Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Editorial Director with Pyr Books Lou Anders

Attention fantasy and science fiction writers! The Pikes Peak Writers Conference on April 20th welcomes Lou Anders, a master in the SFF genre.

Lou is a 2011 Hugo Award winner, 2010/2009/2008/2007 Hugo Award nominee, 2011 Locus Award finalist, 2010 Shirley Jackson Award nominee, 2008 Philip K. Dick Award nominee, 2011/2010/2009/2007 Chesley Award nominee/nominee/winner/nominee, and 2006/2011 World Fantasy Award nominee.

He is also the editorial director of Prometheus Books' science fiction and fantasy imprint Pyr, as well as the anthologies Masked (Gallery Books, July 2010), Swords & Dark Magic (Eos, June 2010, coedited with Jonathan Strahan), Fast Forward 2 (Pyr, October 2008), Sideways in Crime (Solaris, June 2008), Fast Forward 1(Pyr, February 2007), FutureShocks (Roc, January 2006), Projections: Science Fiction in Literature & Film (MonkeyBrain, December 2004), Live Without a Net (Roc, 2003), and Outside the Box (Wildside Press, 2001). In 2000, he served as the Executive Editor of, and before that he worked as the Los Angeles Liaison for Titan Publishing Group. He is the author of The Making of Star Trek: First Contact (Titan Books, 1996), and has published over 500 articles in such magazines as The Believer, Publishers Weekly, Dreamwatch, DeathRay, free inquiry, Star Trek Monthly, Star Wars Monthly, Babylon 5 Magazine, Sci Fi Universe, Doctor Who Magazine, and Manga Max.

Visit him online at, on Facebook as Lou Anders, and on Twitter @LouAnders. Visit his company at, on Facebook at and, and on Twitter @Pyr_Books.

CIR: What drew you to the page to write and edit?

LA: I’ve had a bit of a backwards journey to get here. I started out in theater – I studied overseas briefly and then moved to Chicago hoping to act. Instead, I found myself co-writing and directing (admittedly horrible) black box late night comedies. That got me interested in film, and I moved to Los Angeles, where I worked as a journalist covering science fiction and fantasy film for (mostly) British magazines. I spent five years on the sets and in the offices of Star Trek and Babylon 5. During this time, I wrote screenplays with a partner (two of which were optioned, none of which ever produced). Then I moved to San Francisco to work as the Executive Editor of a website called (if only we’d reversed those words I’d be rich). It was an online reading site featuring a sort of browser-based ebook. We had partnerships with all the major publishers, scores of smaller presses, etc… When the dot com crash wiped us out, I found I knew dozens of science fiction and fantasy authors. I started freelancing, and after a couple critically acclaimed anthologies, was hired by Prometheus Books to give them a science fiction line. So I wasn’t drawn so much as reeled in backwards!

CIR: Is there a type or style of science fiction and fantasy that you would recommend aspiring writers pursue or avoid? For example, are there topics that are overdone or ones that you think need greater exploration?

LA: That’s a dangerous question. You can’t really write for what you perceive the market to be, because by the time you’ve put the year or two in that it takes to write a novel, spent the year or more it takes to sell it, and then gone through the year it takes to publish it, whatever you thought was the hot category is half a decade out of date. We have a husband-wife author team, Clay and Susan Griffith, who have a very hot vampire-steampunk novel. You’d think they were capitalizing on a trend, but the truth is that steampunk wasn’t hot when they started and they joke that they saw vampires fall in and out of fashion twice while they were working on the first manuscript. That being said, as long as Game of Thrones is on HBO, the industry will be looking for another gritty, epic fantasy, and I personally am curious to see someone bridge the gap between urban fantasy’s core female readership and classic sword & sorcery fiction. But don’t write to someone else’s expectation. Write what you are moved to write. If it doesn’t excite you, how can it excite anyone else?

CIR: The World According to Garp is your favorite novel, a bit of a surprise considering you’re a SFF editor and author. Even though most of what Irving writes is ‘literary’ and could conceivably happen, the stories are usually set in bizarre circumstances à la Garp’s conception. Do you feel that good fantasy can be as simple as that?

