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by Danuta Kean
(ABC Magazine, THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY, February 4, 2007)
Pulp Idol 2007 Part 1: The Return
by Jonathan Wright
(SFX Issue 154, March 2007)
Spirit of the Season
by Lorne Jackson
(Birmingham SUNDAY MERCURY, December 24, 2006)
Stephen Jones on the BFS Award and US Mini-tour
by Ariel
(THE ALIEN ONLINE), 25 October, 2004
Editor Interview: Stephen Jones
by Lynne Jamneck
(SIMULACRUM [New Zealand], March 2005)
A Career in Horror: An Interview With Stephen Jones
by Mark McLaughlin and Michael McCarty
(MORE GIANTS OF THE GENRE Conducted by Michael McCarty, Wildside Press, 2005)
Stephen Jones
Fantagraphics Books, 2004)
Hail King
by Brian Pendreigh
(THE SUNDAY HERALD [Scotland], April 13, 2003)
A Career in Horror: Stephen Jones
by Mark McLaughlin and Michael McCarty
(HELLNOTES Vol.6, Issue 1, January 4, 2002)
A Career in Horror: Stephen Jones
by Mark McLaughlin and Michael McCarty
(THE ZONE, January, 2002)
Mammoth Success for Stephen
by Sara Jackson
(WRITERS' NEWS, Vol.13, No.1, January 2002)
A Career in Horror: Stephen Jones
by Mark McLaughlin and Michael McCarty
(HELLNOTES Vol.5, Issue 48, December 7, 2001)
Interview with Stephen Jones
by Nancy Kilpatrick
THE CONAN CHRONICLES: An Interview with Stephen Jones
by Edward Waterman
Stephen Jones
by Neil King
The "Stones Interview by Matt Leyshon
Interview with Stephen Jones by Nancy Kilpatrick (transcribed by Robert Partain)
Photo © 1998
Nancy Kilpatrick, Stephen Jones & Catilin R. Kierman World Fantasy Convention, Monterey, California (1998) Nancy Kilpatrick, Stephen Jones & Catilin R. Kierman
World Fantasy Convention, Monterey, California (1998)
NK: You began your career in television. How did that come about?
SJ: I started back in the early 1970s. After being expelled from school (for reasons not worth going into here), I spent the summer in London working at various jobs. After attending a college for further education—where I completed all my exam courses in just one year instead of the usual two—I decided that I wanted to somehow work in the film industry. I'd always loved the movies, but without any personal or professional contacts it was pretty much a closed shop in Britain back then. However, although there was no way I could get into films, I discovered that I didn't need any experience to work in television. 

So, in 1972, I joined a production company in London's Soho district called Air-time Productions. I started out working in their small test studio, learning to use the video cameras and recorders. In those days video was arelatively new technology. Over the next four or five years, I worked my way up through the company until they eventually gave me the opportunity to produce television commercials and documentaries. I finally got my director's ticket when I was twenty-five years old, and I ended up directing and producing literally hundreds of TV commercials—everything from cans of baked beans to talking bottles of house plant fertilizer! I also had the opportunity to work with some interesting people, such as John Cleese, David Niven, and British comedian Charlie Drake. Then in the early 1980s, myself and two colleagues formed our own company, Advent Video, with offices in London's upscale Mayfair. Along with the TV commercials, we started specializing in medical documentaries and sales-aid films. I shot everything from a vasectomy to an eight-hour spinal operation! During this entire period, television was my primary career, and the fantasy and horror stuff was more of a hobby. In my spare time I was editing various small press magazines such as Dark Horizons, and writing reviews and articles for British Fantasy Society publications.
Photo © 1992 Bob Knight
Graham Masterson, Stephen Jones & Peter James celebrate Jim and Eileen Herbert's 25th Wedding Anniversary (Brighton, 1992 Graham Masterson, Stephen Jones & Peter James celebrate
Jim and Eileen Herbert's 25th Wedding Anniversary (Brighton, 1992)

NK: Were you also publishing material in North America?
SJ: Oh yes, I had news items and columns in Locusand Science Fiction Chronicle, and some of my illustrations appeared in Chacal. I was also writing for film magazines, such as Cinefantastique, Famous Monsters, Starburst and Monsterland, and I was a contributor to a leading softcore men's magazine in the UK. 

NK: Was that journalistic work?
SJ: Yes, movie reviews and interviews—but always genre stuff. You'd be surprised how many other genre people have worked for those types of magazines at some time during their careers—usually because the money is extremely good. 

