Editor Interview: Ginjer Buchanan
Review by Ernest Lilley
Ace Books Roc Interview ISBN/ITEM#: 0705EIGB
Date: 1 May, 2007 / Locus Interview Excerpt / Show Official Info /
Ginjer stands out in the SF Editorial community for her unabashed fondness of enjoyment of media related SF. From her immense contribution to SF you know might imagine she's a fan after our own hearts, but unless you've met her at a con or SFWA bash you can't know how friendly and gracious she is. We were delighted to get her to answer some questions for this issue, and to be able to congratulate her on being nominated for the Editor (Long Form) Hugo. SFRevu: We know you were a SF reader by the time you reached college, since you've said elsewhere that you were one of the early members of WOOPSA (Western Pennsylvania Science Fiction Association) - though I'm not sure where all those "O"s fit in). Can you offer us stirring tales of the books that initially turned you on?
Ginjer Buchanan: My earliest reading was more in the fantasy area--the classics (which of course I didn't know were classics) like the Narnia books and Mary Poppins; the American fantasist Edward Eager, (who I loved) and the British writer E. Nesbitt. There was no Norton in the local library and only one Heinlein (The Door Into Summer). I went thru the children's section pretty handily, and the librarians began to let me check out books from the adult section, before I was technically old enough to do so. There I found Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, Brave New World and Alas, Babylon. At a certain point, I began to buy paperbacks, almost always short story collections, including Judith Merrill's Best of the Year anthology, which introduced me to many authors (Ted Sturgeon, Harlan, Zenna Henderson) and to the notion of science fiction as a community.
SFRevu: Since you came to Pocket Books as a consulting editor for their Star Trek books, and have written and edited media-tie ins ever since, we assume you grew up enjoying SF on TV and in the movies. What were some of your early impressions of shows?
Ginjer: In my canned bio, I say that I am old enough to remember the invention of television, which isn't quite true. But my family did have a TV in 1948, which is about four years before the boom in television ownership in the US. So I remember Captain Video quite well! And Sky King, which was sort of SF. I don't recall watching Tom Corbett, though. I was very much a fan of westerns, of which there were a lot. Later on, I watched the anthology series, like Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. And of course I was devoted follower of Trek. WPSFA used to have viewing parties!
What's on now is far more intricate and sophisticated than those early shows, but then the medium in general is also!
And you didn't ask, but my five favorite genre television shows were Quantum Leap, DS9, Highlander, Buffy, and The Prisoner.
SFRevu: Since you've admitted to watching a lot of TV, what genre shows are currently on your list? Are you a Heroes fan? What do you think of the New Who and the New Battlestar compared to the originals?
Ginjer: Currently, yes, I am watching Heroes. Tim Kring has, so far, managed to keep all the balls in the air quite impressively. I'm enjoying Blood Ties, the made-for-Canadian television adaptation of Tanya Huff's Vicki Nelson books which is now showing on Lifetime. I thought The Dresden Files, while it took a few episodes to find itself, was pretty spot-on by the end of the season. And I'm watching Painkiller Jane, because my friend Gillian Horvath is creative consultant on the show. (which means she's a writer.)
I never watched the original Dr. Who. I think maybe the Pittsburgh PBS station didn't run it? (Or Blake's 7) So I have no basis of comparison.
As for the old versus new BSG--apples and oranges. I know the original has its fans but I always thought it was pretty cheesy (even in terms of the time)and often silly. And while I am not a huge fan of the current version, no one could accuse it of being either of those things!
SFRevu: Next to Mil-SF, I'd say that media tie-in novels are the guiltiest pleasure that SF Lit readers indulge in. How much diffusion is there between the two reading populations, and how does the quality between them compare?
Ginjer: If you are talking either of the two most successful and long-running tie-in programs in the business (Trek and Star Wars) the received wisdom is that only about a third of the readers who will buy an author's Trek or SW novel will buy his or her own work. That third can be a pretty big number, though! As to quality, there are good books and bad books, period.
SFRevu: You may have already answered this, but do you think there's a generation gap between pop culture readers and folks who started reading during the New Wave and before?
Ginjer: If you mean, will those who came to printed SF thru a Trek or SW tie-in novel be likely to read something that isn't a tie-in, I guess I did answer it! On the other side of the coin, older readers who are fans of the underlying properties probably have no trouble picking up a tie-in.
SFRevu: We see that you've been at Ace Books since Orwell's book passed into alternative history. What's your position at Ace/Roc, and could you tell us a bit about your path there?
