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Rob Darnell
Posted on Friday, March 12, 2004 - 08:01 pm:   

I'm curious about the Hugo Awards.

I'm under the impression that the Hugo Awards is something like the Oscar Awards, though probably not boardcasted on national TV. Am I right?

Also, can a Magazine, just the Magazine, win an award, perhaps because it has great writers and editors together. The Magazine as a whole and not just a certain editor or writer.

Are the people who work for the magazine usually notified that their Magazine has been nominated for a Hugo, or do they just turn up and find out by surprise?
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ET
Posted on Friday, March 12, 2004 - 09:23 pm:   

No, the Nebula is more like the Oscars, in that it's the genre participants voting. The Hugos are like, I don't know -- not that familiar with movie and TV rewards. Anyway, Hugos are voted by those who attend the Worldcon (World Science Fiction Convention) of that year, or are registered for it (you can register just to vote, even if you don't attend -- it costs less), while Nebulas are voted by members of the SFWA -- that is, professional writers (using the SFWA definition of "professional").

There's no award for a professional magazine, but there's a professional editor award, which is kind of similar (since the editor determines what the magazine is like and the stories selected). There's a magazine award for semiprozines, but it seems to be reserved for Locus. :-)

I imagine that the people are notified. In any case, the list of nominations is made available before the award is given so that people can vote.
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Thomas R
Posted on Saturday, March 13, 2004 - 08:17 pm:   

Technically they say the Hugos are like the People's Choice award, but they have more clout than that. In fact I think the Hugos are generally better than the Nebulas myself.

So although the voting is not like the Oscars, I'd disagree and say the Hugoes are like the Oscars for SF. They are old and prestigious. The Nebulas are more like the SAG awards.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Sunday, March 14, 2004 - 07:23 am:   

Rob---

The Hugos used to have a category for Best Magazine, but it was replaced with Best Editor back in the 1970s. I'm not 100% certain why the change occurred---perhaps someone who can answer that question with certainty will speak up here.

Hugo nominees are notified before the final ballot is announced. There have been some cases of nominees declining to accept the nomination.

In terms of pomp, the Hugos are more like the Oscars than any other award in SF/Fantasy. I think all the other awards (Nebula, World Fantasy, Stokers, Locus awards) are presented at a banquet.
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Thomas R
Posted on Sunday, March 14, 2004 - 10:38 am:   

I think they switchd to best editor because of the growing prominence of original anthology series in the 1970s. Now that original anthos have declined best magazine would kind of make sense again. Perhaps better yet have best magazine and best editor. (As a magazine's quality depends on more than just the editor, just like a film's quality relates to more than just the director)
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Michael Walsh - who once chaired a Worldcon
Posted on Monday, March 15, 2004 - 07:25 pm:   

One of the intents of the change from "Best Magazine" to "Best Editor" was to expand the number of choices to include book editors.

The WSFS Constitution is always being tinkered with - sort of a work in progress. And anyone who attends Worldcon can attend the Business Meeting; always lots of fun <g> . . .

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ellen
Posted on Monday, March 15, 2004 - 08:17 pm:   

Thomas,
I disagree. I think a magazine's quality depends completely on the editor. Editing a fiction magazine is not at all like making a movie. One person makes the decision in buying and editing stories for a magazine,

In what way do you think they compare?
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Tuesday, March 16, 2004 - 02:35 pm:   

Ellen---

I think art directors all over the place are bristling at your comment that a magazine's quality depends completely on the editor.

And then there's the case of something like OMNI magazine. How did your work as fiction editor contribute to the whole magazine? And wasn't there at least one instance in which the publisher bought a story when you were editor?
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Rob Darnell
Posted on Thursday, March 18, 2004 - 01:18 pm:   

Thanks for your information, everyone. You've helped me out in more ways than you know. ;)
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ellen
Posted on Thursday, March 18, 2004 - 03:31 pm:   

Gordon,
Two different cases. First of all, I don't think that the art makes or breaks a digest magazine. It's like saying what makes a book's quality? The text inside or the cover?