In fact, Jo Fletcher and I were in California doing an interview with director John Carpenter for one of those magazines. We were at Twentieth Century Fox studios, where he was just finishing up Big Trouble in Little China- Dennis Etchison, who is an old friend of Carpenter's, had set it up for us. After the interview was over, we all went over to the commissary for lunch. During the meal, Carpenter leaned over and said to me, "Steve, with your background in television, have you ever thought of moving out to Hollywood to work?" Well, of course I had, but I pointed out that I would rather be a medium-sized fish in a small pond, than a minnow in a teeming ocean. And that's exactly what I would have been out there - I'd have probably ended up waiting tables after six months! Carpenter thought about that for a moment, then he said, "You know, with your writing and your production background you could be a unit publicist." As a journalist, I'd worked with unit publicists before  they're the people responsible for creating the publicity while a movie is actually in production. I'd never considered it before.
Photo © 1993
Neil Gaiman, Stephen Jones  & Dennis Etchison at the World Fantasy Convention,  Bloomington, Minnesota, 1993 Neil Gaiman, Stephen Jones & Dennis Etchison
at the World Fantasy Convention (Bloomington, Minnesota, 1993)

When I returned to London, I phoned my friend Clive Barker and said, "Clive, you're about to start shooting a little movie in London, aren't you? Do you have a unit publicist yet?" He told me they couldn't afford one because of the budget, so I said, "You can now. I'll do it for free."  Clive liked the idea, and set up a meeting between myself and the film'sproducer, Christopher Figg. We met for lunch the following week, and after an hour Chris offered me the job as well as a small fee. So I told my office I was taking eight weeks off to work on this movie called Hellraiser! It was a wonderful learning experience for all of us, and by the time it was over I discovered Advent Video had cash-flow problems and was being forced into liquidation. 

That made up my mind for me. I didn't need somebody else's mistakes screwing up my life ever again. So in 1987 I went freelance, and I've never worked for anybody else on a full-time basis since.
Photo © 1993 David Barraclough
Ray Harryhausen & Stephen Jones Signing at London's National Film Theatre (1993 Ray Harryhausen & Stephen Jones
Signing at London's National Film Theatre (1993)

NK: You've been drawn toward fantasy and horror since then?
SJ: Absolutely. Although I actually began reading in the field back in the late 1960s. Before then I'd collected comic books and monster movie magazines. I started out with the usual stuff—Robert E. Howard's Conan books, Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels and Lin Carter's Thongor, before moving on to most of the classic SF authors.

Then in 1969, while browsing in a bookstore, I came across a paperback volume featuring a black and white cover with pastel lettering. It was a copy of H.P. Lovecraft's Dagon and Other Macabre Tales, and I picked it up simply on the basis of the distinctive cover design. After reading it, I became a Lovecraft fanatic and set out to find all his other books and also those by the Weird Talescircle, such as Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, Robert Bloch, Fritz Leiber and others. When I got into fanzines in the early '70s, I discovered many other writers I wanted to read, and I gradually drifted more towards fantasy and horror. They had a resonance that I just couldn't find anymore in most science fiction or heroic fantasy. 

NK: Most of the anthologies you've done have been in the horror and dark fantasy field.
SJ: Yes, I guess so. One of the great strengths of horror fiction is that it can encompass so many areas of literature and film. You can have a western with horror elements; you can have a science fiction story that includes horror; you can have a crime thriller which involves horror. However, it doesn't necessarily work the other way around. For me, horror is the most imaginative field I can work in, because it allows the most scope for creativity. As we said when we were making Hellraiser—'There Are No Limits!', and I truly believe that the best horror fiction has no creative or thematic barriers. One of my great delights  compiling the Best New Horror  volumes every year is discovering a story in which an author uses new and original ways of presenting the horror. 

NK: How does the U.S. genre market compare to the British genre market?
SJ: The problem I see with a lot of American editors is they don't read widely enough. I usually visit North America two or three times a year. We get American books and movies in Britain. I read as much American fantasy and horror as probably anybody in America does. However, I also read a lot of British material, a lot of European material as well. Most American editors do not. They often never see that material, and if they did they wouldn't understand many of the references. When I put together the stories for an anthology, I can draw on a wide group of writers. That's one of my strengths as an editor. One of the great weaknesses of American editors is that they often fail to draw on those same strengths. Basically, American publishers, editors, even the readers, are just not interested in material from other countries.
Photo © 1994
Basil Cooper, Mandy Slater  & Stephen Jones at World Horror Convention, Phoenix, Arizona (1994) Basil Cooper, Mandy Slater & Stephen Jones
at World Horror Convention, Phoenix, Arizona (1994)

NK: Why do you think that is, because American books do sell in Britain?
SJ: The problem is that some things just do not translate between the cultures. Mostly, it's the big names that move across. But it doesn't always work the other way. There is a difference. But it's a cultural difference. My sense is that the overall quality of fantasy and horror published in Britain is higher. That's simply because the market is so much bigger in America, the choice is wider, and consequently I think there is a ratio of more bad material being published. 

