The Reinvented Anthologies: Conversation with Cat Rambo & Jennifer Brozek

author interview with cat rambo and jennifer brozek

SFF legends Cat Rambo and Jennifer Brozek have been hard at work on The Reinvented Heart, an anthology about sci-fi relationships.

We met up with them to discuss the new anthology, which is already out as an ebook, and will be released in hardcover May 31st, 2022.

Here’s what they had to say:

Isaac Payne: So I only have a couple of questions, and then we can open it up to a conversation afterwards. I guess starting out I want to ask about the The Reinvented Heart anthology. It’s been making some waves out there on the SFF frequencies, and I’m just curious about how you decided to break up the Anthology into three distinct sections. I’m familiar with only a few other anthos that do this, so what was the inspiration behind that idea?

Cat Rambo: I actually talked to Jane Yolan in an interview I did with her about that. You may have noticed the three sections are each prefaced by Jane. And in fact, she read them all on the interview, which was really cute.

Basically, we approached Jane and asked if she’d write something for us, and she said, how about poems? My response was, “sure, you’re Jane Yolan!” and I want something from you.

So, she sent in three poems and I said to Jen, you know, poetry is cheap, right? We’re paying by the line, and it’s not like a 5,000-word story.

We ended up organizing the book according to the three poems, breaking it into three sections—Hearts, Hands, and Mind.

And then as part of The Reinvented Detective, which is the anthology that’s coming out next year, we asked Jane to write us three poems again, this time about themes around detectives.

But the funny thing is that I just did this interview with Jane and she hadn’t known what we’d done with her poems until she got the PDF, and she was just delighted! No one had ever done anything like that with her poems before.

IP: That’s cool! You mentioned The Reinvented Detective which is coming up here next year. Is there anything that you’re going to change about this anthology based on what you learned from The Reinvented Heart?

Jennifer Brozek: Well, since we’re just now going through the hold stories and the on-spec stories, I think it might be a little bit too soon to answer that.

But based on the stories we’re getting, we might spread out the anthology to make it about more than just crime and justice.

We might organize it based on groups of stories, like Art Nouveau or the Old Classic. We got a lot of Poirot and Sherlock Holmes stories, as well as some pastiches.

I’m thinking that when we see all the stories, we’re going to end up breaking them out into groups rather than themes, but that may change.

We haven’t seen all the stories yet!

IP: Just out of curiosity, how many submissions did you receive for The Reinvented Heart? I edited the Triangulation: Extinction anthology and I’m always curious about the numbers for other anthologies.

CR: I want to say around 230?

JB: No, it was closer to 260, and that’s just slush. We had the on-spec stories too, so in total it’s more like 300.

IP: Gotcha, that’s pretty good, all things considered!

JB: Yeah. The Reinvented Heart is my 21st anthology, and The Reinvented Detective is my 22nd.

When I did 99 Tiny Terrors, I got 600 submissions in a month! Or when I do a closed anthology, like The Secret Guide to Fighting Elder Gods, I cherry-pick every author.

So, the number of submissions really depends on how much it pays and how many people feel they have a chance to get into the anthology. For 99 Tiny Terrors, a lot of new people were willing to send in their stories because it’s flash.

CR: Yeah, flash is fun. Fun and fast.

JB: But when I was working with Apex Magazine as a slush reader, I’d have to read five stories a day just to keep up!

IP: Yeah, for Triangulation: Extinction I think we had around 600 different submissions. That was over the span of four months, but when the submission window closed, I was still doing a lot of reading!

CR: Yeah. Well, I read completely differently than Jenn.

Jenn is very kind of slow and steady, reading five stories a day. Whereas what I will do is take a weekend to—and excuse my language—just f***ing slam through, sometimes at the rate of a hundred or so stories a day.

And I’m reading fast—fast and furious. But I’m making authors really have to prove themselves to me in the first half page or so.

IP: I guess it’s kind of hard as a writer when you don’t know whether or not you’ll be going through that gauntlet.

JB: When I teach and talk about being an editor, I tell everybody to write your stories like you’re going to be read by a slush reader who’s having a terrible day and all they have to do is get through your story so they can go home.

All your story has to do is turn a slush reader’s terrible day into something magical.

CR: Ah, that’s a nice one, that’s good. You know, one of the talking points of the book is that despite having set the word count at 5,000, there’s a novelette in there! I had solicited Justina Robeson for a story, and she kept mailing back saying that it was getting longer and longer.

And finally, we said, sure, send it in. And both Jenn and I read it and knew we had to put it in the anthology because it was so good!

IP: That’s great, it’s always nice to be surprised like that. So, what’s up next for The Reinvented series? After The Reinvented Detective, of course.

CR: We’re still arguing about that, haha. But we’re absolutely going to continue the series; we’d like to do one a year. I really want to do The Reinvented Coin, so my feeling is that if I’m patient and give Jenn her way for the next few, I’ll get to do that one.

JB: I like that one, but I’m interested in doing The Reinvented Fable. Like if you do a version of Little Red Riding Hood, but in the future, in space. We can do a contrast between old and new fables.

But I do like the idea of The Reinvented Coin, or Cat came up with a good one, The Reinvented Alice.

CR: Yeah, The Reinvented Alice or The Reinvented Oz.

JB: It’s Oz but all science fiction, where you pick a pastiche based on the original series.

IP: I do like those ideas. What does The Reinvented Coin entail?

CR: Economics, trade, bartering. 

JB: Anything that fits under that broad category, really. You could be selling memories of loved ones, for example.

CR: But only one story about NFTs, tops.

IP: Have you read the book This Eden by Ed O’Loughlin? It’s like a science fiction noir, espionage story, but at the end the main villain is a cryptocurrency.

CR: Oh, I love that, I’ll have to find that book!

IP: That’s just what The Reinvented Coin reminded me of haha. So, here I have a few questions that get into the SFF conversation as a whole.

Watch out for the rest of our interview with Cat Rambo and Jennifer Brozek, where we talk about the SFF community as a whole, and the changes coming down the line for the genre.

If you liked this interview, consider checking out some of our other author interviews, linked below.

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