The coolest thing about the anthology panel was that there were no writers, only readers, in the audience. Nobody had come there to find out how to sell stories. They all just loved short fiction and wanted to find more good stuff. This may sound as if it should be unremarkable, but consider how many people write/want to write/believe they might write if only they had the time, etc. About half of the people attending any given science fiction and/or fantasy convention harbor dreams of publication, and usually any panel that has an acquiring editor among its speakers will attract a roomful of the desperately unpublished and underpublished (that latter would be me).
This is what industry pros all have to say about anthologies: You'd think people would buy anthologies edited by authors they love, and that those authors could just collect whatever they think is the very best, but no, readers won't buy that. For some reason—nobody knows why—they'd rather have a theme anthology, even if it's edited by a total unknown. (This is one of the reasons I'm editing a theme anthology.)
Well, in a room full of readers who don't write, people who care enough about anthologies to spend their free time at a panel about them, I figured there might be an answer to the nobody-knows-why problem, which seemed overstated to me. So I put it to the audience, who had this to say: No matter what your favorite aspect of the genre is, you'll feel that it's hard to find, maybe even embattled in the marketplace. A theme anthology makes no pretense of quality, and is not about a cult-of-personality author displaying the breadth of his or her taste, but is rather about giving the reader a chance to push his or her own buttons, unapologetically, no matter what those buttons are. Sounds good to me.
I'm still not going to be buying any of the recent zombie anthologies, though, despite having become a zombie.
We're crib-training Conrad, and it's going well in the sense of getting him out of our bed. In the sense of anybody in my household getting any sleep? Not so well. I haven't slept as long as an hour without interruption in over a week. There's improvement. There'll be more improvement. Meanwhile...Brains! More Brains!
For the first time, I understand the recent popularity of zombie literature. It's our culture's response to epidemic sleep deprivation. Now, when the booksellers at Barnes & Noble are mopping up the cafe five minutes before closing and feel free to talk frankly among themselves because it's just them and three late-night regulars around, I'll have an answer to the frequent question, Why does anybody buy all these zombie books? There's even an especially baffling sub-genre of the sub-genre: zombie romances, in which one of the romantic leads is a zombie. I'm pretty sure this is a way of talking about what it's like to love someone who's been zombified by sleep deprivation. (Literature is all about me, right?)
Okay, now back to roughing out the intro to the Trafficking in Magic anthology.