NK: You work with David Sutton on "Dark Terrors", and you worked with Ramsey Campbell on "Best New Horror". What's it like co-editing an anthology?
SJ: I enjoy working with co-editors. I've worked with Dave, Ramsey, Kim Newman, Jo Fletcher, Neil Gaiman and Dave Carson, amongst others. One of the reasons I collaborate is because I'm usually so busy. It helps to ease the burden to have a co-editor. It's also useful to have someone to bounce ideas off, which was something I learned working in television. When you are directing you always have to worry about the actors, the lighting, the sets, the cameras, whatever. So you need somebody who can stand behind you and say, that's great and wonderful, but don't you think that if you moved that plant a foot to the left it wouldn't be growing out of that actor's head? Now you may not have noticed that because you were worrying about the performance or the camera angles. It's the same working with a co-editor. It gives you the opportunity to discuss the stories with someone else, and for the authors it is a useful safety-net. 
Photo © 1995 Mandy Slater
Kim Newman, Stephen Jones, Shawna McCarthy & Ellen Datlow at Ad Astra 15, Toronto, Canada (1995) Kim Newman, Stephen Jones, Shawna McCarthy & Ellen Datlow at Ad Astra 15, Toronto, Canada (1995)

NK: You're an editor, so you're obviously jaded [mutual laughter]...
SJ: I hope I'm not jaded. However, I read so much substandard material, so much tedious fiction during the year, that it is always a delight to find something that I actually want to buy. It's even better when you discover a new writer. These days I tend to work more closely with my contributors. It's something I've grown into. I always send a story back for a rewrite, if I think it needs it. I've also been very lucky that the writers have accepted that, and have come back and thanked me for it afterwards. Most of them understand that I'm only suggesting changes because I want to buy their story. Being an editor is like being a director—you have a group of talented people, camera men, lighting crew, set designers, costume people, actors, and you have to bring them all together to create a project. An anthology is exactly the same. Instead of performers and technicians, you work with writers and artists. My job is to 'direct' that book and end up with a package I'm happy with. 

NK: I don't really know of any anthologies that get bought by major houses that don't have a 'name' on the cover, and you're indicating that doesn't have to happen in the UK. Obviously there's some difference in the approach to publicity.
SJ: Maybe the emphasis on publishing is slightly different. I suspect that from the British publishing point of view, and even from a readership view, we are more interested in the actual books themselves. At least I'd like to think so. A good book will always be a good book, but a good book will not always be a successful book, as we all know. There are many authors in our field who have achieved stunning commercial success, but whose work I seriously doubt will survive the passage of time. So we are talking about two different methods of publishing here, neither of which can be considered right or wrong. And I think there's room for both. 

I suspect that is no longer true in North America. Now you have to deliver a guaranteed bestseller or a publisher is not interested. I think that's very sad, but unfortunately I think that's the way publishing in Britain is headed as well... You have to remember that in most cases an editor or an author puts their name on a book because they are proud of it. I can think of nothing worse than saying I did a book simply because of the money. I don't think any of us achieve everything we want with our creative endeavors, but we should always try to do the best we can. I've been very lucky with the books I've done to date. I can defend every one—the reasons why I did it, the strengths and weaknesses of that particular project. 

