Nick was kind enough to answer a few questions about his recent and upcoming projects — specifically Spicy Slipstream Stories, an anthology he edited with Jay Lake, published by Lethe Press. As a special bonus, Nick-Mamatas.com is offering a sneak preview of the book, a free story called "Hydraulic" by Ekaterina Sedia.
First of all, what exactly is "slipstream"?
Slipstream was a term coined by Bruce Sterling to discuss works published as general fiction (or as avant-garde, or children's literature) that are strange enough to be enjoyed by regular readers of science fiction. Of course, the term is problematic -- Sterling included a list of material he considered slipstream and as Catherynne Valente pointed out, any list that includes both The Princess Bride and Naked Lunch as similar works has to be suspect. One might call it postmodern fabulation.
A few years ago, the definition of slipstream shifted. Rather than someone one recognized upon reading, it became something that SF writers could actually purposefully write. It now is nothing more than a nonsense phrase meaning "well-written fantasy", or, more accurately, "fantasy, generally not high fantasy and not sword-and-sorcery, that its youngish writer considers to be so well-written that it 'transcends the genre'."
How did Spicy Slipstream Stories come about?
I sent an email with those three words, as a joke, to Jay Lake, who at the time was (and may still be) associated with Wheatland Press. By the end of the day, we had the antho.
Describe the selection process. Did you and Jay Lake split the slush pile in half, did you take turns, or were your roles completely separate?
Jay read a bunch and marked the ones he liked. At WFC 2005, he handed off the slush and I read them all. We each had a magic button -- as small groups tend to shave off strong opinions due to the need to compromise, we didn't want to lose stories that would get attention for the sake of internal harmony. Each of us could "press" the button and get a single story in over the objections of the other editor. As it turned out, we didn't need to use the buttons at all. Some of the pieces we accepted got fairly closely edited, while others were good to go.
What do you enjoy about editing an anthology vs. working on one of your own stories? Are they completely different animals or does one help with the other?
They are different animals, entirely. Sufficiently different that I cannot see it as a "vs" sort of situation. What do you like better? Making websites or trimming your beard? You know? Early on, reading slushpiles was very helpful to me as a writer, but I did time in the slushmines long before I was able to edit my own anthology. I recommend reading slush to anyone who wants to write seriously, and then I recommend they stop after six months unless they are getting paid for it.
I've heard you recently started a new job.
Yup, I now work for Viz Media, where I am editing a new line of Japanese science fiction in translation, which we are calling Haikasoru. (High Castle, after the Dick novel.) Can't say much more about it until January though. I will say that there is no slush involved, as all the work has been published first in Japan. Editing without slush is fun!
Any thoughts on the upcoming election?
Hmm, the party of industrial capital versus the party of financial capital, in a moment when big swaths of financial capital are on the verge of nationalization? I'm glad I work for a Japanese company.
If you could recommend one movie that people might have missed in theaters this past summer, what would it be?
The Fall by Tarsem. It's about how the consolations of fantasy cannot help but run up against the horrors of the present. It also has migrant workers and substance abuse and slick 1920s haircuts, so it's a win all around.
Can you give us a scoop on any upcoming writing or editing projects?
I'll have a story in Lovecraft Unbound -- it's a Carver/Lovecraft mashup called "That Of Which We Speak When We Speak of the Unspeakable." Of course in 2010 the anthology of regional ghost stories I'm editing with Ellen Datlow, Haunted Legends will be released by Tor Books. That should be quite exciting, for me at least.