Jeff VanderMeer: What does it mean to you to be up for a Hugo in the long form editor
category, given that book editors rarely get any public honors?
Liz Gorinsky: It is incredibly weird, though now that it’s happened a few times, it’s beginning to feel slightly less unreal. On one hand, editing is an odd thing to get acclaim for, given that the meat of the editorial process — as removed from the publishing process, which is considerably more public — is done in private: It’s you and the manuscript you’re deciding whether to buy, or you and the author and a pile of tracked changes, both of which are invisible to the reader if you’ve done your job right. On the other hand, once you accept that Hugo voters are interested in giving an award for that work, there are so many people who have been at it for decades longer than me that I’m amazed (and slightly baffled, and immensely grateful) that so many people thought to put my name down.
JVM: What do you think excellence in long-form editing means? In terms of what qualities must an acquiring editor who handles developmental edits have?
LG: Given the aforementioned invisibility, I have to presume that most of the Hugo nominating population is basing their selection on the merits of the books an editor has acquired, or on the editor’s public works and persona. These are both important parts of the job, but they
constitute a tiny fraction of an in-house editor’s day-to-day workload. Then there’s the actual claws-out editing of books, which is just another small section of the job, but–since it’s my favorite part — I like to pretend is what all the hubub is about. But I don’t think there’s a concrete set of qualities an editor must have. Every book is different, and every book teaches you what it needs, be it a large swath of developmental edits or a meticulous line-by-line polish. And at least half the trick of editing is knowing what to leave alone.
JVM: Are there any role models or other editors you have found particularly inspirational personally?
LG: Obviously most of my mentors are the folks I’ve worked for and with at Tor: Anna Genoese and Jim Minz, who ran the internship program that introduced me to book editing and answered countless questions; Jim Frenkel, who I assisted for six or seven years; Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who I still do; and Tom Doherty, who’s made an immeasurable diference to the way the field looks today. In terms of inspiration, though, I’d cite Juliet Ulman, whose sensibilities are eerily close to mine, and Gavin Grant and Kelly Link, whose Small Beer Press seems to me like a fantasy storybook version of what a publishing house should be.
Many thanks to Liz Gorinsky for her time, and congratulations on her well-deserved nomination!