content by

Amber Troska

Shaping the Speculative Fiction World: Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

It is difficult to overestimate the tremendous value of editors. The contributions that authors make to their respective fields, and their impact on the readers that encounter their work, can’t be overstated either, of course—but it is equally important to remember that no truly great author goes it alone; there are always strong editors behind the scenes, shaping the individual stories themselves as well as the publishing world at large. The Hugo Awards are named for an editor, after all.

Yet I can count most of the editors I recognize by name on one hand. Even with such a limited group to choose from, only two have had an extremely significant, identifiable impact on me as a reader: Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow. I could never hope to cover everything the two have contributed to the publishing world—their careers have stretched too far and are too varied and far-reaching for me to do them full justice. However, there are several projects that are worth looking at in order to appreciate their impact and get a sense of how influential their work has been, and continues to be.

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I Loved These Books As a Teen — Do They Hold Up Now?

I recently found myself combing through some boxes of old books and papers and came across a fascinating personal artifact. On the surface it’s a pretty unremarkable object, just a crumbling spiral-bound notebook covered in childish graffiti. But inside is over a decade of my life—a handwritten list of every book I read between 4th grade and college graduation. Looking through it was a bit like spelunking into the past, a unique look at the strata of different life stages, delineated by changes in handwriting and shifting interests like so many compressed layers of rock.

Paging through the tattered old list, I was seized by a sort of anthropological interest. If different parts of the list reflect phases of my life, what would happen if I took a deep dive into one of these distinct stages and revisited some of those stories? One place in particular caught my interest: from about the age of 12-15 there is a sort of genre bottleneck where my tastes suddenly narrowed from an indiscriminate mix of anything and everything to a very distinctive preference for fantasy and (to a lesser extent at the time) science fiction. There were dozens of titles to choose from, so I picked a handful of stories that conjured up particularly strong feelings, like sense memories that come back clearly even when my actual recollection of the stories is hazy (or nonexistent).

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