In the case of OMNI, it was a magazine put together by many different editors and an art director who created a look to it. So I suppose the quality of some magazines such as Cemetery Dance and Realms of Fantasy depend on more than the editor. Others, like Asimov's, Analog, F&SF, SCIFICTION depend on the editor.

I assumed the question was about digest sf magazines that have one editor.
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Candy T. Tutt
Posted on Friday, March 19, 2004 - 05:00 pm:   

From a graphic artist's point of view: if art is present in a publication it has to be top quality. Well-crafted art either in b/w or color, will pull me right into a magazine. One look at crappy, 'back of your notebook in 11th grade' type stuff, I automatically assume everything else in the mag is third-rate and drop it like a hot rock-- without even reading it.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Friday, March 19, 2004 - 07:21 pm:   

Ellen---

So you're saying that I shouldn't bother commissioning art for the covers of F&SF? That would save me a lot of money. I've always had a secret fondness for the brown paper bag look. (It goes back to fifth grade.)

And if I'm reading your comments correctly, you're also saying that Peter Kanter's policies have no effect on ASIMOV'S or ANALOG and that Sheila Williams doesn't contribute to the quality of the magazines. I _really_ disagree---in fact, I would much rather see Sheila win a Hugo Award than win one myself. Her work might not always be as visible to the public, but it's no less vital than Gardner's work, or Stan's.

To my way of thinking, a magazine is a team effort.
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JAO
Posted on Saturday, March 20, 2004 - 02:33 am:   

I can tell you that as a reader both the Hugo and Nebs don't matter. In fact, sticking either label on a novel is a pretty good way to insure I won't buy it.


JAO
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Rob Darnell
Posted on Saturday, March 20, 2004 - 03:59 am:   

Dude, I think it'd be hard to find such a label on a "novel".
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ET
Posted on Saturday, March 20, 2004 - 09:19 am:   

JAO, that's the way I treat the Oscars normally, but even then I'd be stupid to follow it blindly -- after all, RotK won. Since the Hugo is a reader award, it carries more weight with me.
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Ellen
Posted on Saturday, March 20, 2004 - 10:59 am:   

Gordon,

I'm not talking "quality" in the sense of the production values so I guess we're not even on the same page here. I'm ONLY talking about quality of the text--and the influence of the editor. So with that caveat:

I think the editor and his/her taste IS the most important aspect of a fiction magazine. The quality of the stories is what makes it. No I don't think Peter Kanter "creates" the magazine--it was being published before he owned it and hopefully it will be published afterwards. It's the editors of Asimov's who created it. Sheila is an editor and has editing (and bought I believe) some of the fiction for Asimov's. Does her taste inform the magazine? I don't think so. It's Gardner's baby. Sheila does a great amount of work on the magazine yes, but she is second in command and unfortunately there has never been recognition for those who are assistants, managing editors, etc. That's how it is in the magazine world in general.

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Thomas R
Posted on Sunday, March 21, 2004 - 12:03 am:   

The analogy with film was inelegant to say the least. Still I stand by the notion there are other factors than the editor in a magazine's quality. There is the writers for one. If the best writers are submitting elsewhere for whatever reason that has an affect.

Granted one can argue that if the editor is good that won't happen, but personally I think that's unrealistic. For example Event Horizon was good, I read it back in the day, but Sci-Fiction I think is largely better. I doubt this is because Kilheffer(sp?) was holding you down. I think the greater visibility, pay, etc. maybe led to getting more writers and different writers. Likewise if Gardner couldn't pay and the leading writers all decided they hated him his magazine would not be as good even if his taste remained the same.

Likewise on occasion good stories have appeared in magazines or anthologies where the editor is merely adequate or even incompetent. Either because the theme appeals to a talented author, the editor is a friend and they know they're competent to edit themselves, or the editor pays so well they attract people who are usually on their game. Or some other factor like dumb luck. This was true back in the pulp days even. Writers who just didn't like Campbell would appear in poorly edited magazines to get their work out. I imagine it still happens on occasion.

