Gordon van Gelder launched the session by asking the panelists to relate an anecdote about great editing, and Patrick O’Leary started off with a note about David Hartwell. O’Leary said, “Hartwell grasped the contents of a story I sent him and shook them down to their basic elements, then he tossed them back at me and demanded a rewrite, along the lines of: Does the main character of this story have to be a monster, a pederast, AND a fire-breathing dragon? Why not just pick two of those and go with that?” Brian Francis Slattery pointed out, that even though editors suggestions can often save a bad story, if they get too involved in the writing process, they can edit the story into incoherence. He cited an example of his own editing in which he so completely rewrote the story that it was both unrecognizable as the author’s style and had, at the same time, become incomprehensible. Barry Malzberg said that if he had to choose an example, he would cite Horace Gold, “for pulling the Demolished Man out Alfred Bester, which was a great exploit!” Van Gelder asked, “What about Daniel Keyes and Flowers for Algernon? Isn’t there a story about Gold asking Keyes to change the ending, and Keyes’ neighbor said to him, if you do that, I’ll go back to my house, get a baseball bat and use it break both your knees!”
Trouble at China’s largest (okay, the world’s largest) circulation SF magazine, where the editors have united to publish an “Open Letter of protest” against the editor in chief. Here’s the original: Open Letter (in Chinese). I’ve translated the Youth Daily news article below: ** “Science Fiction World“ turns into a “pseudo-science farce” as editor’s collective seeks to “overthrow the president”** by: Li Fan (Youth Daily) 2010-3-23 translated by Lex Berman China’s largest science fiction magazine Science Fiction World, has recently become wracked by infighting. On March 21, the magazine’s entire editorial staff published an open letter on the Internet accusing the publication’s editor-in-chief, Li Chang, of various offenses and seeking his removal from office. Yesterday, it was learned from relevant channels that the unit in charge of Science Fiction World (the Sichuan Province Science and Technology Association) has dispatched a team to investigate the sitation. The open letter claims to be written under the “duress of the last banner that can be raised before Science Fiction World ceases to exist.” Among the accusations leveled at Li Chang were that after taking office he dropped relations with various authors and instead forced the magazine editors to write the stories themselves; he then demanded that the foreign language editors take on the task of translations into Chinese; and went so far as to make the art editors create the illustrations instead of hiring artists. Also, for example, he interfered with the advertising to the point of replacing the magazine’s cover with an advertisement for a school.
This panel featured Jeanne Cavelos , Joy Marchand , David Nurenberg , Allan Steele and GOH Gardner Dozois , who discussed the relationship between writer and editor in the SF field and how the situation has changed. In their opening remarks, Cavelos related her experience as a senior editor in New York, where she found that the interest editors take in nurturing new authors from unknowns into big names has fallen victim to the push for blockbusters. Today, if an editor is not advocating for a bestseller to the senior editors, to her peers, to the sales division, to the assistant editors and designers she’ll be out of a job. Allen Steele pointed out that short fiction editors still manage to read the submissions they find interesting, and they’ll take the time to send comments back to the author or ask for changes. “Short fiction editors still edit,” said Dozois, “ but at the major publishing houses, who’s in charge? In fact, it’s the sales people who end up canceling book deals.” Nurenberg emphasized how incredibly valuable the feedback he received from games publisher White Wolf was to his career, “like water to a drowning man…“ As that analogy didn’t make much sense, he said, “I mean to a thirsty.” Somehow the object of the verb got lost, but we get the idea!