Lake immediately rips your heart out. “Magdala Amygdala” demonstrates that there is something fundamentally wrong with Lucy A. Snyder (I kid because I love). And “A Strange Form of Life” by Laird Barron is a particular favorite of mine (I’m not scared to choose a favorite child!)
JERRY: Readers are almost universally surprised by the broad range of stories and ideology. An Asian artist that can reshape reality with her sketches. A middle-eastern robot fighting his addiction to a futuristic drug called faith. African folk magic and family rivalries mixing it up in the boxing ring. A small-town boutique that offers you the chance to shop for your own personal god. I could go on. It’s an eclectic mix of tones and worldviews.
As for personal favorites, I love Richard Wright’s “The Sandfather.” This story sneaks up on you emotionally, and I’ve already had several reviewers email me to say the story blew them away. The subtle beauty of Alma Alexander’s “Night Train” also impresses. Looking at the table of contents, I want to hijack this interview so I can talk about Kyle S. Johnson’s haunting portrayal of a North Korean family and Tim Pratt’s wishful fantasy and K. Tempest Bradford’s take on mythology.
ANTHONY: Are there any authors who have work in both volumes, or was that something you consciously avoided?
MAURICE: The answer’s a little bit of both. We didn’t want to completely overlap TOCs, but we didn’t want to rule out great stories from writers who have already demonstrated that they get what we’re looking for. I think we set some arbitrary percentage of how many authors could repeat (which we probably ignored, thus I can’t remember what it was).
JERRY: We went into the book hoping to bring about a third of the original authors back. Maurice and I solicited a second third and dove into the slush pile to find the remaining stories.
ANTHONY: What else would you like potential readers to know about INVOCATIONS?
MAURICE: You need to buy many copies of it and pass them out to your friends.
JERRY: This book will entertain you, make you think, and magically remove ten pounds from your waistline.
ANTHONY: What’s in the near future for each of you?
MAURICE: My urban fantasy trilogy, The Knights of Breton Court, is being re-released as an omnibus (by Angry Robot Books). I have a short story in the current issue of Shroud Magazine and have stories coming out in a bunch of upcoming anthologies (Appalachian Undead, The New Hero, Vampires Don’t Sparkle, Relics and Remains, and Cadence in Decay). My short story, “Awaiting Redemption”, will be in the HorrorWorld Anthology as well as available for a listen on Pseudopod.com. Apex Books will also be publishing my novella, I Can Transform You.
JERRY: My apocalyptic novella, Breaking The World, is set to be released in 2013 (Apex Publications). It follows a trio of teenagers forced into adulthood by the end of the world. I also have a short story out in the current issue of Shroud called “Ghost in the Machine.” In it third-party politics, torture bans, and a mysterious ‘Ghost Program’ conspire to change the course of our Republic. Add to that “Vampire Nation” for the forthcoming Vampires Don’t Sparkle! tribute anthology (Seventh Star).
ANTHONY: And my usual closing question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it yet to convince them that they should?
MAURICE: The Gift by Patrick O’Leary, Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, and Beloved (heck, anything) by Toni Morrison. If I have to convince you to read any of them, especially Morrison, I’ll just pluck out your eyes because you obviously aren’t doing anything worthwhile with them anyway.
JERRY: Talk about your impossible questions! My brain freezes just trying to come up with a top ten list. I can’t give you a favorite, so I’ll just give you a recommendation. The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. The book, given to me during a rough patch in my life, contains a lifetime of wisdom. I’ve purchased several copies for friends over the years.
ANTHONY: Thanks again to you both!
You can purchase DARK FAITH: INVOCATIONS through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or directly from Apex Publications. On Twitter, you can follow @MauriceBroaddus and @jerrylgordon. You can also keep track of the authors/editors on Maurice’s website and Jerry’s website, and they’re both on Facebook: Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon.