A chat with Jonathan Oliver on his new anthology Dangerous Games, and what comes next

Jon_OliverJonathan Oliver is a legend in SFF, and he was kind enough to stop by and talk about his brand new collection Dangerous Games (the author line up for this is amazing), so please give him a warm welcome!


I’m very excited about your new collection! Will you tell us a little about the theme behind Dangerous Games and what you think sets it apart from other collections that you’ve edited?
It’s an anthology themed around games. As I wanted to keep the collection as wide as possible, I didn’t choose to focus on one type of game in my brief – so it covers a whole panoply of themes: gambling, dangerous sports, the nature of the players of games and what games do to people, games as an escape, games as confrontation etc. I hope that each collection has its own flavour, as each has its own theme, but, as ever, what I set out to do is create the sort of anthology I would want to read as a fan. I look for the very best writers I can, and try to produce a collection that is diverse, exciting and entertaining.

How do you go about choosing stories for a collection?
I start with the theme and then I have a think about which writers would be a good fit. There are writers I’ve worked with several times, and then there are writers who are new to me and who I want to try out, or writers whose work I’ve admired for a while but haven’t had a chance to work with until now. Each of my anthologies is on an ‘invite only’ basis, but the short fiction market is in such a healthy state rate now, that fortunately there is a wealth of talent to choose from.

dangerousgamesHow long does it usually take to put together a collection?
Roughly, about a year. In publishing we tend to plan everything a year or more in advance. An anthology is usually only truly locked down until about 5 months before publication. This way, the collections evolve over the year.

You’ve been in publishing and editing for a while, and have written a few of your own books, but is this something you’ve always wanted to do? Will you tell us a little about how you got into the biz, and also about that Masters Degree in Science Fiction?
I’ve written for a long time now, and I suppose I’d love to be a full-time writer, in a way. However, I know how much bloody hard work is involved, and how difficult it can be to keep yourself and your loved ones afloat. So tinkering with words while having a day job is an ideal situation for me. I have written a couple of novels, but I don’t really have the energy to do a third at the moment. Hopefully that will change. This year has been exceptionally busy, both work-wise and life-wise, but I’m very slowly to get back the writing mojo with short fiction.

I’ve been in genre editing for about 10 years and before that I worked in academic publishing. I’ve always been a fan of science-fiction, fantasy and horror so when the opening at Rebellion came up, I leapt at it. The Kingsleys (the brothers who run this company) have shown extraordinary faith in me, letting me pretty much set up one imprint entirely from scratch and taking over another large imprint. It’s a story of extraordinary luck, really – and, naturally, a lot of hard work and a great deal of enthusiasm.

Ah, yes, the MA in Science Fiction. At the time I had aspirations that it would lead to further academia, but, as great as the course was, I realised that I probably wasn’t cut out to do a PhD. I didn’t take the course with a view to it being vocational in a wider sense, so it’s lucky, really, that I actually do work in an industry relevant to one of my degrees.

What do you like to see in a good story? Is there anything that will make you put a book down, unfinished?
Writing that surprises and delights me. And the simple answer is, what I’m looking for in a story – I’ll know it when I see it. What doesn’t work so much for me? Huge info-dumps or exposition right at the beginning of a novel or a story; familiar themes done with little passion, writing that’s clearly been done to market, that is stories that are told not so much because the author wanted to tell them, but because they think that’s what publishers are looking for.

What are you currently reading?
It being the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and all that, I’m on a bit of a ghost story kick at the moment. So, right now, I’m reading The Dead of Night: The Ghost Stories of Oliver Onions, which is terrific. Onions was a broad writer, whose fiction still retains an edge. ‘The Beckoning Fair One’ and ‘Benlion’ are both brilliant possession stories. After that I have The Ghost Hunters by Neil Spring lined up and will be revisiting Robert Aickman’s work in Dark Entries.

Are there any additional upcoming titles or projects that you’re working on that you’d like to chat up a bit?
I’ve been working on my next anthology, and it’s still early days, but I can promise that it will contain five splendid things. Other than that, there’s a couple of acquisition announcements we’re about to send out. One is about the last book in a trilogy that just has to be the best fantasy series I’ve read for a long while, and there are a couple of SF and horror titles I’m really really exciting about. Basically, I’m looking at 2015-2016 and seeing a great list of diverse genre fiction.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
Keep reading and… look to the skies! (But mainly, keep reading).

Keep up with Jonathan: Twitter

About DANGEROUS GAMES:
Roll the Bones!

In a world ruled by chance, one rash decision could bring down the house, one roll of the dice could bring untold wealth, or the end of everything. The players have gathered around the table, each to tell their story – often dark, always compelling. Within you will find tales of the players and the played, lives governed by games deadly, weird, or downright bizarre.

Multi-award winning editor Jonathan Oliver (The End of the Line, House of Fear, Magic, End of the Road) brings together new stories featuring a diverse collection of voices. Here you will find incredible new fiction by Chuck Wendig, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Lavie Tidhar, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Paul Kearney, Libby McGugan, Yoon Ha Lee, Gary Northfield, Melanie Tem, Hillary Monahan, Tade Thompson, Rebecca Levene, Ivo Stourton, Gary McMahon, Robert Shearman, Nik Vincent, Helen Marshall, and Pat Cadigan.

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