Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Feature: What I'd Like to See in an Anthology

Every Tuesday, I'll have a feature article posted.

For the past few years, I've been on a steady diet of short stories. Since I'm in the Philippines and renowned speculative fiction magazines are expensive to ship here, my source of short stories are usually anthologies. Here's what I'd like to see in an anthology although priority goes to content (and trumps all of these details).

  1. The Year - There's a couple of anthologies that have a "Best of the Year" theme to it. Which is fine if it was recently released but sometimes, you run across copies where you don't know when it was published. So is the book supposed to represent 1998 or 2008? Citing the year would be helpful or failing that, perhaps a volume number (both would be best but between a volume number and the year, I'd choose the latter). I'd crack open the book and look at the copyright page but a lot of books in local bookstores are wrapped in plastic (often shrink-wrap).
  2. A Complete List of Authors - This doesn't have to be in front, it could be at the back but it would be helpful to see a complete list of authors featured in the anthology (even better if there's a list of their short stories but I understand if there are space constraints). Again, this is probably a problem due to the fact that taking books out of the plastic is taboo (but actually permissible) in the Philippines. I expect marketable authors like Neil Gaiman to grace the covers but hopefully there's enough space in the back to include a roster of authors.
Inside Pages
  1. Page Numbers - Not that I've seen an anthology lacking page numbers but just in case, it's convenient for a book to actually have page numbers.
  2. Table of Contents - Again, not that I've seen an anthology lacking one (although I have seen a collection lacking a table of contents) but a table of contents becomes quite important in an anthology, especially with its mix of various authors and stories. (I don't think I have to mention that a Table of Contents only matters if the book has page numbers...)
  3. Author's Name and Story Title - Usually in either the header or footer of the book. It makes recognizing the author and the title of the story you're currently reading much easier without needing to refer the Table of Contents or flipping back to the start of the story.
  4. Bio and/or Afterword Near the Story - Now there are usually three places where an author's bio is located: before the story, after the story, or at the end of the book. I'm fine with the first two, not so much with the last part mainly because I'm bad with names and by the time I've gotten around to the end of the book, I've probably forgotten who wrote what (unless it's a name I readily recognize or the anthology is that short). It's better for me to associate the story with their corresponding author if I see their name either before or after the story. As far as afterwords and summations go, hopefully they're at the end of the story because there are some intros to stories that can spoil the ending or attempt to train the reader what to expect from a certain reading (i.e. "this is an Arthurian story...", "this is a political story...", etc.).

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