Interview: Kickstarting Fearful Symmetries by Ellen Datlow & Chizine Publications

Have you heard of the new horror anthology Fearful Symmetries, which is also a killer new Kickstarter project by award winning editor Ellen Datlow and Chizine Publications? I’m sure that most people (with a heartbeat) have heard of Kickstarter, but for those of you who are still new to the Kickstarter scene, it’s an online marketplace that brings artists, writers, inventors and musicians together with fans and customers who would like to help fund these projects by purchasing items before the object is actually produced.

We’ve seen a lot of these projects come through our social media circles lately, but Fearful Symmetries offers something special–a project in which a professional editor and a professional small press team up to pre-fund an anthology. It’s exciting to think that Kickstarter is helping to bring new fiction to press, fiction that may otherwise never be written. It’s even more exciting to see such a project spearheaded by the uber talented Ellen Datow and Chizine Publications.

I wanted to know more about what this dynamic duo have in mind for Fearful Symmetries, and luckily both Ellen and Chizine agreed to a short interview to share their project and insights with Underwords. We hope you enjoy the interview. To find out more, come visit the Fearful Symmetries Kickstarter Project and check out the amazing rewards that are being offered!


You’ve started your first ever Kickstarter campaign to fund your new anthology Fearful Symmetries, which will be edited by Ellen and published by ChiZine Publications. For people who haven’t yet heard about the anthology, can you give us a short description of the anthology and your vision for it?

ED: Fearful Symmetries is going to be an un-themed, all original anthology of terror and supernatural fiction. It will be around 125,000 words and I’ve commitments from writers I’ve published before and others I’d like to publish such as Lucius Shepard, Jeffrey Ford, Kaaron Warren, Elizabeth Hand, Brian Evenson, Pat Cadigan, and, Robert Shearman, Bill Willingham, Sarah Pinborough, and Laird Barron. I’m also keeping a few slots available so I can hold an open reading period. That’s something I’ve only done once before for an original anthology. (Haunted Legends, with Nick Mamatas). If we get funded, I’ll start nagging the authors who’ve committed to the anthology for their submissions and the book will be published by Chizine in 2014.

Fearful Symmetries is an unthemed horror anthology. What does that mean for you creatively as an editor, Ellen? Or you as a publisher, ChiZine Publications? Are there any special obstacles or opportunities that this presents?

ED: I enjoy editing both themed and unthemed anthologies. The process of soliciting and
accepting stories is not very different –I’m totally involved in the ongoing molding of any solo anthology I edit.

Whether I’m editing to theme or not I still have to make sure I buy a good mix of stories.

ChiZine Publications: (Nothing to add here.)

Are there any differences that readers can expect in the quality or production of this anthology given that it is a Kickstarter funded project rather than a “traditionally” published book?

ED: No. none at all. Chizine is a topnotch publisher that produces beautiful books. If the anthology gets funded I’ll be paying a so-so word rate for their stories (I’d love to pay more and should we by some miracle go over our target, it’s possible that will happen).

ChiZine Publications: Exactl as Ellen said: no difference in quality at all. This anthology will feature an original Erik Mohr cover, and will be just as well-produced as all our previous titles.

Ellen, you’ve done a number of anthologies and literary projects. What is it about Fearful Symmetries that brings it, as you say in your Kickstarter statement, “close to your heart”?

ED: The fact that it’s unthemed. I’ve only been able to edit three unthemed original anthologies before: Salon Fantastique (with Terri Windling), The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and Inferno.

As I’ve said before, I have no problem editing themed anthologies but once in awhile it’s nice to just publish whatever type of story I like.

Chizine, you have a strong publishing history and process in place. What made you decide to take on a Kickstarter project?

ChiZine Publications: The market (and economy overall) is in no position to sustain the sorts of word rates anthology editors used to be able to pay for stories in original anthos. It’s just that simple. It’s always been hard to sell and market original anthologies to the public, but these days it’s doubly or triply difficult, just because the economics to support the risk aren’t there anymore—at least not nearly on the scale they used to be. So we thought we’d appeal to Ellen’s (our our) fans for support. They know Ellen will pick great writers who write great stories, and they know CZP will produce a gorgeous book. I think it’s also neat for the readers to become a part of the book’s publication, too. They’ll be a solid reason it became a reality, should we make our target. Plus, they can get some wonderful, rare items in the process through Kickstarter’s rewards. So it’s win-win for everyone.

