Aug 13, 2009

Anonymous Anthologies

With all of the discussion (SFSignal, that has been going on regarding EditorFails involving the lack of diversity in SFF Anthologies, I had an idea that I thought was worth discussing: Anonymous Anthologies.

The TPB anthology (or series of anthologies) would include 10-20 stories from authors who were looking to expand their readership base or interested in genre diversity. Preferably, the editor would pick authors across a range of genders/races/sexual preferences/national origins/favorite movies/whatever. We wouldn’t want to have an EditorFail in an anthology oriented toward diversity. Each author should also preferably have a published novel or anthology available. Stories would be commissioned work at a fixed rate (either per story or per word).

The catch is that the anthology would be published without the names of the authors clearly linked to their stories. This would eliminate bias from the equation and focus solely on the content of the stories. It would also encourage authors to work harder to write an outstanding story when they might otherwise phone it in. The story has to stand completely on its own merits. The publisher/ editor/ publicists/ whomever would then create an accompanying website that allows the reader to discover who wrote their favorite story(ies) in the anthology with links to buying/reading their other work. They could include interviews with the authors/discussion of other work/essays on the role of diversity within Science Fiction/ and other additional content.

The marketing approach would be threefold
1) Discover new genre authors without any bias from names/covers/reviews
2) Marketing SFF as futuristic fiction beyond prejudice
3) The allure of the mystery box gimmick

Possible Enhancements/Other Ideas:

  • Publish the author names on the cover or in a Table of Contents but don’t link the authors to the stories in any way (could boost sales with a few stories by A-list authors but would eliminate people buying the anthology and reading only one story)

  • Encourage some (or possibly all) authors to write a story from a perspective different from their own (gender/race/whatever)

  • Group stories by theme (Urban Fantasy/Hard SF/Space Opera) so that readers can find new names within their preferred reading area

  • No tie-ins to existing universes to ensure author anonymity

  • Possibly provide a method for buying a longer work from the mystery author of your choice without knowing who wrote it until you receive the book

  • Include the author names at the end of the stories (although this would tempt readers to cheat)

  • Don’t let the editor see the names of who wrote the stories until after he selects them (or perhaps ever). He could send out the request to 15-20 authors and have them collaborate and send all 15-20 stories together or respond to edits via an anonymous method.

  • Make the discovery of the authors interactive with some type of tie in with the stories. For example, you could have clues to website password in the stories themselves. This could appeal to the SFF fans who also love a good puzzle.

  • Don’t ever announce who wrote which story. Release the list of authors but leave the individual stories open for debate.

Granted there are still the people that would try and spoil themselves on the authors. These are the same people that would read the last chapter of a book first or read the crew reports to see whose guest starring on Lost next week. You would need to balance the anonymity of the authors with the challenge/difficulty of finding out who they are. Too easy (at the end of the story) and the effect is wasted. Too hard (secret password mathematically encrypted into the text of the story) and then people will become frustrated.

I personally love discovering new authors and the idea of walking into a story with no authorial expectations would intrigue me greatly. I would buy an anthology like this in a heartbeat.

What are your thoughts? Readers, would you buy this anthology? Authors, would you contribute to it? Editors, would this be publishable / sellable?

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