Now the editor may be the most important aspect, but I wasn't really arguing with that. All I said was "a magazine's quality depends on more than just the editor", I made no verdict on how much more it depends on other factors.
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Ellen
Posted on Sunday, March 21, 2004 - 08:34 am:   

Gaaaah. I just wrote a very long post back to you Thomas, but netscape crashed on me before I posted it. I don't have the energy to completely duplicate it so I'll be briefer.

Yes, of course the writers are crucial to the quality of the magazine. I thought that would go without saying. But it's still the editor who makes the decision as to what goes into the magazine. it's the editor's overall taste that informs the magazine. Money is rarely the issue. I've seen consistently excellent material published in venues with minimal budget.

Re: Event Horizon, I think the fiction we published was topnotch and in four years it would likely have been very different from what it was after the 1 1/2 years we lasted. That's because every time you start a new magazine you're starting with zero inventory. It takes at least a year or more to get up to speed and build up a stable of writers. Many writers (with good reason) won't submit to a new venture unless they're pretty sure it's going to last more than 2-3 months/issues. So it takes time to build up trust.
(just a side note) Rob had nothing to do with the fiction at EH and I had no one to answer to with regards to what I published.

By indicating that an occasional great story can appear in a magazine or anthology edited by a mediocre editor you've just proven my point. It's the editor that ensures consistencey of quality.

I agree with you on your last para.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 04:27 am:   

Ellen---

I realize I should let this drop, but I'm just compulsive enough to finish off the conversation.

What you said above was "I think a magazine's quality depends completely on the editor." The page I've been on has been one that attempts to show that a magazine's quality depends on more than the editor. Since you're now agreeing with Thomas R. on this point, it sounds like we're all on the same page at last.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 06:51 am:   

"I can tell you that as a reader both the Hugo and Nebs don't matter. In fact, sticking either label on a novel is a pretty good way to insure I won't buy it."

That's a pretty blind approach to selecting your books. The Hugo and Nebula winners are almost always good books, or good stories, etc. Whether they are the absolute best of the year is another matter, one that come down to personal taste. But they are almost always worth a close look.
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Iron James
Posted on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 07:59 am:   

I certainly don't think a good editor is the only thing that affects the quality of a magazine, but I do think a good editor the most important. Even with the artwork, and editor is the one who buys it. Even with nonfiction, the editor buys it.

About the only place I can see the worth of an editor sometimes being overridden is money. An editor who can't afford to pay writers at all, or who can't afford to pay something close to the rates of the bigger magazines, is unlikely to get the quality of writing coming in that an editor with a bigger checkbook receives. And no editor can publish fiction they don;t receive.

But money aside, I don't think anything affects the quality of a magazine more than having a good editor. Especially the editor of an all fiction magazine. Buy and publiosh too many stories most readers don't like, and you'll soon be an ex-editor, and the magazine may well fold.

Writers are vitally important, but there are many thousands of writers out there, and an editor who can tell the good from the bad, or the popular from the unpopular, is what makes a magazine work.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 08:24 am:   

Well, money is important, but it's not all-important. Lady Churchill's publishes great stuff and pays peanuts. The new Flytrap is doing pretty well and only paying $10. What these offer is payment in prestige, particularly with Lady Churchill's.
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Ellen
Posted on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 08:53 am:   

Patrick, that was one of my points. Money is not that crucial. Most anthologies don't pay as much as the magazines and some of the best magazines, as you say, pay peanuts.

Gordon. Let me put it another way. You have a lousy editor, you'll have a lousy magazine. Everything else is flexible.

And back for a sec to my earlier post that I had to rewrite. Event Horizon was a webzine that because it was made up of several different parts edited by both me and Rob Killheffer-- we were both responsible for how the webzine came out.