Perhaps British publishers are still willing to take some risks, and as long as a book makes some money, then everybody is going to be happy. Many of the books I've done have earned out their advance—which means they have made a profit for the publisher, they have made money for the contributors, and I've also earned some money from them. It may not be huge sums, but it's enough for publishers to come back and ask me to compile another one. That's what publishing should be about. Not every book necessarily has to be a bestseller, so long as it is a good book. So long as it stays in print. I'm very lucky because of my working relationship with Robinson Publishing and Carroll and Graf. With them, I'm usually published on both sides of the Atlantic. And any projects those particular publishers are not interested in doing, I take elsewhere. I'm also very lucky in that I've become involved with various series. Working on the Mammoth, Dark Terrors and Best New Horror books has been a dream, because each of those series is different from the other. 
Photo © 1994 John L. Coker III
Stephen Jones and Les Daniels at World Fantasy Convention, New Orleans, Louisiana (1994 Stephen Jones and Les Daniels
at World Fantasy Convention, New Orleans, Louisiana (1994)

NK: You're making it clear that you love what you're doing, and you also have a standard of quality you've set for yourself.
SJ: I'm doing now what I could only dream about twenty years ago, when I first started out in this field. Despite the fact that I don't really have any skills, I've somehow managed to keep getting away with it. I was lucky enough to meet and befriend many established writers while I was still relatively young. They were very helpful and supportive when I decided to make my career in this genre, and I hope I'm now showing that same generosity to the younger writers I'm working with. I also try to promote British talent, which I think is often sadly neglected in America. 

NK: So are there any drawbacks to editing anthologies?
SJ: One of the biggest drawbacks being an anthology editor is that you spend your entire life reading stories and manuscripts, particularly if you edit as many books as I do. Also, if you are based in Britain, you don't make very much money doing it. In most cases you share whatever advance and royalties you get for a book between you and your contributors. This is something I always try to do. I know there are editors out there who do not pay royalties, who buy the stories for a flat fee, and it's always up to the writer if he wants to accept that kind of deal. However, in my opinion, all anthology contracts should include some kind of royalty clause for the author. It's only fair that if a book is successful for the publisher, if it's successful for the editor, then the contributors who did so much of the work should share in that success. 

So basically I pay an advance, which is often not very much because advances are usually significantly smaller in Britain than they are in America, and then I will pay a pro-rata royalty to the various authors. On some titles that has worked out especially well for the contributors. It's a way of saying thank you to those writers for supporting you. But at the end of the day it doesn't leave the editor with much money.
Photo © 1996
Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes and Stephen Jones (Teddington, England, 1996) Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes and Stephen Jones (Teddington, England, 1996)

NK: Do you read a story all the way through? Or are you like many editors, who read only the first page?
SJ: Unless it's absolutely awful, I don't think you can just read the opening paragraph or page of a story. You never know what a writer might come up with, and you can always ask them to go back and revise the earlier sections. I think those editors who say that they only read the first few pages are doing a disservice to themselves and to the writer. I try to read submissions all the way through, although it can sometimes be a depressing, soul-destroying experience.

NK: How many stories do you read a year?
SJ: I would guess more than a thousand. And I've got to say that the majority of the original submissions are absolutely terrible. 

NK: Terrible in the sense of being badly written?
SJ: Yes—badly written, badly constructed, terrible concepts. Ploughing through this stuff drains you creatively. Something that Ellen Datlow said in an interview with you, and I agree with her totally, is that the standard of some of these submissions that are sent out to editors is appalling. One of my most common complaints is with writers who do not read through their manuscripts before they submit them. They write their stories and they're in such a rush to put them into the envelope, to get them off to the editor, that they don't bother to sit down and read their hard copy. They don't check for spelling errors, repetition, or plot inconsistencies, and it drives me insane. Once they've written a story, if they would just sit on it for a few days and then go back to it, many of these errors would be glaringly obvious, even to them. If they only did that, their story would be a hundred times better. Another thing that drives me crazy is writers who do not include return postage. Particularly if they are submitting from overseas. Then there's always the assumption by some writers that American postage stamps will be accepted in any country in the world. Don't they know any better?
Photo © 1999
Ingrid Pitt and Stephen  Jones at James Herbert launch party (London 1999 Ingrid Pitt and Stephen Jones
at James Herbert launch party (London 1999)

NK: How do writers find out about your anthologies?
SJ: Normally by word of mouth. I mention upcoming projects to writers that have worked with me before or who I meet at conventions. I really don't have the time to send out guidelines or post market reports. If someone hears about a book I'm doing they can always send me a query letter and I'll let them know the project's current status. I definitely don't want to receive unsolicited submissions which 'might fit something' I'm doing sometime in the future! 

NK: In a sense then, they're invitational?
SJ: No, you simply have to know about them. Best New Horror is a yearly reprint volume that is always open to submissions, and you can always corner me at a convention and ask me what I'm currently working on. Normally, this information is passed around between writers anyway. 

Copyright © 1997, 2000 by Nancy Kilpatrick and Stephen Jones. Originally published in different form in Science Fiction Chronicle, Issue 194, November 1997. All rights reserved.


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