Anthologies: Pros and Cons

Ah, anthologies. I love to write for them. I am usually disappointed when I read them. It boggles the mind.

Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, an anthology is a collection of stories from different authors that all center around a theme. I just finished one where the theme was “fantasy tropes turned on their heads,” for example, though they called it something else. Basically, someone says “I want to put together an anthology about strong women with swords,” people submit stories that fit the theme, the editor(s) picks the ones they like, and then they publish the anthology.

(Themes can be any number of things, from clear cut things like “pirates” to completely arbitrary things like “I think this famous person may have been influenced by these stories” or “the best whatever of the year.”)

I love to write for them because I like the exercise of writing to a prompt, especially if it’s a little out of my comfort zone. I tend to not like reading them because by the time I get used to a story/character/voice/whatever, that particular story is over and it’s on to the next. It makes me grumpy.

The exception, for me, seems to be Shared World anthologies. Shared Worlds still are multi-author works, but the world, and in some cases the characters, are the same from story to story. Sometimes one story directly flows into the next. (Examples of this include the Thieves’ World anthology series, the Star Trek Corps of Engineers series, and Turtleduck Press’ Seasons Eternal.) Since I’m left with something to hold on to, I don’t find these as jarring.

Anyway, I promised Pros and Cons.

Pros

  • Show many different authors’ interpretation of a theme
  • Stories tend to be short, allowing for easy breaks in reading
  • Can find new authors to try out

Cons

  • No commonality between stories makes it hard to transition
  • Open interpretation means stories can seem completely unrelated
  • Story quality may vary and you might not find any voices you like

How do you feel about anthologies, Squiders? Love them, loathe them (either from a reading or writing point of view)? Any to recommend?

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