The printer finally delivered copies in September after a two month delay, and orders began shipping from Subterranean straight away; Amazon took a week or two to catch up but are now showing stock and taking orders with free delivery from the US to UK customers.
Weighing in at 568 pages, with cover art by Christopher Shy and interior layout by Desert Isle Design, the hardcover is a signed and numbered limited edition. And I have to tell you, it’s quite an honour.
How do you go about choosing a ‘best of’ when it’s all your own stuff, and you know you put your best efforts in every time? It’s such a balancing act. If it were a ‘complete’ then it would run to more than 1200 pages, longer even than the collected H G Wells that set light to my 11-year-old imagination.
(Still got that book. Still love that book.)
When editor/publisher Bill Schafer raised the idea, I made a spreadsheet. Seriously, I made a spreadsheet. Wordcount, synopses, and a weighting based on previous exposure. Some priority needed to be given to previously uncollected material, for obvious fresh-goods reasons. I kept an eye open for stories with repeated settings or over-similar handling of a theme, though I have to say that I spotted very few such clashes.
Where I hit a wall was in ranking them for quality. Turns out I’m not a reliable judge. A story that I might mark down feeling that the choices I’d made were too obvious, or because it reminds me too much of something I once read — those inevitably turn out to have a special place in the memory of someone, somewhere.
Though in a lot of cases, I found that I came to the material with new eyes. When Bill emailed, “I started reading your collection again last night. The Butterfly Garden is seriously fucked up” I reread it for the first time in years and had to agree. I mean it is, but in a good way. It was originally written for a 2006 anthology titled Lords of the Razor. Copies of the book now change hands for hundreds of dollars, and it hasn’t been reprinted since; nor had I looked at it in all that time, so I came to it almost as a new reader.