guest post by Jaym Gates

The best part of an anthology, for me, is when we start getting submissions and I can see the first vague shape of the project. The moment when it starts transitioning from idea to reality, in other words.

Anthologies are living, breathing things, and there is often a huge shift from idea to conception. The overall theme will stay the same, but there will be trends to the submissions that will shape the end product. War Stories did that—we ended up with a lot of quieter pieces dealing with the residual effects of war than Andrew and I originally planned—and it absolutely benefitted in the end from the shift. Genius Loci became far more literary than the early discussions suggested, filled with history and folklore (although that one isn’t surprising, in hindsight).

Upside Down is in that phase now: we’re getting the first stories, and the ideas that Monica and I had are now taking shape. It means that now we have to sit down and look at what has come in to decide what we still need. We have to figure out how to edit the first pieces, not necessarily knowing the specifics of what else we’ll be getting. We’re building a body of work that needs to be balanced, diverse, exciting, and relevant.

The pieces we’ve gotten are…well, there’s nothing to say except that they’re exceeding even our high expectations. Maurice Broaddus sent us a piece tackling the ‘Magical Negro’ trope, and it’s funny, witty, dry…and packs a punch of reality behind it.

Nisi Shawl’s story is half superhero origin story, half heartbreaking look at police brutality, timely and painful. I’m actually hoping she takes one of the characters and writes a novel about him, it would be amazing and relevant. Alyssa Wong sent us a story set in San Francisco, a beautiful little thing about family, magic, and trying to survive in a place that doesn’t want you.

Sunil Patel’s snarky, fun take on the origin of villains and heroes is a nice antidote to the typical grimdark found in comics and origin stories. Kat Richardson thoroughly skewers the chainmail bikini trope, AND there’s a smartass dragon, so I basically yelled “Take my money!” when she sent it in. Michael Underwood’s take on the Super Soldier idea is…unusual, and equal parts horrifying and adorable.

All that? That’s just a sample of what we have. The stories we have are diverse and colorful, with some pieces that are played for laughs and some that are beautiful but grimly thought-provoking, and everything in between. The anthology’s skeleton is starting to get some muscle, and it’s pretty awesome muscle.

I can’t wait to see what the rest of the solicited pieces add to the whole, and what amazing things we’ll get from the open call.