This article was originally published in Jim Baen’s Universe Vol 1, Num 4, December 2006.
By Eric Flint
Since our third issue came out a few weeks ago, we’ve expanded our staff by adding two new people. Beginning a few weeks ago, Stoney Compton became our assistant art director. And starting with this issue, Mike Resnick is going to be joining the magazine as our new executive editor, while my title changes from the former simple “editor” to “editor-in-chief.” If you’re wondering what those titles really mean, I’ll explain in a moment.
I’ve known Stoney for thirteen years, since we met at the annual award presentation of the Writers of the Future contest in 1993. I’d won first place in the 1992 winter quarter’s contest and Stoney had won second place. We became friends over the course of that weekend and have remained in touch ever since. Earlier this year, at my recommendation, Jim Baen bought Stoney’s first novel Russian Amerika, an excellent alternate history that will be coming out in April 2007. (Yes, that’s a plug. It really is good—and, better still, it doesn’t retread the standard ground that so many alternate history novels do.)
Stoney started helping the magazine informally a few months ago, in all sorts of ways. Eventually, it simply made sense to officially add him to the staff. Stoney did and will wind up doing all sorts of things for the magazine. But since he’s a professional graphics designer and will probably spend most of his time working with Dave Freer on the magazine’s art work, we decided to give him the title of assistant art director.
My personal acquaintance with Mike Resnick is much more recent than that, although I’ve known who he was for . . . Jeez, I dunno. Three decades, something like that. In my years as an unpublished author—we won’t dwell on that miserable period—there was no one in the field whose advice I listened to more carefully than Mike’s, in the regular column he did for Speculations magazine called “Ask Bwana.” So by the time I finally got to meet him earlier this year, I felt oddly familiar with him already.
Those distant impressions turned out to be quite accurate. In the course of working together as co-editors of an anthology for Baen titled The Dragon Done It, a collection of fantasy detective stories, Mike and I came to be good friends. Perhaps more to the point, we discovered that we shared very much the same attitude as editors. Mike and I are what you might call, for lack of a better term, old-fashioned story-tellers. For both of us, whether we’re working as authors or editors, it’s always the story that comes first and foremost, with literary style and technique a long ways second. At the same time, since we’re also fairly free-wheeling souls, we’re both willing to cut a writer a lot of slack in the way he or she gets around to presenting a given story, as long as we think the story itself is worth telling.
After we’d been working together for a while,. Mike asked me if there might be any room for him on the magazine’s staff. He told me that the one major role in the field that he’d never taken on, even over the course of several decades, was seeing what editing a magazine was like. Mike’s edited forty-four anthologies over the years, so he’s a very experienced editor. But editing an anthology is a very different kettle of fish from editing a magazine, and he wanted to give that a shot as well.
I told him he was probably a damn fool, but if he really wanted to do it, I could certainly use the help. With experience, we’ve discovered that the single biggest problem the magazine faces when it comes to acquiring stories isn’t a shortage of money so much as it is a shortage of my time. I make a living as an author, not an editor, and that means that periodically I have to more or less set the magazine’s work aside while I concentrate on getting a novel finished. The end result is that the magazine’s staff does a superb and quick job of sorting through the slush, and then . . . As often as not, the five percent of the stories (roughly) that they kick up to me for a final decision might languish on my desk for weeks or even months before I can get around to reading them.
That bothers me. A lot, in fact. I know exactly what it’s like to be a writer, submitting a story and then having to wait for a long time to get a response. It sucks, to put it crudely but accurately—and I find I’m no more happy being the one on the editor’s side of that equation than I was being on the author’s side.
So, please welcome Mike Resnick. Don’t take those respective titles any too seriously. The real relationship between the “executive editor” and the “editor-in-chief” will be exactly the relationship Mike and I have had working on our anthology. We’re editing partners, simple as that. In the very unlikely event that we can’t reach agreement on a specific story, I’ll have the final sayso. But I don’t expect to have to exercise that august power very often, if at all. I really wasn’t kidding when I said that Mike and I look at these things very much the same way.
Mike makes his living as an author also, of course. In fact, he’s one of the most successful authors in the field. (How successful? Well, fifty-one novels, thirteen short story collections—taken from one hundred and seventy-five stories published—two screenplays, and three non-fiction books. Not to mention that, at last count, I think he’s piled up more science fiction awards than any but three other authors in the history of our genre.) So he’ll run into the same problem that I do, from time to time. But the difference from now on is that there will be two of us doing the work, so I think we’ll be able to swap it back and forth to match our writing schedules in such a way that the magazine’s response time to authors with stories under final consideration gets a lot quicker than it has been.
The other thing that’s new starting with this issue is that we’ve arranged with Stephen Cobb to establish a regular link with his very popular podcast program, “The Future and You.” Steve has a short essay in this issue that explains the nature of his program—see “What’s New in The Future And You“—as well as the first essay in what will be a regular column he’ll be running in Universe magazine. Please check it out. I think you’ll find both very interesting.