Gordon, you edit the fiction and nonfiction. You are completely in charge of the look, the feel, the read of the magazine. If you don't like the art or feel it goes with the magazine then it doesn't go on the cover, right? You choose and edit the fiction, you choose and edit the nonfiction. I don't believe you would deny that ;-) So we're back to: I believe the overall quality of your magazine is utterly dependent on you.
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Iron James
Posted on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 09:55 am:   

No, money isn't all-important, and there are some great magazines that pay little or nothing, but it is frequently a factor.

But I'm with Ellen on this one. And I've seen what happens to a good magazine when a bad editor takes over, or when a publisher suddenly decides to override the editor on important issues.
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E Thomas
Posted on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 12:20 pm:   

I'm not quite sure how it works, but as near as I can tell "art director" is just a different name for "art editor," right? S/he chooses what art or artists are placed in the magazine. In my opinion, basically all workers who make choices about content are vitally important to the high quality of magazines.

As for awards, I absolutely pay attention to them. I agree with Patrick Samphire on this one. Even if I read all titles from that year and disagreed with the voters that the novels/stories that won were the best for that year, clearly a lot of other people thought they were the best. That means they deserve a closer look. Besides, I am working my way through the awards' lists and have so far enjoyed every book I've picked up.
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Matt Jarpe
Posted on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 12:55 pm:   

I'm working through the list of Hugo winners now. I've got a ways to go, most of the 70's and 80's are a blank. I've also liked everything I've read on the list so far. When I'm done with that, sometime in the next decade, I'll work on the Nebulas.

It strikes me that for most voters, Best Editor is the same as Best Magazine. Only the writers really know the editors as editors. Everyone else knows them by the final product, which, as Gordon points out, is up to a lot of people. The editor can make it great, but only if he's got the support from the rest of us.

I choose to take the award literally and vote for the person who's best at editing. Until this year I'd only ever been edited by one person, so I didn't have much choice of who to vote for. Now Gardner's got some competition, at least for my one measly vote. Now, now, don't all you go fighting over it. I'm sure I'll be fair. :-)
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Ellen
Posted on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 04:43 pm:   

E. Thomas. Re: art director--depends on the magazine and in an editor-owned mag the art "director" is often the same person. He hires the artist to illustrate a specific story for the cover.

I'm not sure how much input Gardner and/or Sheila have on the Asimov covers. I assume they at least choose the story to be illustrated and perhaps make suggestions as to what scene should be illustrated.

At OMNI it was a constant struggle against the art dept until I learned how to psyche them out. But I rarely could say no to the art.

Shawna has no say re: the cover art of ROF.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - 05:19 am:   

Ellen---

I'm afraid you've lost me.

First you asserted that a magazine's quality depends completely on the editor. When I said that you're discounting art directors or magazines like OMNI, you said you meant digests like ANALOG, ASIMOV'S, F&SF, and SCI FICTION.

When I said that ANALOG and ASIMOV'S are more than Gardner and Stan, you backed up from saying that the quality depends _completely_ on the editor to saying the editor is the most important aspect.

When I thought we were all in agreement with Thomas R's statement that "Now the editor may be the most important aspect, but I wasn't really arguing with that. All I said was "a magazine's quality depends on more than just the editor", I made no verdict on how much more it depends on other factors.", you continued to press the point.

Are you working on the belief that I'm trying to _deny_ the importance of editors? If I gave that impression at all, I apologize. My whole point has been to say what Thomas R. said in that paragraph you agreed on.

If the aim is to turn this thread into a discussion of just F&SF and SCIFICTION, then you've certainly got a stronger argument than if you're talking about magazines generally. Of course I take responsibility for everything in F&SF. But I'm in the rare position of working as both publisher and editor.

And even with the fact that I'm responsible for everything in F&SF, I have to say that you sound like you're asserting I have absolute control over the magazine. Of course not; no one has absolute control. (I wonder if we're having a Plato-vs.-Aristotle argument here---you seem to be speaking of magazines as Platonic ideals.)

For what it's worth, I think Thomas R.'s analogy of a magazine being like a film is very apt. The publisher is the equivalent of the producer, the editor's the director who oversees the casting process (selecting the stories) and gets the best performances out of the artists. The interior designers and proofreaders are the equivalent of the movie's technical crew (gaffers, foley operators, etc., etc.) and the advertising departents are about the equivalent of each other.

