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Single Vs Multiple Author Anthologies

PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2013 10:51 pm
by He2etic
I had an idea in the past to rewrite old, unpublished short stories and release them as what you would call a Single Author Anthology (SAA for short).

However, after some light research, I'm beginning to think that SAAs are not exactly well received. For example, I've noticed that The Dead and the Damned and Ghostmaker are not exactly fan favourites here. However, it seems that fewer people complain about Multiple Author Anthologies (MAA).

So in observation of this anecdotal 'evidence', I have a few of theories to suggest and discuss:

1) SAAs are usually not well received because readers prefer a grander, longer story (which also allows for a thicker plot).
2) SAAs can be annoying because several short stories about the same characters often result in repeated details again and again (because the writer often reconstructs the description for various reasons, ie the novel is a reprint of magazine publications).
3) MAAs are preferred because the number of authors provides literary variety.
4) MAAs have 'reduced risk' of disappointment. One or two tales might be bad but if the rest are good it's a safe buy, where as if it's just one author and he is bad...
5) MAAs 'average out' good, bad and unknown writers. If a book with ten authors has five known good writers, two bad ones and three unknowns, then the good writers overcome the lesser ones, and the unknown ones get valuable exposure.

Anyone have any thoughts, comments or "THIS IS BS!" exclamations?

Re: Single Vs Multiple Author Anthologies

PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2013 11:10 pm
by Athelassan
I've never had a particular problem with SAAs (to borrow your term). In BL terms, two of the Genevieve books were, and I enjoyed those; Zavant and Hammers of Ulric are also (effectively) SAAs that are quite popular. My problem with Ghostmaker was just that many/most of the stories in it were pretty rubbish.

To take up your specific points, point 1 is probably valid, but then the same people who will criticise a SAA for this will presumably have the same problem with MAAs. Point 2, likewise, provided that it's applicable.

With the remainder, I don't think these necessarily differ that much between SAAs, MAAs and novels. You probably get more literary variety from a SAA than a novel, and the risk of a turkey in a MAA is no lesser than in a SAA, really.


Re: Single Vs Multiple Author Anthologies

PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2013 11:55 pm
by narrativium
I like Ghostmaker. I read it when it first came out, before the Verghastites were a speck on the Sabbat Worlds' horizons. I quite enjoyed it, though I did wonder where the stories were going to go next; First & Only portrayed the death of Tanith much better in retrospect than Ghostmaker did in the thick of the event itself. But that's by the by; I enjoyed the individual tales, and the segues between them, and I hoped that as the series went on, one day there'd be a penultimate batch of short stories focusing on the same nine Ghosts, and how far they've come.

I think in concept, I much prefer a Single Author Anthology about the same characters than about lots of different characters. It's like comparing a TV series to a movie: individual episodes allow you to show a lot of different flavours, whereas a novel is still one story and ought to represent a larger 'movie-sized' episode from a life. Sherlock Holmes works best as a series of examples of his deductive talent, not one case that defines his career. Some visions require multiple stories from a single voice.

I'm not sure about single-author anthologies with no shared characters or continuity. I have a few, as collections of stories which were probably originally printed separately, but an anthology still needs a unifying theme, or it's just a collection - so by that criterion, I'm not sure I have any. I'm also not sure how they work.

Re: Single Vs Multiple Author Anthologies

PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 12:33 am
by Mossy Toes
On a broader scope in sci fi literature, SAAs are very common, and frequently excellent: Jack Vance collections, Asimov's Foundation, "The Collected Short Stories of..." Volumes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes collections... Etc. I don't think SAA anthologies are a bad idea, per se.

Re: Single Vs Multiple Author Anthologies

PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 12:40 am
by J D Dunsany
Well, Ghostmaker and Brothers of the Snake are both 'fix 'em ups' rather than SAAs, aren't they? As is Andrzej Sapkowski's The Last Wish which does a grand job of linking seven or eight diverse stories about Geralt of Rivia with a very loose reflective bit of character interaction.

I think it all depends on how it's done.

And there's nothing wrong with presenting a group of short stories together simply as short stories without any overarching or connecting narrative. Some of my favourite authors worked primarily in the short form: Carver, Lovecraft, Poe.

I think you worry too much. :)


PS: And I'm not sure that I buy into the distinction between 'anthology' and 'collection' that narry's positing. I've always viewed the two terms as being interchangeable. (But then I do like to be contrary. :P )