by guest blogger Lawrence Watt-Evans
As managing editor of Helix, I have three jobs. I handle the money; I provide a second opinion on stories when Will Sanders, the senior editor, wants one (which isn't all that often); and I write an editorial for each issue.
Well, almost every issue; I don't have one in our fifth issue, as it got bumped to make room for a guest. (I'll be back in No. 6.)
Since I like playing with money, and those second opinions are pretty easy to give, writing the editorials is the hardest part of the job. What's more, it gets harder with every issue, because each time I need to think of something to say about the magazine that I haven't said before, that Will Sanders hasn't said before, and that will neither bore nor infuriate an excessive number of readers.
(I don't mind infuriating some readers, but I try to keep it to a minimum. Infuriating readers is Will's job.)
The first couple weren't a problem – I just expanded on what Will had said in his editorial. His first one explained why we'd started Helix; I expanded on that, explaining why we'd made it a webzine and why we were running it the way we were. His second was about the timidity of short fiction markets, so mine was about the unfortunate attitudes of some short story writers – looking at the submission process from two different angles.
By the third one, though, that wasn't working anymore. Will's editorial, quite reasonably, was about the stories we were publishing – but I didn't have anything to say about them. I definitely didn't have anything to say about them that Will hadn't already said. So I wrote about money – how Helix is financed, and why we did it that way. After all, selecting stories is his job, handling the money is mine, so if he was going to write about the stories, I was going to write about the money.
Fourth time around, I couldn't find any hook at all in Will's piece. Instead, I came up with an explanation of how the site's design happened – after all, we have ten people on the staff, it's not just me and Will, so giving some of the others credit seemed overdue.
My fifth editorial, which will appear in No. 6, is about misconceptions we've seen among readers and reviewers. After that, I'll probably try to point out some of what other staff members contribute. I expect I'll be able to keep on turning these little gems out every three months for as long as necessary.
But it is getting harder to write them. I notice the first two each ran about 1,500 words, the third was 1,200, fourth was 1,000, and the fifth a mere 700. At this rate, if the mag keeps going for a few years, eventually I'll be writing editorial haiku:
In summer's thick heat
I sweat to find the right words –
Not that readers care
Lawrence Watt-Evans, managing editor of Helix SF, is a professor's kid from Massachusetts who decided early in life that writing for a living looked like more fun than a real job. The result of that decision to date has been some three dozen novels, six score short stories, hundreds of articles, and a handful of poems, comic books, TV story treatments, and other oddities, as well as two kids who grew up thinking it was perfectly normal to have their father home all day, holed up in his cluttered little office staring at his computer.