The Birth of an Anthology

Travis Heermann has been a freelance writer since 1999. Publishing credits include dozens of magazine articles, role-playing game content for both table-top and online MMORPGs, short fiction. He is the author of five published novels to date, with the latest being Sword of the Ronin from Red Bear Publishing. For more information, check out his website:

Back in March this year, I got bitten by a very strange bug.

I was attending a workshop on professional anthologies put on by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. There were roughly thirty attendees, plus two Kris and Dean and two editors, John Helfers and Kerrie Hughes. The objective while there was to write stories for two live anthologies edited by John and Kerrie; How to Save the World and Hex in the City,—a hard SF and an urban fantasy anthology, respectively, that were part of the Fiction River publishing launch year, each of which also boasted its own list of invited pros.

Over the course of four days, we got to watch four editors at work; John and Kerrie, plus Dean, wearing his Pulphouse editorial fedora, and Kris revisiting her Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction editorial chapeau. This was not a critique workshop; it was four editors discussing whether they would buy a given story for their particular publications, each of which has very different audiences and expectations. Those stories that got picked (my story “Deus Ex Machina” was selected for How to Save the World) would be published in the two anthologies. They discussed each story in front of the class, their reactions to it, where they may have stopped reading, etc. This was a huge lesson and an eye-opener for many in the class: to hear an editor react to one’s story in real time, and hearing where the rejection happened.

One of the things that I found most interesting was how my own opinions of each story jibed with theirs (or didn’t). In the end, I came away with the feeling that my own assessments were generally spot-on with theirs.

And I came away with one other thing: that weird bug.

I wanted to try it myself.

So for about five months, my brain percolated on various anthology ideas, from horror to science fiction to weird westerns. Maybe you’re familiar with that morass of amorphous ideas that just squelch around inside your skull, like something waiting to solidify.

I also started thinking about the kinds of stories I would love to read, the kind of stories I’ve been missing in science fiction and fantasy over the last 10-15 years. And that is, in a nutshell: fun stuff. That sense of wow and wonder that set my little writer brain on fire when I was a kid. I sometimes think that the SF/F fields have been trying so hard to become “legitimate,” “literary,” and “serious” that we’ve forgotten what inspired us. That sense of whiz bang, the kind of story which at the end leaves you thinking, “Now that was cool.”

As an editor of this yet unformulated anthology, it was my role to decide what I thought was cool, with the idea that there might be plenty of people out there who agree with me. So this led to an inventory of the things that really excite me, that make great stories, great drama, and great heroes and heroines. Mad Max, Maverick, The Dukes of Hazzard, Death Proof, The Road Warrior, Casino Royale, The Wild, Wild West (the TV series, not the awful movie)—these were the things going around in my head.

I’ve always loved muscle cars, hot rods, and sports cars. I grew up at the small-town racetrack in the summertime. My brother is a dirt-track race driver, and I’ve done a few races myself behind the wheel with my foot to the floor. There’s nothing in the world like it.

I’m a poker player. I discovered how much I loved it in 2006 and started playing tournaments. I grew up playing cards with my family. I also had a ten year stint playing collectible card games like Jyhad, Legend of the Five Rings, and Warlord, among others. I am fascinated by the Tarot.

I’m a history buff, fascinated with both black powder firearms and the super-advanced tech being developed today. I’m also fascinated by the way firearms have had such a profound impact on civilization and history. I’m a guy (i.e. twelve-year-old boy). I love to feel the recoil and concussion. I like to blow shit up.

One alliteration later, I had the title and the concept: Cars, Cards & Carbines.

The next step was to find an experienced editor to show me the ropes. For that, my first choice was John Helfers. In addition to the story he bought from me for How to Save the World, I had worked with him when he was at Tekno Books when he bought the first volume of my Ronin Trilogy, and then again with the second volume I indie-published earlier this year. I ran into him at DragonCon this year, we had a discussion over an adult beverage, he thought the concept was pretty darn cool, and just like that, an anthology was conceived.

Between the two of us, we have assembled an incredible line-up of award-winning and best-selling authors who also think the concept is pretty darn cool.

Nevertheless, while Cars, Cards & Carbines has been conceived, it has not yet been born. We need you, yes, you personally, dear Reader, to help us bring this anthology to life. Please support our Kickstarter project. We have until December 19, 2013, to make this happen. Thank you!

Cars, Cards & Carbines – Multi-Genre Fiction Anthology