23 August 2018


by Brian Thornton

As I have mentioned a time or two, I am working on the collection and editing of an anthology (Second fiction anthology, third overall). I've been hard at it all summer.

It's funny, with this being my third bite at this apple, you'd think I'd know what to expect: after all, I'm an old hand at this by now. Right?

Yeah, about that...


I expected I'd have to chase down multiple authors to get them to turn their stuff in.

I did. But not nearly so many as I'd expected. And what's more, even the authors I did have to chase down didn't take much chasing. It's weird not needing to ride herd.

Don't get me wrong: it's a good weird, but weird, nonetheless. (More on the whole subject of "weird" below.)

Another thing I expected: I invited some fresh-faced writers and some outright rookies to submit. So I expected their stuff would need a fair amount of work.

I was pleasantly surprised at the product I received on all counts. Every story can be improved (said every editor ever.), but man, these kids have chops.

The anthology is intended as a literary homage to the music of 70s jazz-rock stalwarts Steely Dan, who, although relatively well-known, are hardly household words, especially in light of the way the two men at the center of their music, keyboardist/vocalist Donald Fagen and guitarist/bassist Walter Becker, put on a master's class at how to shun the limelight.

In part because of this, I expected to be turned down by a goodly number of the authors I approached for inclusion in this project.

I was delighted to be wrong on this front. Of the authors I approached, only two turned me down.


And both of those who did pass on the project had excellent reasons for so doing. No excuses, they just didn't know anything about the band, weren't familiar with the music, and didn't want to waste either their own time or mine trying to work something up for the project.

Hard to argue with that.

Now, since the source material is Steely Dan, and these guys frequently name-checked William S. Burroughs of Naked Lunch fame as one of their heroes, I figured on a certain amount of "creative" in the submissions I got.

In this my expectations were more than exceeded.

Just a few riffs:

Death by clown car.

A talking cat whose favorite language is Yiddish.

A couple of crooks juggling a severed head in a hospital morgue.

A close (too close?) first person narrative from the point of view of an alpha predator who has "evolved" into something resembling homo superior.

And that's just skimming the surface.

It's been a delightful potpourri of weird, and all of it superb crime fiction.

Honestly I expected no less. The folks I approached I approached with good reason. I'm familiar with their work, and have found something unique in every voice recruited.

And I am beyond thrilled that this pack of geniuses has taken this expectation and far exceeded it. That, folks, is talent.

And on my end, I am working my tail off to be worthy of their hard work and of their faith.

See you in two weeks!


  1. A timely reminder to writers of how much work editors turn in. Best of luck with this project.

  2. Please let us know the title & publication date. I'd love to read it.

  3. Well darn! HUGE Steely Dan fan, Peg, Aja, have the album/s and the CD. Love the sound. Nobody could match it. Next time you do a similar anthology, think of me :)

  4. Whew! You are always busy, Brian! Good insight, man.


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