Horror Writers Association

Know a Nominee, Part 15: Ellen Datlow


Welcome back to “Know a Nominee,” the interview series that puts you squarely between the ears of this year’s Bram Stoker Award nominees. Today’s update features Ellen Datlow, nominated in the category of Superior Achievement in an Anthology for Fearful Symmetries.

DM: Please describe the genesis for the idea that eventually became the work(s) for which you’ve been nominated. What attracted you most to the project? If nominated in multiple categories, please touch briefly on each.


ED: I love editing non-theme anthologies so whenever I get the chance, I do. Fearful Symmetries was crowd-funded, and I partnered with ChiZine Publications to make it a reality.

DM: What was the most challenging part of bringing the concept(s) to fruition? The most rewarding aspect of the process?

ED: Gathering support for the a non-themed horror anthology. The most challenging and simultaneously rewarding aspect of editing any original anthology is hoping the writers you solicit will come through with brilliant stories–and when they do, well that’s what we all work toward, I think.

DM: What do you think good horror/dark literature should achieve? How do you feel the work(s) for which you’ve been nominated work fits into (or help give shape to) that ideal?

ED: It disturbs, create disquiet, makes the reader uncomfortable in some way. It instills a feeling of dread in the reader, dread as to what will happen to these characters in whom you have some emotional (hopefully) investment. I believe the stories in Fearful Symmetries do just that.

In addition, an anthology like Fearful Symmetries is intended as a showcase for the sheer variety that “horror literature” can encompass. And in that goal I also believe it succeeds.

DM: I’m curious about your writing and/or editing process. Is there a certain setting or set of circumstances that help to move things along? If you find yourself getting stuck, where and why?

ED: Once I come up with an idea, I approach writers whose work I love and who I think might fit within that framework. No. I never get stuck. The only sticking point is selling the anthology I want to do to an appropriate publisher.

DM: As you probably know, many of our readers are writers and/or editors. What is the most valuable piece of advice you can share?

ED: For writers, read widely, submit your work on a regular basis (don’t wait for it to be accepted/rejected just begin the next story/novel), and cannibalize, ie if something
you’ve worked on doesn’t pan out, use bits and pieces of it for other works.

DM: If you’re attending WHC this year, what are you most looking forward to at this year’s event? If not attending, what do you think is the significance of recognitions like the Bram Stoker Awards?

ED: Meeting and socializing with my friends and colleagues.

DM: What scares you most? Why? How (if at all) does that figure into your work or the projects you’re attracted to?

ED The poisonous political atmosphere of the United States. The denial of the obvious (climate change, etc). Personally, the idea of losing control of my life. I don’t think my own fears influence my editing work.

DM: What are you reading for pleasure lately? Can you point us to new authors or works we ought to know about?

ED: I’m about to read Hard Light, Elizabeth Hand’s newest Cass Neary novel (crime/dark suspense) in ms. Cass is a screwed up but brilliant photographer who came out of the punk era in NYC a mess. She’s become involved in horrific events, since the first novel Generation Loss, and things only got worse in Available Dark.

I’ve just finished reading for the Best Horror of the Year volume 7 and have taken a break before reading novels (or stories, for that matter) for #8.

About Ellen Datlow

Ellen Datlow has been editing science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction for over thirty years as fiction editor of OMNI Magazine and editor of Event Horizon and SCIFICTION. She currently acquires short fiction for Tor.com. In addition, she has edited more than sixty science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies, including the annual The Best Horror of the Year, Lovecraft’s Monsters, Fearful Symmetries, Nightmare Carnival, The Cutting Room, and The Doll Collection. Forthcoming is The Monstrous.

She’s won multiple World Fantasy Awards, Locus Awards, Hugo Awards, Stoker Awards, International Horror Guild Awards, Shirley Jackson Awards, and the 2012 Il Posto Nero Black Spot Award for Excellence as Best Foreign Editor. Datlow was named recipient of the 2007 Karl Edward Wagner Award, given at the British Fantasy Convention for “outstanding contribution to the genre,” was honored with the Life Achievement Award by the Horror Writers Association, in acknowledgment of superior achievement over an entire career, and honored with the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award at the 2014 World Fantasy Convention.

She lives in New York and co-hosts the monthly Fantastic Fiction Reading Series at KGB Bar. More information can be found at www.datlow.com, on Facebook, and on twitter as @EllenDatlow.

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