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Why Become a Science Fiction and Fantasy Editor?

A few days ago, I resigned from a job that paid very well and wasn’t all that hard to become a full-time freelance editor focusing on science fiction and fantasy. Lest you labor under a misapprehension of what the life of an editor is like, that means working harder and making less. But I did it anyway, and I’m not alone in making that transition—it’s a story shared by a lot of people in the publishing industry.

I’ve been searching for a suitable introduction as I kick off this blog, and I think that’s it. I’ve written before about why I write speculative fiction. But why do I edit it? Of all the things I could have done with my life, why have I decided to make my stand here?

I think it’s because speculative fiction is the stuff of dreams.

Sure, other genres deal with dreams too. I don’t mean to knock them; I’ve worked with them and will continue to work with them. But to me there’s a special link between speculative fiction and the imagination. Science fiction leaps forward to imagine what might happen if something becomes true, while fantasy jumps back (or, in the case of contemporary and urban fantasy, a little to one side) to imagine what might have happened if the world had been built differently, or if it is built a little differently and we just don’t understand it.

Writers do the hardest work in this business. They do the research, the imagining, the mining and refining and crafting and sweating and fearing and swearing and whatever else it takes to breathe a dream-ship out of a thousand disparate elements. The job’s a monumental one, even if all they’re working on is a short story.

As an editor, you get to help. You stand in the light cast by their dream-ship’s boiler, and you help them tweak the blueprint so that it shines a little brighter or dimmer, changes color by half a hue, and becomes a more perfect version of whatever the writer was trying to create in the first place. When you do it right, you get to watch as your suggestions take flight in the author’s mind and lead them to changes they’d never have made on their own but that they tell you feel just perfect once they’re in place.

And then they send their story out into the world, where it touches tens or hundreds or thousands or millions of lives.

For me, that’s a worthwhile way to spend a life. It’s better than chasing dollars for their own sake, and it’s something I’m good at.

My name’s Jeff Seymour. I’m a writer and editor of science fiction and fantasy. And I’m very glad to meet you.

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