Over the past three decades Scott Edelman has published more than a dozen short stories that pay tribute to his literary heroes, including John Steinbeck, Edgar Allan Poe, and Ray Bradbury. Edelman recently collected those stories in the book Tell Me Like You Done Before.
“I had enough stories, I feel, that it made for a good collection to honor all the people who inspired me,” Edelman says in Episode 476 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “I’m just glad to be able to say thank you to the people who came before and helped mold me.”
The longest story in the book is “A Plague on Both Your Houses,” a zombie story written in iambic pentameter. “I was driving home from the World Horror Convention in Nashville, and all of a sudden the opening lines came to me, and I thought, ‘Yep, Night of the Living Dead and Romeo and Juliet, where the kid of a zombie and the kid of a human end up falling in love,” Edelman says. “It was a lot of fun to write.”
Unfortunately a 50-page play about zombies turned out to be a hard sell for editors. “Someone was doing a zombie anthology, and I thought, ‘Oh, this is absolutely perfect,’ and I sent it in, and the response was, ‘I don’t like Shakespeare,’” Edelman says. “So it had nothing to do with the story, or whether I pulled it off well, or whether there was poetry in the language. It was just, ‘We don’t like Shakespeare.’”
Edelman eventually released the story as his first and only self-published work. “I put it together as a Halloween card one year, and sent it to all of my friends, and based on that it ended up being published in The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, and based on that publication, it ended up getting nominated for a Bram Stoker Award,” Edelman says. “Stories have strange paths to publication and recognition, so I always tell people, ‘Don’t worry if it takes a while for things to find the right audience.’”
Listen to the complete interview with Scott Edelman in Episode 476 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Scott Edelman on his story “Fifth Dimension”:
“It posits that I wrote to Twilight Zone magazine—which at the time was publishing an episode guide to The Twilight Zone—and I was writing saying, ‘Gee, you left out this episode, and that episode, and this wonderful episode,’ and the editor says, ‘Those are not really episodes. I think you’re making things up.’ There is a back and forth, and it ends up that my TV is picking up stories from the fifth dimension, that Rod Serling is still off somewhere making all sorts of other wonderful episodes. The great thing about this story is that the editor, Ted Klein, had to run it by Carol Serling, Rod Serling’s widow—because once you’re including something like that in a magazine that they’re doing with the permission of the Serling estate, you want to make sure his widow is pleased with it and honored by it—and the fact that Carol Serling said, ‘Oh no, I love this story. It treats Rod Serling in such a wonderful way’ made me very happy.”
Scott Edelman on Raymond Carver:
“He started out writing a lot of science fiction stories. When I edited Science Fiction Age magazine, I suggested to Barry Malzberg that ‘Hey, did you realize this? Why don’t you write a science fiction story as if it had been written by Raymond Carver?’, which he did, and it was published in Science Fiction Age a long time ago. But I would kill to actually read one of the stories that Raymond Carver wrote that was intended to be a science fiction story. We don’t know why he no longer cared about science fiction. His first wife said that, ‘Oh, eventually he was no longer interested in writing about little green monsters.’ But was it that he couldn’t sell them, and he said, ‘Oh, this is stupid’? Or once he got into John Gardner‘s writing class, did he decide that it was beneath him? We don’t really know what his relationship was, but it would be great to go back and find some of those.”
Scott Edelman on editing Science Fiction Age:
“My wife had been looking for a job. She looked in the Washington Post, and there was an ad there, under ‘Editor,’ for ‘looking for part-time editor to edit science fiction magazine.’ And I said, ‘Wow, I can do that.’ I had edited other magazines in the past—my career started as an editor at Marvel comics. I wrote them probably the most obnoxious letter anyone ever wrote to attempt to get a job, because I felt that I had a certain status in the field for doing things of quality—there are many not-very-good science fiction magazines, or science fiction magazines that mistreat the field, mistreat the writers and artists that they use. I basically said, ‘The question isn’t whether you would hire me, the question is whether I would work for you to edit this magazine.’ And that must have impressed them.”
Scott Edelman on his podcast Eating the Fantastic:
“I was once called the Anthony Bourdain of science fiction, because when I go to a science fiction convention, I research the town the convention is in deeply, because I do not want to waste any time on a hotel meal, and I would abscond with other guests and go to all these great restaurants around the town. And when I was a guest on a podcast, and I suddenly realized, ‘Wait, you mean the workers can own the means of production? I can do a podcast and just put it out there and Apple will distribute it to everyone?’ And I thought, ‘What should my niche be?’ Because I didn’t want to be just another podcast. So I said, ‘I will go out for meals with people. I will record those meals. You are coming along with me and eavesdropping on this conversation that I have with various folks.’ And I have been doing that for more than five years now.”