Copyright 2008 by Gary L. Pullman
There are probably as many ways to come up with an anthology idea as there are editors who come up with anthology ideas. In the brief head notes to his stories in his own anthology of twice-told tales, The Collection, Bentley Little mentions a few of them. For any who imagined that the innards of the publishing industry are as confused and messy as those of a dissected high school biology class frog, his comments on the matter suggest that such cynics are pretty much right on the money.
The ecology movement gave rise to the notion for one anthology: The Earth Strikes Back was to be a collection of tales concerning “the negative effects of pollution, overpopulation, and deforestation” upon the planet, or so Little supposed, at least, “judging by the title of the book.”
Another anthology, Cold Blood, was also to be centered on a “theme” and its stories were to have been written to “specific guidelines.”
A third anthology was to have included “stories based on titles the editor provided,” all of which “were. . . clichéd horror images.” This one, Little says, “never came to pass.”
According to Stephanie Bond, author of “Much Ado About Anthologies,” these collections “are assembled in various ways,” sometimes as the result of a group proposal by several authors, sometimes at the suggestion of an editor, sometimes as a way to test the marketability of an idea, and sometimes to capitalize upon a specific author’s unusual success. Usually, they come together because “editors formulate ideas for anthologies to fill holes they perceive in the market.”
I submitted a story for an anthology myself. It (the anthology, but my story also) concerned animals. My story was accepted, but I declined the invitation, because it was to have appeared in an electronic magazine and the editor wanted to pay via PayPal. I prefer payments by check, the old-fashioned way.
Anthologies have a common theme, of course, provided by a timely or evergreen topic, a holiday, an intriguing situation, or any other reasonably good excuse for a score or more (or fewer) stories by the same or different authors of the same genre.
Horror movies have also gone the anthology route. Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye and Creepshow are only two among many. Most follow the simple convention of sandwiching three of four short movies between an opening prologue that sets up the theme to be followed and an epilogue that rounds out the series and provides an appropriate sense of closure.