With Shapers of Worlds Volume II, the second anthology I’ve Kickstarted that features guests from my Aurora Award-winning podcast The Worldshapers, now available everywhere, I thought you might enjoy reading the introduction I wrote for it.
Again, Shapers of Worlds Volume II features brand-new stories from Kelley Armstrong, Marie Brennan, Garth Nix, Candas Jane Dorsey, Jeremy Szal, Edward Willett, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Lisa Foiles, Susan Forest, Matthew Hughes, Heli Kennedy, Helen Dale, Adria Laycraft, Edward Savio, Lisa Kessler, Ira Nayman, James Alan Gardner, and Tim Pratt, plus fiction by Jeffrey A. Carver, David D. Levine, Carrie Vaughn, Nancy Kress, Barbara Hambly, and S.M. Stirling.
Shapers of Worlds Volume II
Back in the sixteenth century, learned men were known for creating “cabinets of curiosities,” collections of notable objects: relics of archaeological interest, fascinating geological specimens, stuffed animals, valuable books, works of art, and more. These cabinets (at the time, the term referred to rooms, not just pieces of furniture) were precursors to modern museums. They were also a form of entertainment: “learned entertainment,” as the Royal Society in London termed it.
These collections might or might not have a strong central theme. It depended on the collector and his or her specific interests. Some might largely be collections of one type of thing; others might be collections of many different types of things.
Anthologies, it seems to me, are rather like cabinets of curiosities, the collector being the editor. Many anthologies have a strong central theme, such as “stories set on Mars,” or “stories about ancient deities making their way in the modern world,” or “alternate histories of the Civil War.” The curiosities collected in such cabinets are all related to this central theme, and thus, readers know what to expect as they move from tale to tale.
This anthology, and its precursor, Shapers of Worlds, published last year, are far more eclectic. The stories collected here are stories connected not by theme but by something more concrete: every author was a guest during the second year of my podcast, The Worldshapers, where I interview other science fiction and fantasy authors about their creative process.
Both anthologies grew out of a presentation to the annual general meeting of SaskBooks, the association of Saskatchewan publishers of which I’m a member, in 2019. A publisher from Winnipeg explained how she had successfully Kickstarted an anthology of short fiction, and I thought, Hey, I know some authors . . .
I reached out to the guests from the first year of my podcast, which had begun in August 2018, and eighteen authors agreed to take part, with nine offering to write new stories and nine to provide reprints. After climbing the somewhat steep Kickstarter learning curve, I successfully crowdsourced Shapers of Worlds in early 2020 and published it through my own Shadowpaw Press last fall.
Having done it once, I thought I could do it again, so I reached out to my second-year guests. This time, eighteen authors agreed to write new stories, and six offered reprints, and that’s the volume you now hold in your hand (or are viewing on your ebook reader of choice).
To return to my metaphor, these stories are those which the authors themselves chose to be displayed in this cabinet of curiosities. The result, I think you’ll find, is as varied as the strange assortment of oddities and discoveries those long-ago collectors placed in their personal showcases, ranging from far-future science fiction to modern-day fantasy to stories of alternate histories to tales set in magical realms. Here you will find darkness and danger, but also light and hope; grimness, but also humour; rollicking adventure alongside quieter tales conducive to contemplation.
It has been a great honour both to interview these authors and to collect and edit these stories. I couldn’t be prouder to present Shapers of Worlds Volume II to the world.
And, of course, none of this could have been possible without the generosity of all those who backed the Kickstarter earlier this year that provided the funds to pay the authors and produce this book. I hope you’ll find your support was well worthwhile.
Another term for a cabinet of curiosities was “cabinet of wonder.” In the stories that follow, you will find a great deal of wonder: they are, literally, wonder-full.
Enjoy, and thanks for reading!