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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

The Origin of Galaxy's Edge and Stellar Guild by Mike Resnick

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Mike Resnick has won five Hugo awards (out of a record 36 nominations) and a Nebula for his short fiction, including numerous international awards, making him, according to Locus, the all-time leader among authors, living or dead, for short fiction. His most recent editorial excursions are as editor of the Stellar Guild series of books under the Phoenix Pick imprint, and editor of the bi-monthly online professional SF magazine Galaxy's Edge. With the recent success, popularity, and recognition of stories from both Galaxy's Edge and the Stellar Guild series, I asked Mike if he would recount the origins of both, how he hooked up with publisher Shahid Mahmud, and how the dual concepts — book series and magazine format — became reality. I thank Mike Resnick for taking time from his writing and editing schedule to pen the following piece, which among other virtues shows how he and other established (busy) professionals still take time to discover and nurture new talent within the field.

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        The Origin of Galaxy’s Edge and Stellar Guild

 

by Mike Resnick

 

 

About a quarter of a century ago I was editing an anthology titled Alternate Kennedys. Like all my anthologies it was by invitation only.

(With only two or three exceptions in my experience, anthologies don’t pay very much, especially after you spend 90% of the advance on your budget – and if you also have to read 600 slush stories, it falls somewhere between philanthrophy and insanity, and much closer to the latter.)

So when a newcomer named Nick DiChario sent me a story for the book – Nancy Kress knew about it, he was in one of her writing seminars, and she thought his story would fit – I should have just stuck a rejection slip on it and returned it. But I was in a nasty mood that day, so I began reading it just to see how truly awful it was…and by page 3 I knew nothing could keep it off the Hugo ballot.

And nothing did. It made the Hugo ballot, and the World Fantasy Ballot, and Nick himself made the Campbell ballot.

Move the clock ahead a year, and I finally meet Nick at the Orlando Worldcon in 1992, and I ask him why he had submitted such a brilliant story to an anthology, when the prozines outsold anthologies (at that time, anyway) about four-to-one and his chances of making the ballot would be even better there. He replied that he’d gotten a form reject from every digest in the field – which meant that the slush readers were assholes, since no editor would have rejected that story.

A year later I hear from Nick again. He sends me a novella. He thinks it’s pretty good, but it’s been turned down six or seven times, and could I possibly tell him what was wrong with it and how to improve it. I looked it over, and it was every bit as good as the story I’d bought from him. Its only problem was that it was written by a Nick, and not an Isaac or a Ray or an Arthur.

I figured if the field kept treating him like this we were going to lose him to mysteries or espionage or some other category. At the time I was getting seven or eight invites to anthologies every year – and in the case of established writers like myself, those invites were indistinguishable from assignments. So I offered to collaborate with Nick to get him into print a few more times. When the dust had cleared we’d collaborated on eleven stories, resold them as a hardcover collection, Nick was up for another Hugo a few years later, and he’s still around turning out fine stories.

But I got to thinking: if the field treated Nick like that, was it doing the same to other talented beginners?

And the answer was yes. So I started doing with them what I did with Nick: buying stories from them for my own anthologies, collaborating with them for other editors’ anthologies, introducing them to editors and agents at conventions.

After a while Maureen McHugh (whom I call McHugo ever since she won a Hugo with a story I’d assigned her for one of my anthologies) began calling them “Mike’s Writer Children,” and the term seems to have stuck. At last count I’m up to 25 of them, starting with Nick. Some, like New York Times bestseller Tobias S. Buckell, and award winners Barb Delaplace and Lezli Robyn, really didn’t need much (or any) help…but a lot of them did, and I was happy to provide it.

Now and then I’m asked why I do it. The answer is simple enough. This field has been very good to me for half a century. I can’t pay back, because everyone who helped me along the way is dead or rich or both, so the way I thank the field is to pay forward.

Okay, that’s the background. Now let’s move the clock ahead to 2011. A new publisher named Shahid Mahmud, who runs Arc Manor and Phoenix Pick, buys reprint rights to Daniel Galouye’s Simulacron-3. The agent for Dan’s estate, Eleanor Wood, has been my agent since 1983, and she knows that Dan and I were friends, so she suggests to Shahid that he hire me to write an Afterword, which he does.

