Three things I Learned from Dinner with an Editor at Worldcon: C.C. Finlay


My writing critique group, Wordos in Eugene is primarily made up of science fiction and fantasy short story authors. In the past, co-chairs of Wordos have organized meetings at cons and treated editors to dinner. This is a tradition I wanted to continue, as it fosters greater relationships and networking opportunities, and it gives us a chance to talk to an editor in depth. And yeah, we get to humanize the editors who reject us. Because I was going to Worldcon and saw so many editors on the list of people attending, I thought it would be advantageous to organize a Wordos dinner with an editor since one was not already being organized.

Last year I sold my story, “The Day of the Nuptial Flight” to guest editor, C.C. Finlay at Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine.  Since then, C.C. Finlay has stepped in as the new editor at the magazine. Since this is a major pro market and I had the editor’s personal email address—and thought he might actually consider meeting with us Wordos because we had spoken in the past, I asked Charlie if he would talk to my critique group.

First, I have to say I was honored he said yes. I mean, yay!—I don’t come across as a creepy stalker. Because I’m not.

I have always thought it would be so wonderful to become an editor. Ever since I was a kid I thought I would love to get paid to read all day. As an adult, I realized everyone wants to talk to you if you are an editor and people who thought you were boring now think you are exciting. It is a prestigious position in which you get to be god—a.k.a. an editor decides which stories go to print and which are rejected.

The picture Charlie painted was very different from what I imagined. He spends 80 hours a day, or maybe 8 hours a day, reading submissions. He doesn’t have a slush reader so he is reading it all and much of the time he is reading the entirety of these stories. That means he hasn’t been able to write and probably won’t be able to until he structures what he wants for a slush reader to filter for him. So, it turns out, my romanticized version of being an editor doesn’t sound as fun and glorious as I thought it was since all I really want to do is write in addition to read.

Two things I really admire about Charlie is that he has opened up F & SF to new technology like online submissions which is less costly and easier for submitting stories—for him and us. He also is excited to select works from newer voices—like me. A few years ago I heard from an in house copy editor at F & SF that the previous editor, Gordon Van Gelder, received more fantasy submissions and needed more science fiction. For that reason, I have tried to push my science fiction toward F & SF. Hearing Charlie talk, it sounds like they now get more science fiction sent to them. Hearing that, I now feel like it is okay for me to send them fantasy.

I only submitted one story to F & SF before the online submissions, maybe two. During the period when the first online submissions opened up during the time C.C. Finlay guest edited, I sold my first story to F & SF. Of course, I have continued to submit and have received many rejections now. Yay, rejections. No really, rejections mean I am submitting and in order to submit, I have to write something new. So I am doing my part to follow my bliss by doing what I love—writing. 

In summary: I learned these key factors

1. Being an editor kind of sucks. At least, it would for me because I want to write, not just read. 

2. It is okay to send  F & SF fantasy. Duh, fantasy is part of the title

3. C.C. Finlay is bringing a lot of fresh ideas to F & SF like online submission forms and new authors.–Okay, I already knew that, but I bet not everyone else did.

If you enjoyed this blog post, you might also enjoy my next post on dinner with John Joseph Adams or the previous post: Highlights at Worldcon Mostly Related to Food

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