LA: Well, I am a lifelong science fiction fan, a true geek through and through, but I occasionally point out to people that my favorite novel is Garp, my favorite film Casablanca (followed very closely by Miller’s Crossing), my favorite drama Northern Exposure, current favorite Mad Men, my favorite sitcom All in the Family, current favorite Community. The only things I ever watched on the Syfy channel were Battlestar Galactica and Stargate Universe, and I think the rest of their programming is just dreadful. I’m an A&E and HBO guy. What I like is good, quality drama, with compelling characters and well-executed dialogue. That’s not simple, but that’s the basis of all good fiction.

CIR: Are there any writers who you would recommend to a reader who is not quite up to speed with the science fiction/fantasy genre? And of course, I expect some of them to be published with Pyr.

LA: It’s a broad genre, so I’d tailor the recommendation to the reader’s tastes. Our sister genre, mystery/thriller, encompasses everything from crime solving cats to Hannibal Lecter, and I think SF&F is much more diverse than even that. But if you like Game of Thrones on HBO and are interested in more morally ambiguous, realistic, violent epic fantasy, then you can’t go wrong with Joe Abercrombie. Follow him up with Tom Lloyd, Sam Sykes, James Enge, Jon Sprunk, Ari Marmell. Something less gritty, and more epic is K.V. Johansen’s Blackdog, a book I’d describe as a sort of coming of age story about a goddess. If you want thought provoking, literary, “award-caliber” science fiction, check out our books by Ian McDonald, Paul McAuley, and Ken MacLeod. Ian McDonald’s The Dervish House was a Hugo-nominee last year, and could be described as an Islamic DaVinci Code (if Dan Brown wrote at the level of Michael Chabon). Clay and Susan’s aforementioned steampunk vampire novels are collectively called the Vampire Empire series and begin with the novel, The Greyfrair. They are romantic, swashbuckling, and fun. We’ve also just launched a new Young Adult line this past November. There are books out from Ari Marmell, Ian McDonald, K.D. McEntire, and E.C. Meyers that I’d recommend to anyone (and apparently to be a Pyr YA author you have to have a last name that starts with M!).

CIR: I just saw Casablanca recently for the first time and was blown away. With it being your favorite film, I don’t know if you’d agree with this, but I feel like they don’t make them like that anymore. A bit cliché I know, but do you think there’s any truth to that?

LA: Not at all. Casablanca came out in 1942. If nothing has ever equaled it in 60 years of filmmaking that’s a pretty sorry statement about an entire field. I actually think that film and television has never been better – we have over a century of experience crafting cinema and the savviest audiences of all time. Films every bit as rich in narrative pleasures as Casablanca for me include Miller’s Crossing, L.A. Confidential, Gladiator, Master & Commander, The Emperor and the Assassin, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Unforgiven, Snatch, Wag the Dog, The Lord of the Rings… and what television is doing—with programming like Deadwood, Rome, The Wire, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, etc..—has just never been equaled before.

CIR: We always ask something off the beaten path. Here’s my curve question. Do you like Star Wars or Star Trek better and why?

LA: I grew up on Star Trek and have a long history with that show, including spending five years on the sets and in the offices and on the phone with the writers, directors, and actors in the franchise, so it will always loom large for me, and in many ways it was one of my initial “gateway drugs” into the field I am in now. But recently my son has gotten old enough that we can watch Star Wars together. We are devouring the Clone Wars animated series, and it’s giving me an appreciation for Star Wars I never had before. I still can’t show him Star Trek because Kirk always takes his boots off once an episode, and frankly a lot of Trek would be too intellectual and “talky” for him at this age anyway. By contrast the threshold for entry at Star Wars is set much, much lower. It will be another three to six years before he’s really ready for Trek, and by that time, Lucasfilms will own him mind, body and soul. It’s giving me a real understanding of the need to market a franchise across broad market segmentation for widespread commercial appeal. So from being initially hostile to Star Wars as rather silly nonsense, I’ve become, if not a fan, a sincere admirer.

Thanks, Lou! We look forward to meeting you at the Peak.

Interview conducted by Gusto Dave


Patricia Stoltey said...

Lou, thanks for sharing so much good information with us. This is a great interview, Dave.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Cool guy--great interview, Dave!