Interesting discussion on Jay’s blog, to which I added my two cents. To sum up my position on the subject:
(1) When possible, anthologies should be open to unsolicited submissions to promote diversity and to protect against staleness and entrenched hierarchies. Being “open” doesn’t mean that an anthology editor needs to read thousands of submissions for six months or a year. Nor does it mean that an editor needs to reserve a certain number of spots to accommodate unsolicited submissions. All it means is that editors should consider having at least a one- or two-month reading period in the interests of fairness and diversity. The benefits of this position are, to my mind:
A – Discovery of new talent or at the very least interesting stories that would otherwise either not find a market or have more difficulty entering into the marketplace.
B – Commonsense way to ensure the highest quality and most appropriate stories for the anthology by drawing on a larger pool of talent, even if the reading period only supplements the anthology by one or two stories. Note that this not only helps new writers–it helps the vast majority of established writers who do not receive many invites to anthologies.
B – Keep established talent from becoming complacent by providing more competition for spots.
C – Open up more editorial perspectives to all writers. Which is to say, when there are fewer editors open to unsolicited submissions, writers have fewer opinions against which to test their fiction. Fiction is not an objective business and one editor’s poison may well be another editor’s meat. We need as many different perspectives as possible.
(2) Some anthologies cannot be open anthologies because of the nature of the theme. It would have been unfair to the antho and to the writers to open my fake disease guide to unsolicited submissions because rejected submissions would have been hard to place and/or would have devalued the anthology by being placed elsewhere. I can’t imagine what a mess the Martin/Dozois Vance antho would have been if opened to unsolicited submissions. Etc.
(3) We live in the real world–we strive for the ideal world. This means quite simply that established writers who live off of their writing have to submit to closed anthologies just to put bread on the table, and should not be pilloried for submitting to closed anthologies. At the same time, there’s no reason why established writers and editors shouldn’t try to promote the idea of open anthologies as much as possible.
That’s it in a nutshell. I do not believe in the hierarchy of privilege, which is to say that if you’ve been around long enough you should have “protected status”. It’s nice to have it at times, but it should not be expected and it can be harmful to the development of new writers. Hell, it is also harmful to the continued development of established writers.
It is true that in the current publishing environment, anthologies must have established names to compete–but editors must recognize this as a business imperative not an artistic imperative.
Jay Lake and Ellen Datlow, who have opinions on this subject, have edited both closed and open publications. So have I. The point isn’t to do away with closed anthos, but to present the case for having open anthologies–that it can work from a time/business and artistic point of view.
I feel like this post is aimed more at up-and-coming editors more than established ones, who will have their preferred processes and unlikely to be swayed one way or the other. I.e., if you are new and planning to edit an antho, consider making it an open antho.