We start corresponding, and we hit it off, and in 2012 – knowing that I had just finished a 3-year stint as co-editor of Jim Baen’s Universe with Eric Flint, he asked me if I’d be willing to edit a magazine for him. I agreed on one condition: that I could format the magazine so that it showcased new and lesser-known writers. He asked me to tell him what that would entail, so I sat down with the budget he was offering and the page count that he felt was within reason, and I came up with the notion we’ve used for every issue: the magazine, called Galaxy’s Edge, would run five or six new stories every issue, each by a newcomer or a lesser-known writer. (There have been the occasional exceptions, for example when a proposed anthology died and a top pro was sitting on a story that had no home…but I think there have only been four of those in the first two years.)

The magazine would also have 4 reprints each issue by major writers whose names would help sell the magazine. It would also serialize a novel that Shahid had previously reprinted, also by major writers. (The first three were by Galouye, Andre Norton, and L. Sprague de Camp.)

We’d run a science column by Greg Benford, and what I call an anything-he-feels-like-writing-about column by Barry Malzberg, and I’d do an editorial each issue. Our original book reviewer just resigned due to the press of other business, and starting with the May, 2015 issue our joint reviewers will be Jody Lynn Nye and Bill Fawcett. And starting a few issues back, we’re running an interview by Joy Ward with a major science fiction figure every issue – George R. R. Martin, the screenwriter/directors of Predestination, and the like.

Everyone told us the magazine couldn’t survive. Not a chance in hell. But here we are, two years later, and not only are we still in business, but the demand for paper copies has increased, our e-subscriptions have increased, the five 2013 issues got ten stories listed in Tangent’s Year’s Best, and the six 2014 issues put fourteen more on the list. Some of our newcomers have started hitting major markets and selling novels and we cheer like hell whenever they do. And to top everything off, we just put together a deal that resulted in our selling the first four issues to a Chinese publisher, with no reason to think they won’t keep buying more.

Anyway, we’re having a wonderful time, we’re publishing some fine stories, and surprisingly, about half our fan mail tells us that the reprints – including some Hugo and Nebula winners – were new to the readers, which means hardly anyone is buying it and reading only half the issue.

Now, while all this was going on, Shahid decided that he wanted to do a line of new books. Problem was, there was no way he was going to get rich publishing new material by the names he could afford, not when he had to compete against the New York publishing conglomerates to get them.

Well, there might be a way, I suggested.

Oh?

Yes, I said. But it still came back to my notion of paying forwardif he was interested.

He was.

Okay, I said. I am not the only guy who pays forward and helps newcomers. Lots of major writers have that same compulsion. So what about a line of books where we get major writers, the superstars of the field, to write a novella – and then to have a protégé of the writer’s choosing (not the editor’s) write a novella that was a prequel, a sequel, or at least sat in the same universe?

Money was still a problem. How do you get a Larry Niven or a Mercedes Lackey to write for even a good word rate when they’re busy writing books for six-figure advances?

Answer: By explaining that their protégés would share cover credit with them, which would do the protégés more good than selling half a dozen stories to the major digests.

So I started talking to the writers we wanted. When I began my pitch – that I wanted a new novella from them – no one was interested. But when I explained that they would choose and share credit with a protégé, every single one of them said Yes, which is one of the things I truly love about this field and its practitioners.

The first book was Tau Ceti, by Kevin J. Anderson and his protégé, Steve Saville. It won a brand-new award, the “Lifeboat to the Stars” award, that carried a 4-figure check with it, and we were off and running. Kevin’s book was followed by Mercedes Lackey (and protégé Cody Martin) with Reboots, Harry Turtledove (and protégé Rachel, his daughter) with On the Train, Robert Silverberg (and protégé Alvaro Zinos-Amaro) with When the Blue Shift Comes, Nancy Kress (whose novella was a Nebula nominee, and protégé Therese Pieczynski) with New Under the Sun, Eric Flint (and protégé Charles E. Gannon) with The Aethers of Mars, and Larry Niven (with two- protégés, Matthew Harrington and Brad R. Torgersen) with Red Tide. I’ll be doing the 8th with my protégé Tina Gower; as I write these words I’m about ten days from finishing it, and her half is already done – and Jody Lynn Nye (and protégé Angelina Adams) will be doing the ninth.

Anyway, if one person is responsible for Galaxy’s Edge and the Stellar Guild books, it’s not me. It’s Shahid Mahmud. He’s not only responsible for the design and look of the magazine and the books, but he had the courage of my convictions. After all, it wouldn’t have cost me a penny if the magazine and/or the books had flopped. But Shahid has faith in the future of the field, in the talent of these newcomers, and he put his money where his faith was.

The end result is that we’re all pretty happy with the way things have worked out.


{Phoenix Pick/Stellar Guild Books to date.}