Selection process for Year’s Best Weird Fiction

MK: Hi everyone. I’m Michael Kelly, Series Editor for the Year’s Best Weird Fiction. This year’s Guest Editor is the inimitable Kathe Koja. We’ve just announced the super fantastic table of contents for volume 2 of the series. Hurrah! It’s terrific. We read a LOT of great stories, too. Some of you are asking about the selection process. How does it work? What does a Series Editor do? What does the Guest Editor do? Why didn’t you take my fantastic story? Okay, you aren’t asking that question, really. At least not directly. And maybe you did have a fantastic story. So, we thought we’d try to answer your queries.

As Series Editor it’s my responsibility to read as much material as possible. I read close to 2500 stories. About the same amount as I did for the first volume. With this year’s volume I opened submissions to writers, via the Submittable form. About 40% of my reading came from those submissions. The rest of my reading came from anthologies and online venues. I worked diligently to get publishers to send me electronic copies of their anthologies. Alas, there were a few publishers who were non-responsive.

Several writers have sent me messages stating that Submittable says I didn’t read their work. The guidelines and Submittable’s original ‘submission received’ note explicitly stated that only authors selected for the volume would receive a response. As submissions weren’t going through a typical review process, there was no need, and no time, to change the status of each submission to ‘In Progress.’ But I assure you all that Submittable allows you to read and download the submissions without changing the state of the submission. And each submission was vetted. I sent a few of them to Guest Editor Kathe Koja. And why would I not read the work? I invited submissions.

Of the approximately 1,000 submissions that came through via Submittable, we took 1 story for the volume. And most of those submissions were straight-out lit stories with nary a hint of speculative weirdness. I will have to give a rethink to using the Submittable form for the next volume. So, you may indeed have sent in a fantastic story, but it may not have been weird fiction. There truly was a lot of good stuff that wasn’t genre.

As I read through the submissions, if a story caught my fancy I’d send it along to Kathe. The choices are colored by my own tastes, of course, but I tried to choose a diverse and eclectic array of stories to show the breadth and depth of the field. All told, I believe I passed along around 65 stories to Kathe.

Does that number sound about right, Kathe?

KK: As Guest Editor, I was more than grateful to have Mike’s fair and discerning eye be the first to see all the stories that arrived — 65 sounds especially manageable when you start with 2500! I’m disappointed to hear of the publishers who never submitted their writers’ work—we can’t love what we didn’t see—and thoroughly nonplused by the Submittable fail, because no one’s stuff is amazing enough to overcome the stated intention of the project.

Mike was also careful not to overwhelm me with an inbox avalanche—I had ample time to read and ponder every story I received, create a first round folder, then reread for my final picks. Of those, it was voice that made my choices for me: as a reader, it’s what I seek and respond to every time, a particular voice in a story or a novel, it’s what holds me in the telling, and what I remember afterward.

And just for the record, I read AS a reader: not as a colleague, friend, stranger, critic, genre fan or foe . . . I read the stories the way I read anything, to learn, to find pleasure, to catch the frisson of the wholly real in its uniform and motley of humanity (or the nearly-so). Response is as mysterious a thing in reading as in any other facet of life: and that’s why having a Guest Editor for this series is such a brilliant way to parse and offer the fiction of a particular year—I didn’t read Laird Barron’s editorial work until my own was done, and I’ll look forward as eagerly to next year’s editor’s choices. I won’t single out individual stories, but oh, there are some pure, strong, idiosyncratic voices out there, and I’ve learned some bylines to watch for: a perk I’ll hope is shared by many many readers of YBWF2.

MK and KK: We’d like to thank all the writers, editors, and publishers who sent in material for review. This is a truly Herculean task, and we couldn’t do it without your support and assistance. And we’d also like to thank the superb contributors to this volume for allowing us to reprint their work. Thanks, as well, to Tomasz Alen Kopera for the awesome cover art, and Vince Haig for his stellar design.

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