Building an Anthology around a Theme: The Making of "Never Hit By Lightning"
by Tucker Lieberman
A literary anthology should have a theme. The theme is its raison d'être. With a coherent subject matter, the project becomes more fulfilling to the authors and editors, and readers are given a reason to buy it.
When my co-editor and I solicited submissions for Never Hit By Lightning, we asked for work that addressed the "meaning of illness, death, loss and destruction in the modern era" or that was, in short, "morbid."
Stories and poems "from the dark side" may sound like a broad topic for an anthology. After all, if we perceive the world as a mixture of light and dark, the dark side is half of everything that happens to us. But since not everyone is comfortable writing about dark topics or having their work categorized as dark, soliciting this material resulted in a fair amount of self-selection. The collective unconscious of our contributors helped determine what would be included in the anthology, and what we received was just what we needed.
The anthology's poems are drawn from various perspectives: one defiant hospital patient, one grieving survivor, and dead soldiers whose number is so vast that they have become statistics. Some of the stories have supernatural elements and they are interesting to consider alone or in pairs. "Lightning" and "High Tide" are, as their titles suggest, elemental. "At the Hospital" and "The Man Who Invented Everything" portray gravely ill patients, one young and one old. "King of the Cocktails" presents alcohol as a creative medium while "A Reason to Go On" refers to alcohol as a symptom of self-destruction.
Readers may find further connections between the characters or the geography and wonder if this could be more than just coincidence. We might even fabricate interpretations of the relationships we perceive between these works although we know the authors did not actually collaborate. Isn't that how we make stories: a few observations linked by a pretend narrative? In this way, we can make stories about stories. Literature that is loosely interwoven, partly by chance and partly by design, can stimulate creativity and wonder. In this regard, the final shape and direction of our "dark" anthology is quite pleasing. We hope you enjoy it too.
(back to Jennifer...) As for the last, I know I did! Thank you so much to Tucker Lieberman and Andrew Tivey for stopping by over the past couple of days.