Ginjer: I'm Editor-In-Chief of the SF/F department, which is Ace and Roc. I started as an editor, became a senior editor, then an executive editor, then a senior executive editor. It was pretty straightforward...
SFRevu: Do you remember any of your early acquisitions and what turned you on about them? Are there any discoveries that you've made?
Ginjer: I'm still working with some of my earliest acquisitions, like Allen Steele and Deb Chester! I guess you could say that I discovered Allen since he came out of slush. I also bought Laurell Hamilton's first Anita Blake novel. (Laurell had two previous books published and had an agent) So, I suppose I discovered Anita, if not Laurell! And I was also Simon Green's first editor, with the Hawk and Fisher books. I still work with him.
SFRevu: How would you characterize the differences between Ace and Roc?
Ginjer: Ace is the oldest imprint in the business. It has a greater number of more traditional, more established writers and a tremendous backlist, including such classics as Dune, Stranger in a Strange Land, Neuromancer, The Once and Future King and The Left Hand of Darkness. Roc, since it is much newer, has a lot of authors that were launched there and have grown into major names.
SFRevu: Do you accept unagented manuscripts?
Ginjer: I don't. Ace/Roc does though.
SFRevu: Could you tell us about the path a book takes on its way to print at Ace/Roc, and your role in the process? Which is sort of to say...what do you do there?
Ginjer: The path that a book takes into print is the same no matter the company (or genre) and the answer to that question is a very long one! I do an entire hour presentation at Writers' Conferences on this subject.
The short version of what I do is that I am an acquisitions editor who then works on the books that are acquired. (It all starts with the book being acquired!) What I do as Editor-in-Chief is a separate thing that isn't about the path of a book, but about administrative matters. Boooring!
SFRevu: What books have you worked on in the past year that you're especially pleased with?
Ginjer: Ah! Much like picking your favorite child! Let's see—Charlaine Harris (funny...we interviewed her this issue See Interview) is a joy to work with, and I really like the new Sookie novel, All Together Dead (also reviewed this issue: See Review). In June there's a first novel titled Wraith by Phaedra Wheldon, which I bought from a pitch at a writer's workshop. It's always fun to launch somebody. And her character, Zoe Martinique, has a great "voice". And this year's Charlie Stross' novel, Halting State (coming in October) may potentially be the single most important book I've ever been involved with.
Now, for all the rest of my authors who might read this—I think you're all terrific too!
SFRevu: I read in your Locus interview that when you went to your first convention (DisClave 1968) you went with a group of other women who all wore numbers on thongs (I parsed that wrongly for a really disturbing moment). Do you remember your number? More importantly, assuming you had a good time, do you still enjoy conventions?
Ginjer: I was #6 (and this was before The Prisoner!) I still have it. And conventions were more fun when they weren't work.
SFRevu: Before you came to SF you spent fifteen years in social work. Was that your goal when you were at Duquesne University working on a Sociology degree, and before the master's in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh. How has working as a social worker affected your life in SF? Do you feel that you've been able to have impact on readers beyond just entertainment?
Ginjer: Started out to be an English teacher, as a matter of fact. It was a summer job at a child-care institution that changed my path. The skill-sets that the two careers share are the need to write well (there is a lot of report-writing in social work) and the need to be able to deal with people effectively. And, since you read the Locus interview, you know that I am perfectly happy to think that what I've done as an editor has entertained people! I am way keen on reading as entertainment.
SFRevu: Do you have a website or a blog?
SFRevu: Do you have a bibliography for your own writing?
Ginjer: Well if you don't count the fan writing, it's pretty short. Two stories (one in ALternate Kennedys, one in Alternate Heroes); one Highlander tie-in novel (White Silence); and two pop culture essays. ("The Journey of Jonathan Levinson" in Volume 3 of the Buffy Watcher's Guide and "Who Killed FIREFLY?" in Finding Serenity.)
SFRevu: Do have time or inclination to write fiction these days?
Ginjer: No, not really. There may be another pop culture essay or two at some point, though.
SFRevu: What do you enjoy that has nothing to do with SF and Fantasy? What else are you involved in?
Ginjer: Well—I read a lot! Mostly history--fiction and non-fiction. And I watch an embarrassing amount of television. (no reality shows, though!) We have a young dog, so we spend time at the local dog run watching her cavort. And we travel a fair bit. You stay at a company as long as I have, and you get a generous number of vacation days! I highly recommend Athens and the Cyclades!
SFRevu: Thank you Ginjer.