Ellen Datlow has been editing science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction for over thirty-five years as fiction editor of OMNI Magazine and editor of Event Horizon and SCIFICTION. In addition, she has edited more than a hundred science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies, including the annual The Best Horror of the Year, Lovecraft’s Monsters, Fearful Symmetries and many more. Ellen Datlow has won multiple World Fantasy Awards, Locus Awards, Hugo Awards, Stoker Awards, International Horror Guild Awards, Shirley Jackson Awards, and the 2012 Il Posto Nero Black Spot Award for Excellence as Best Foreign Editor. Ellen Datlow was named the recipient of the 2007 Karl Edward Wagner Award, given at the British Fantasy Convention for “outstanding contribution to the genre,” was honored with the Life Achievement Award by the Horror Writers Association, in acknowledgment of superior achievement over an entire career, and honored with the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award at the 2014 World Fantasy Convention. Please enjoy my interview with Ellen Datlow.
How do you describe your occupation?
Short story editor.
I’m up at 10 am, and straight online to check email and social media. I have brunch and a shower before I go out for errands. I then spend time reading anthologies, magazines, collections, et al for The Best Horror of the Year; reading manuscripts for Tor.com, OMNI Magazine, or anthologies. Following that, I spend some time editing stories/novellas acquired for any of the above. All this is intermittent. I never keep to the same exact schedule, which makes life more interesting. I get to bed at around 2 am.
What are you reading at the moment and what made you want to read it?
Universal Harvester by John Darnielle, which was recommended to me on social media as an interesting horror novel to check out. I only have time to read novels that I can justify covering in my Best Horror of the Year series. Reading submissions. Reading various anthologies and magazines for the Best of the Year.
Can you remember the first book you read by yourself?
A nonfiction book on Lapland.
Are you a page folder or a bookmarker?
When did you fall in love with reading?
As soon as I could read.
If you could gift yourself books at age 16 and age 25 – what would they be and why?
Happily, my parents encouraged me to read whatever I chose to at whatever age I chose to. This led to my reading books that were probably too “old” for me in the sense that I wasn’t ready for them. For example, I read Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov when I was young and didn’t really get what a horror story it is. I reread it as a middle-aged woman and was knocked out by the monstrousness of Humbert. I cried through much of that second reading, mourning for a child’s life ruined by an obsessive, disgusting pervert.
What are perfect reading conditions for you?
I can read through most anything, but usually I read with jazz on.
For someone starting out in your career, which three books would you make required reading and why?
Nothing specific, but if you don’t love to read you have no business becoming an editor.
If you could invite 5 authors (dead or alive) to a dinner party – who would they be and why?
I do this often at conventions (well, the live ones) and when my authors come to town or I’m in their city. Conventions are like rolling parties where I see my writer/editor/critic friends on an irregular basis. As far as dead writers? Only my late friends with whom I shared marvellous dinners and can no longer do so.
What was the last book you purchased, and why did you buy it?
I rarely buy books. I mostly get review copies. Occasionally I’ll buy a collectible, preferably with illustrations from a favourite writer.
What is your favourite thing about reading?
It transports me into different situations/worlds.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
I just finished The Changeling by Victor LaValle and enjoyed it very much.
If you could insert yourself into any book, which would you pick and why?
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – I’d love to meet the various characters/critters in the book.
There is no one book.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life? What impact did it have?
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir – it was one of several books that turned me into a feminist.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?