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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - 06:19 am:   

I keep forgetting to note one other point on this subject---in the discussion of Best Editor vs. Best Magazine, it's worth mentioning that most editors do more than edit one magazine. Ellen, your anthologies are distinct from SCI FICTION, just as Gardner's YEAR'S BEST anthologies are separate from ASIMOV'S (and then there are the ASIMOV'S anthologies that he and Sheila edit). And of course David Hartwell does a lot more than edit THE NY REVIEW OF SF.

Personally, I like the fact that the award goes to the best editor and not the best magazine, though as I've said before, I do wish book editors got more acknowledgment.
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Ellen
Posted on Wednesday, March 24, 2004 - 10:38 am:   

Hi Gordon,
This has been a great conversation as it's something I hadn't thought about before and the discussing of the issue helps clarify what I DO think.

We started from the general (all magazines) to the more specific. Digest mags and then to the extremely specific F&SF.
I think magazines all work differently. I'd say that in YOUR magazine being publisher and editor you have the most control over the quality of your mag. The ad dept has no control over quality. Now you're changing the playing field :-)

Anyway, overall I'd say editors have the most control over quality and depending on the magazine their working on yes, there's input from other depts and that other input has an influence on the quality of the mag.
How's that? Fair enough?

And yes, I agree that it's a shame that book editors don't get more acknowledgment for their work.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Thursday, March 25, 2004 - 05:36 am:   

Ellen---

Fair enough.

I know you're kidding about the ad department, but now you've got me wondering---how many people quit OMNI over the fact that they ran an ad on the front cover? I remember it being about five. Were they editors?

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Ellen
Posted on Thursday, March 25, 2004 - 07:16 pm:   

Actually, only one--the (head) Editor Patti Adcroft. The rest of us made our displeasure known to Kathy Keeton at a big meeting we had but we didn't quit.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Thursday, March 25, 2004 - 07:20 pm:   

Ellen---

Ah, thanks. My memory fails once again. Considering that I added three to THE TENTH DIMENSION in another thread, it seems like my memory is exaggerating everything today.
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bluejack
Posted on Friday, March 26, 2004 - 01:15 am:   

Here are a couple of questions about what makes a good editor.

In one post Ellen said "I'm ONLY talking about quality of the text" -- by 'quality' do you mean 'absolute goodness' or do you mean some particular quality or character that helps to define a magazine as a particular vehicle with its own voice? Presumably all the top editors have access to largely similar slush piles; many see the same stories; and yet different top editors select different top stories to fill their magazines. I don't think that if Ellen rejects it and Gordon buys it that Gordon made a mistake; or the other way around. But what 'quality' *are* we talking about here?

The second question is a follow-up: what do editors do aside from choose stories they think are right for the magazine out of the total set of stories submitted? If it is a purely reactive role, it *does* seem as though an editor will always be limited by what is actually submitted. So, do you work closely with authors to make stories better, or make them into stories that work for your magazine? Do you go out and solicit stories from authors you admire? In short: what do editors do *beyond* hope that good stuff shows up in the mail? (And then see it when it gets there.)
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ET
Posted on Friday, March 26, 2004 - 02:33 am:   

Editors do affect submissions even without soliciting stories. F&SF fast response time surely has an effect on submissions, for example. Editor participation in cons and online I'm sure also has an effect (it has for me). Must say that in this respect it's not only the editor. In the case of RoF it's Carina, the first reader. She's just so actively nice to writers that it makes me want to send stories to her.

All editors that I know of also send encouraging words when they see a story they like but not enough to publish. That's another way editors can get writers whose writing they like to submit more. Does that amount to soliciting stories? I don't know. Perhaps.

