Comics Experience alumna and Creators Workshop member Marta Tanrikulu is co-editing an anthology compiling NewMyths ezine’s best stories into a new Kickstarter campaign! Passages collects some of the most popular sci-fi/fantasy poems, prose, and art with an eye for telling an overarching metanarrative about the major stages of life, from birth to death and all points in between.
We spoke with Marta and her fellow editors, Scott T. Barnes and Susan Shell Winston, about Passages.
Comics Experience: Can you tell us the story of NewMyths.com?
Scott T. Barnes: Ten years ago I was beginning to have some success as a short story writer — a few sales to the smaller magazines — and I had just completed the six week resident program Odyssey, a fantasy writing workshop.These two factors brought me two distinct revelations: 1.) there are very few markets for short fiction that pay anything, particularly online; 2.) it is extremely difficult for a newbie writer to promote him/herself until they have had significant sales — and yet how do you get those sales without an ability to self-promote? Unless you have some sort of name outside of fiction, it is nearly impossible.
I founded NewMyths as a partial answer to both those issues. It was meant to be a paying market which developed a community of writers who would support and promote one another. Over the years, we have published many first sales, and we consider each of these a cause for celebration.
The first couple of years, I did all the work myself with just a little help from my technical guru Rob del Sol. Over the years as my life has become more complicated (a wife, children, and more writing) I have come to rely on volunteers and guest editors to do more and more of the work. Today, I manage NewMyths from afar and most of the day-to-day business is handled by Susan Shell Winston and Marta Tanrikulu. Without them, neither the magazine nor the upcoming anthology would have been possible.
Rob del Sol continues to work with us, and we have made great strides automating the submission process, with the goal of ever improving the interaction with our writers and building a stronger sense of community among both writers and readers.
CE: How did the decision to chronicle the stages of life in Passages come about?
Marta Tanrikulu: The four stages chosen are somewhat arbitrary; the classic Sphinx riddle associated with Oedipus has three, but the hero’s quest type of story is often a young person’s coming of age story, so this stage of life is included explicitly.
STB: I had the idea of putting NewMyths stories in an anthology for some time, but other obligations simply did not allow me to pursue it. When Susan suggested supervising one, and her suggestion coincided with the 10-year anniversary of the magazine, I felt the stars had aligned. The first step was to read the hundreds of published fiction, nonfiction, and poetry and see what we had. Patterns began to emerge, and from these patterns the theme of the first anthology was born.
Susan Shell Winston: My inspiration for suggesting an anthology came over the last three years of reading the slush piles and noticing a trend. At first we had one or two stories where children were the main characters, and then a few more where elder adults were the protagonists, dealing with losing their life work to memory loss, or trying to rejuvenate their spouses, or the most memorable one, six elders being sent as the first colonists to Mars because they were too old and so expendable in the expectation they would fail. Over the next two years after publishing that story, a flood of stories of older adult protagonists started coming in. I felt they needed their own collection.
CE: What was the selection process like?
SSW: At World Fantasy Con last year, and in our December 2017 issue, we sent out a call for stories and poems dealing with coming of “any age” stories and then started reading through back issues to find stories that also fit that theme. Many excellent stories and poems came in response, and we published three of them in March’s issue and five of them in June’s issue for readers to vote for the their favorites. The top three won a Readers’ Choice award and monetary prize and are highlighted as winners in our anthology. We also had a list of stories we were considering for original publication in the anthology, but we found so many favorite stories from back issues that fit the theme that we had to make hard choices even among those. There are four new stories and one new poem in the anthology. One of those never-before-published stories is the fiction version of Marta’s comic Dancing with Dragons. I found it very interesting to see it in both forms, and note the different interpretations.
MT: In making the final selections, we also considered which stories and poems best fit together to make an anthology that was better than the sum of all its parts. In looking over stories that I’ve wanted to tell, I was surprised to realize that four of the comics I’ve scripted happened to fall neatly into the “passages” theme: Name Day (artist Daniel Franco) is themed around a child reaching a key milestone on a distant planet. Dancing with Dragons (artist Jenny Gorman) follows a young hero’s quest. Traveller Seeks Gainful Employ (artist Leila del Duca) explores the challenges of an exiled mother-to-be, and The Last Sleep (artist Silvio dB) examines a death bed encounter with an alien exile. So those four are collected as a bonus Kickstarter reward.
CE: The Kickstarter mentions attempting to establish a new sci-fi/fantasy subgenre. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
MT: The subgenre taking shape is, like the title of the anthology, the story of a passage. Beyond the coming of age story, in the broader subgenre, the protagonist can be of any age, someone ordinary or extraordinary, who is facing a life-defining event. Science fiction and fantasy both explore a wide range of such passages.
SSW: The flood of stories where the protagonists were seniors often came with the comment that these stories would be the rarest. Quite the opposite, and I wondered why. At first I thought that as many writers who grew up with Star Wars and Tolkien were now seniors themselves, they were starting to write of their experiences from their new life. That might be possible, but there were so many. Then in going through our back issues from the last ten years — our stories and poems only reflected that trend in the last three years. Classic coming of age stories where the protagonists were young adults are no longer as common as they used to be in our slush piles nor in our issues. But stories and poems where the heroes are ten to fourteen, or their worried parents crushed by taking care of children and their own aging parents, or seniors facing the end of their stories are out there instead. Something else must be happening!
You can follow and support Passages here!