Wednesday 8 July 2009

Show Them What You've Got: Behind the Year Zero anthology

I was very much against an anthology at first. I thought it was too passé, too much the same as everyone else did, would be impossible to make stand out from the crowd. My fellow zeros, some of them quite vociferously, disagreed with me. So I said OK, I’ll think about it and tried to prove them wrong.

My plan was to have a website where the first 3 chapters of all our forthcoming novels were pasted up so people could get a taste for our work, and to direct traffic there (which, of course, is about as passé as it gets). My reasoning was readers needed to know exactly what they were getting, and see I they liked it. My critics reasoned I’d struggle for content as not all of us were ready to release something just yet, and so we wouldn’t give a real representation of the group’s style and ability.

It was actually a Sunday Times article that changed my mind. I was reading about special editions, and some of the amazing things rock stars do for their fans, and I realised, if we were really taking our commitment to our readers seriously, then what better way to kick of than to give them something standalone, of the very highest quality, for free. Of course those of us releasing novels could upload their opening chapters – and even put those in the anthology – but it was so important to give people something more than just another catalogue.

And that’s how Brief Objects of Beauty and Despair was born. I was, as usual, wrong, and my colleagues were, as usual, right, and the result is the beautiful anthology we’ve put together, with 13 of us submitting the pieces we think best reflect our writing.

So why Brief Objects…? That was another humdinger of a debate, and it’s still not fully resolved. For me, it sums up a commitment to quality and culture; for some of us, it’s just too college art project, and Zero Cuts better represents our radical stance. Only time will tell who’s right.

There isn’t an official “book” of the anthology – for all kinds of logistical and financial reasons. Maybe if we become famous we can bring one out as a retrospective. But we have taken it every bit as seriously as we would have done a printed book – from Larry’s beautiful cover to the hours of editing. Just because something’s free and a pdf, doesn’t mean we should be any less committed to giving our readers the very best we have to offer.

I hope they’ll appreciate it. Most of all, I hope they’ll appreciate both our ideals and our prose, and come back when our books hit the shelves.

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