I was recently invited to a very special screening of Nosferatu at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. A friend’s uncle had written a new musical score for the silent film, and he performed the piano with the symphony. I went because I’d never seen Nosferatu and because there was this cool connection with the composer.
In spite of the fact I’ve edited three volumes of Blood in the Rain, I’m not the biggest vampire fan. I mean, I enjoy vampires–Ann Rice, Buffy, Angel–but when I got to the hall, it was apparent I barely qualify as an actual FAN. There were people there in full cos-play–costumes from Nosferatu, Dracula etc. And lots and lots of goths. Apparently, there is quite the cult following.
We’d had dinner with my friend and her uncle, so I’d heard some of his concerns about the performance ahead of time. They’d had one run-through of the music with the movie on stage, and he, as the composer of the score, had a few concerns about how the performance would go. As the movie started, I was worried I’d be looking for mistakes.
Once the movie was on screen, however, I was totally lost in the experience. If there were any goofs, I missed them. The movie itself is considered a classic. It’s one of the first horror films and over a hundred years old. I had to remind myself over and over what it must have been like to watch this film over a hundred years ago. Before sound, before color, before computer graphics. There are a couple of special effects that, at the time, must have been genius. Now, almost any teen could pull them off with their iPhone.
The plot was obviously ripped off of Dracula and there’s a whole history of lawsuits between Stoker’s widow and Nosferatu’s creator. At one time, every copy of Nosferatu was ordered destroyed. Fortunately, a few copies had made it to the United States and were saved from destruction.
The overall experience was delightful. The music was written for the movie, and worked brilliantly to underscore what was happening on the stage. I’m not sure what renting Nosferatu will get you in terms of the score, but this was definitely the way to see it.
I’ve settled into a pretty good rhythm when it comes to putting together the Blood in the Rain anthologies. Because this is our third time around, Mary Trepanier (my co-editor) and I have developed a system for reading submissions and deciding which stories will go in the anthologies.
This is the third year for Blood in the Rain. We originally wanted all the stories to be from writers in the Pacific Northwest–hence the title. We found that limited our resources tremendously. There may be be more writers per capita in Seattle, but not many are writing vampire erotica. We originally only had a handful of entries. After realizing we needed more stories, we widened our scope considerably. While we still rank NW writers a little heavier than others, we’ve cast our net worldwide and received a significantly higher number of submissions.
This is great. We LOVE seeing stories from India, Romania, and Australia! It’s fun to see a variety of stories and alternate worlds. The thing about spreading our net wide? Every year we get MORE stories than the year before. It’s awesome to have a varied selection, but it means we have to actually look at SO MANY stories.
Before I started doing this, I would get frustrated when I heard that editors and agents only read the first paragraph of someone’s work. Now? I totally get it. Those first few words have to be compelling. If I read past the first paragraph and am intrigued, I keep reading. If I get halfway through the story and there’s no glaring editing to be done, and I’m still interested, the story goes in a maybe folder. If the first paragraph trips me up, it goes into the no folder. If I get part way through and find myself thinking “this is just like x” or I get bored, it goes into the no folder. If I get part way through the story and have counted up oodles of major editing needs, it goes into the no folder.
By “major editing”, I’m not talking about simple typos. I can forgive quite a few of those as I’m prone to a few myself. I’m talking more about comprehensive editing where there are point of view shifts within the story, continuity errors that would take hours to fix, repetition within the prose, and other basic craft issues. Every once in a while, I find a story so intriguing that I’m willing to spend a few hours doing this kind of extensive editing. That’s pretty rare, but it does happen.
The actual selection process for the anthology is a little tricky when you have two people reading stories. We have slightly different tastes, and sometimes I pass on a story that Mary really likes and vice versa. There are usually a number of stories that have a solid “yes” from both of us. When we both are loving a story, it’s a no-brainer to include it in the anthology. But what about the remaining slots? We basically look at the kinds of stories we’ve selected and fill in with stories to broaden the variety of settings and characters.
We are committed to including a wide selection of gender expression, sexualities, race, etc. If your story is the only story featuring a transgender character, it’s likely we will go at greater lengths to make the story work. If your story is the only one featuring a person of color, we’re more likely to spend more time considering it. If your story is the only one set in ancient Sumeria…well you get the idea.
The hardest part about all of this is this year’s submission list contains a huge number of really good stories. My ‘yes’ folder contains more than twice the number of stories we can put in the anthology. My ‘maybe’ folder has dozens more. My outright “no” folder has maybe a dozen stories. It’s lovely to have such fabulous stories to choose from, but it breaks my heart when I have to tell an author “no.”