In any case, these things do affect what stories get submitted to a market. Even so, an editor can only choose stories out of what's submitted. No way around this (except for reprints).
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Ellen
Posted on Friday, March 26, 2004 - 06:22 am:   

Bluejack, good questions. I mean the specific character of a magazine and its overall "goodness" (however I would define that). But I definitely feel that the magazines that seem to have a "voice" have it because of their editor's taste.

An editor does all of what you suggest --except perhaps edit a story with an author to work for my magazine. I may work with an author (not very often) even if I don't think the story will work for my magazine because I think it's good enough to work on. I've always gone after writers I'm interested in. Early on while at OMNI I read the anthologies like Berkley Showcase and Roy Torgeson's series and from there I found writers such as Pat Cadigan who I contacted, started publishing and with whom I became friends. That's how I got writers like Wm Burroughs, Joyce Carol Oates, Wm Kotzwinkle, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Patricia Highsmith, Clive Barker, and others to write for OMNI. I went after them.

A relatively small percentage of stories I buy are completely rewritten at my suggestion, a good percentage are slightly rewritten, and almost all have had some editing suggestions from me before they go to the production stage (ie copy edit and proofread). You can ask any author on these BBs who I work with and they can tell you how it works. (with me)
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Friday, March 26, 2004 - 06:58 am:   

Blunt---

Editors do all the things you note, to varying degrees. As long as I've known her, Ellen has been great at going after writers and getting them to submit (she has been especially good at getting writers who have only published novels to try writing short stories). From what I can tell, Ed Ferman did very little of that when he was editing F&SF. But I know that Ed did other things to get stories out of his favorite writers. Different strokes for different editors.

I've discovered the hard way that unlike John W. Campbell, I'm lousy at giving an idea to a writer and saying, "Here, you go write the story." (The only time that has worked for me was when Jay Russell and I were bulls---ing and came up with the idea that became his novel BROWN HARVEST.) But on the other hand, I've had more success in saying to writers, "I'm seeing too much of this sort of story---have you ever tried writing _that_ sort of story?"

There's a DVD that you might find interesting from DMZ Productions. It's an editorial lunch John W. Campbell had with Gordy Dickson and Harry Harrison in 1970. With some back-and-forth, Campbell pretty much tells the two of them what story they should write. I think the resulting story was "Lifeboat."

Also, to get back to your original question, we editors might all see the same slush pile (roughly), but what we do with it differs a lot. I know from experience that someone can send the same exact story to Stan Schmidt and to me and we'll see entirely different things in that story. (There's one writer I can think of whose first story prompted me to say to Ed Ferman, "I think this guy would fit in great at ANALOG, but I'm glad we found him first." To date, this writer hasn't sold anything to ANALOG and I've bought more than one story from him.")

The only way in which an editor won't be limited by stories that are submitted is if s/he publishes reprints. Otherwise, you've got to be in it to win it.
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Matt Jarpe
Posted on Friday, March 26, 2004 - 07:42 am:   

>Ellen has been great at going after writers and getting them to submit

OK, there's a joke in this but I'm not sure how to handle it. Where's Gardner when you need him?
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Charlie Finlay
Posted on Friday, March 26, 2004 - 07:56 am:   

Since he's one of Ellen's writers, the answer is obvious--he's on his hands and knees! He'd say that for himself, but the ball-gag gets in the way.
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Matt Jarpe
Posted on Friday, March 26, 2004 - 01:18 pm:   

Pervert.
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Ellen
Posted on Friday, March 26, 2004 - 01:57 pm:   

LOL.

Funny boys :-)

I have never been able to give writers ideas as to what to write. That's why I've never wanted to write--as far as I'm concerned I don't have ideas, I need to work with something already existing (a ms).
However, I have given many many writers themes to write on (for my short-shorts in OMNI over the years and in my theme anthologies) to excellent effect.
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bluejack
Posted on Friday, March 26, 2004 - 04:11 pm:   

Hey, thanks for the answers: this is an unusually interesting and enlightening thread.
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Charlie Finlay
Posted on Friday, March 26, 2004 - 06:09 pm:   

Thanks for mentioning my story, Matt. But Gordon bought that one, not Ellen.

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