While I pine away for an annual best of anthology for short stories published online there is a way that future generations of readers will remember the vibrant short crime fiction scene, site specific print anthologies. Right now anyway books last and websites fade and the sites that have anthologies will stand a greater chance of being remembered down the road.
Here’s an interesting thing. Next time you’re at a thrift store or a garage sale or whatever keep an eye out for old genre magazines and anthologies. It can be science fiction or fantasy or whatever. Take a look at the table of contents and read the authors names. It’s almost guaranteed that some of the names you’ll recognize and others you won’t. Some of them made it to greater posterity and some didn’t. But here you are, however many years down the road, holding something that contains a story by this person. Some of the folks published in the online zines will go on to greater fame and some won’t; some will publish novels and some won’t. Regardless of what may or may not happen at a future date the scene deserves to be remembered.
I don’t want the online scene to fold and turn into print. I like the online scene BUT I do want to see some of the fiction from online make the transition to print. Some have. As I mentioned above some of the sites have been publishing anthologies of stories that were originally published online. I just wanted to take a moment to highlight the site anthologies that were out there because THEY are the permanent record.
Buy them now, while they are all still reasonably available, because this is the scene as far as future generations are concerned. The legacy is being defined now and your small part in all of this is to remember.
Back in 2005 Anthony Neil Smith edited and released the Plots With Guns anthology. This was soon after the demise of the site and the best of the stories that had been published made their way into it. The introductory essay by Anthony Neil Smith is especially instructive as a primary source documenting the rise of one the earliest of the zines. The finding of like minded individuals, the filling of a gap in the short story market, it’s all here. The anthology also includes some stories that were written by authors invited to participate, like Jim Nisbet. Plots with Guns would resurface a couple of years later but for now the old issues have slipped into the internet archive.
Three years later Thuglit hit us with an annual one, two, three knockout blow releasing three anthologies containing the best fiction from the site. Pulling these anthologies together would get the better of Big Daddy Thug and company leading to the eventual shuttering of the publication. The old issues are still up online but as always who knows for how long. Hardcore Hardboiled came out in 2008 and contains the best of Thuglit’s first year with an introduction by Otto Penzler; Sex, Thugs and Rock & Roll came out in 2009 and features an introduction by Sarah Weinman; Blood, Guts and Whiskey came out in 2010 and features an introduction by Max Allan Collins.
In addition to the third Thuglit anthology 2010 has seen the release of two more site specific anthologies.
Out of the Gutter is a print publication that has a foot in the online scene as well with their flash fiction site. The Baddest of the Bad collects some of the stories from the first three issues of Out of the Gutter. The first issue is a rare find these days and the anthology is a great way to get some of those stories. Fun fact: Spinetingler’s own Sandra Ruttan has a story in the first issue.
Beat to a Pulp in some ways marked a kind of turning point for the online crime fiction scene. Instead of gathering stories together in issues to be released according to a schedule they utilize the continuous publication format. They publish stories at the rate of one a week. It’s important to note that Beat to a Pulp embraces the pulp ethos by publishing stories in a variety of genres, not just crime. Their just recently announced collection, Beat to a Pulp: Round One, collects the best of the site so far with some original material tossed in for good measure. It features a foreword by Bill Crider and a history of pulp by Cullen Gallagher. Hopefully with that subtitle we will see more Beat to a Pulp anthologies in the future.
A little more than a decade has passed since the inception of the (mostly) online crime short fiction scene. The above six anthologies are the permanent record as of this writing. So why is a permanent record important? Let me answer a question with a challenge: Try and find a copy of Blue Murder magazine.
So how about it folks. Do you own any of these anthos? If so which ones. Do you plan on buy any of them? Which sites should put out an antho that hasn’t yet?