In addition to publishing some well-known writers within Fearful Symmetries, you’ve also decided to hold open submissions to fill part of the anthology. What was your thinking behind this decision?

ED: Partly to attract more interest and partly because after Haunted Legends
I said I’d have an open submissions period for another anthology if I had help with the slush pile. Brett and Sandra have volunteered to provide that help ;-).

Chizine: Yep! (Nothing to add here.)

While Fearful Symmetries is the first Kickstarter project either of you have conducted, you have funded other projects. What are some of those projects? What was it about these projects that got you to support their campaign?

ED: I’ve put money into the Locus ephemera fund, John Picacio’s art calendar, a glass artist who wanted to open a new studio (this is the only one that’s stiffed me for my premium), the Speakeasy Dollhouse book project (crime scenes played out in dollhouses), a new graphic novel of Peter Pan, and contemporary prints using traditional Japanese woodblocking.

If this is successful, what potential effects might this experiment have on your future publishing/editing decisions?

ED: I’d have to see. We’re asking for a lot of money relative to what most of the anthology publishing ventures I see on Kickstarter have asked. This is because I’m not an editorial hobbyist. This is my career and I depend on getting paid for my work. I also expect to pay my writers. The rest of the money is for professional production and publication (by ChiZine). If we actually get funded and I’m happy with the result maybe I’ll try it again.

What excites you most about Kickstarter from an artistic or business perspective?

ED: It’s an opportunity to see if there are actually enough readers out there interested in what I do as an editor. (at least in horror). Not as exciting as nailbiting time.
If we get the funding, to me that’s a vote of confidence.

CHIZINE: Agreed, nothing else to add!

What other projects do you have coming up?

ED: My reprint anthology, Hauntings is coming out from Tachyon in March, Terri Windling and my original fantasy anthology, Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells will be out around the same time from Tor. The Best Horror of the Year #5 will be out from Night Shade in June. I’ve just been contracted to edit Lovecraft’s Monsters, a reprint anthology focusing on stories with the various creatures H.P. Lovecraft imagined. That will be from Tachyon.

I’ve got a few anthology proposals out.

Chizine: We’ve got 16 books set for publication in 2013, including titles by Keith Hollihan, Christopher Golden, Michael Rowe, Tony Burgess, Karen Heuler, Steve Rasnic Tem, et al. We’re also booked up through 2014 with a similar number of books, and on into 2015 at this point, too. So keep an eye out! We have new material hitting stores nearly every month! If you’re interested in keeping tabs on us, please sign up for our newsletter, a link to which can be found on the front page of our website at


Visit the Kickstarter page for Fearful Symmetries.


Ellen Datlow has been editing sf/f/h short fiction for over thirty years. She was fiction editor of OMNI Magazine and SCIFICTION and has edited more than fifty anthologies, including the annual Best Horror of the Year, Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror, Naked City, Blood and Other Cravings, Supernatural Noir, Teeth: Vampire Tales, and a ya dystopian anthology titled After (with Terri Windling). Forthcoming is Hauntings, a reprint anthology of ghostly stories and Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells, an adult anthology of gaslight fantasy (with Terri Windling).

She’s won multiple World Fantasy Awards, Locus Awards, Hugo Awards, Bram Stoker Awards, International Horror Guild Awards, and Shirley Jackson Awards for her editing. She was the recipient of the 2007 Karl Edward Wagner Award, given at the British Fantasy Convention for outstanding contribution to the genre and was honored with the Life Achievement Award given by the Horror Writers Association, in acknowledgment of superior achievement over an entire career.

About Erin Underwood

BIO: Erin Underwood is the senior event content producer for MIT Technology Review’s emerging technology events. On the side, she reads, writes, and edits SF.
This entry was posted in Horror, Interviews, Kickstarter and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Interview: Kickstarting Fearful Symmetries by Ellen Datlow & Chizine Publications

  1. segmation says:

    Nice Japanese art!

  2. Pingback: Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Tidbits for 12/18/12 - SF Signal - SF Signal

  3. Pingback: Kickstarter – Fearful Symmetries: An Anthology of Horror

Leave a Reply