Kage Baker loved it when she got asked to do a story for a themed anthology.
Part of it, of course, was that it is enormously flattering for a writer to be asked to make something new for a project. It’s a potent challenge, and a compliment as well – someone likes what you do AND thinks you can craft something to order. By the end of her life, nearly everything Kage was writing was to order, and she thought that was just dandy.
She could always write something original when she got an idea. But the custom jobs usually came with an idea attached, and so a certain amount of searching and brain-storming and skull sweating was taken care of automatically.
It doesn’t always work out, though. Kage was once invited to submit a story to an anthology about Renaissance Faires: it was rejected because it was not about Court, or courtiers, and the language was hard to follow … she wrote it in the Elizabethan she had studied and taught for 30 years, and the editors found the whole thing just too common for use.It went somewhere else, finally.
And once she was invited to submit a story to an anthology about Zorro. As a daughter of California, Kage was delighted. She threw herself into the legend of Zorro and the myths of Old California (with a soupcon of the old Disney TV show staring Guy Williams; Kage loved that show). Unfortunately, the editor had a stick up an awkward orifice, was psychotic about owning the rights to the Johnston McCulley original novel, and would permit no original characterization at all. Kage finally pulled her story in exasperation.
I have no idea to this day what happened to it …
Me, I am trying to select a disaster and a plot for an anthology for the friend of a friend. Something to submit, at least; which is only courteous when you have been asked out loud and everything. It may yet be a bio-disaster with some sort of ROUS. There are several now known in the world. Or it may be how to cope when pockets of methane ice start thawing somewhere inconvenient – like around a subterranean Company Base in Siberia. That leaves amazing holes. Strange rains from space have their charm; so do the troubles of housekeeping when you live near a thin edge between dimensions. So do cicada hatches who lose their sense of time-keeping. And the appeal of sunspots is almost irresistible, especially when harking back to the solar storm of 1859 …
What could surface from, or splash down into, Lake Hollywood? What would be the results? Earthquakes in LA are passe, and anyway – any child of Hollywood knows that the results would be lava rains, early morning and late night volcanoes, and everything else falling down. But what about zombies? What about killer deer? What about a fungus that eats petroleum by-products?
The world is my doomed oyster, really. All I have to do is settle on some flashy alien oyster catcher, and the travails of a plucky fisherman’s wife in the ruins of Morro Bay.
I shall sleep on it, Dear Readers. Maybe something red-eyed and menacing will materialize on my pillow …