Though I had some book editing and publishing experience behind me, I learned a lot through the process of putting this project together. The biggest and most useful lesson I learned is that collaboration is really, really frakkin' awesome and that I don't need to to go it alone all the time, even as a micro-press guy. In fact, this project would be nowhere near as good if I had tried it as an M-Brane project without my terrific collaborators, co-editor Brandon and Eric Reynolds of Hadley Rille Books, as well as all the other talented people they brought to the party. Eric found a couple of writers for us who turned in fantastic stories. Brandon found the talented TC Parmelee who will be doing our audio and the Chameleon Chamber Group who will be doing our music (yes, this book will have music associated with it--I can't even describe how awesome I think that is!). Now it seems completely ridiculous that I had originally considered this shared world project as nothing more than a special issue of M-Brane (I was such a dork back then. Right. Just back then!).
Aside from the vast expansion of the talent pool that having collaborators provided, I realized during the process of reading and selecting submissions, and now editing them, that I would have been seriously under water without Brandon. The Aether Age, due to the very nature of the project, is no ordinary anthology as far as picking stories and getting them ready for publication. It's much more complex than a themed project; the stories are all set in literally the same world, but were written independently by over a dozen different writers, no two of which knew what the other was doing, with nothing to go on other than the writer's guidelines that we provided. Granted, we provided a rather extensive set of guidelines, but it's still remarkable to me the way this actually worked out. All these different writers produced work uniquely their own, yet which fits into this shared world, and which opened my eyes to potential for this world that I hadn't imagined myself. As we read stories and made our selections, Brandon and I let these stories and the various visions of these writers enhance and reshape the plan, too. My own idea of what the AeA world is now is a lot different in some ways than what it was a few months ago--and it's better. Because it is a collaborative creation.
Another thing that was very different about this project than my zine or my experience with Things We Are Not (queer sf antho from last fall) was the quality and quantity of submissions. While I always get great submissions for my other projects, I also get plenty that can go quickly to the reject pile without much thought, and that's actually what happens with a majority of them. The AeA submissions, however, were a bit fewer in number than I had expected, but as a group they were of a very high grade. Even the stories we passed on were markedly better than what's usually in the "no" folder for M-Brane. I can honestly say that were no really bad submissions, no totally unsuitable ones, just ones that weren't as strong for various reasons as the ones that did make the final cut. The writers who answered this call for submissions really worked on these stories. They really got into it, and that was maybe the most gratifying thing so far, the fact that a lot of people believed this was a good idea.
I'll stop now. Just realized I am going on as if it's all done and I am just kicking back, reflecting on it. In fact, there is a whole bunch of work to do yet, but we're getting closer.