Interest gauge: anthology of Mormon alternate history

NOTE: I posted an update on this project in November 2014. More news on it in late spring/early summer 2015.

Here’s the bad news: I don’t have the time and energy to do a second Monsters & Mormons anthology. I believe that there are a few people who will be disappointed by this. I know there’s at least one: me. I’m sorry. It’s just not going to happen.

Here’s the good news: I’ve been focused the past few years on writing fiction and criticism. See my author blog for a glimpse of what I’ve been working on. Most of that has not been Mormon-related. It’s great fun, and I’m continuing those activities, but I also am feeling the desire to edit again. I’m also concerned about the fact that with the shuttering of Irreantum there aren’t enough venues for Mormon short fiction. I’ve been saying for awhile now that what we need are more one-off projects that don’t require sustained effort — that that’s the best way to grow the body of Mormon short fiction because they don’t require the kind of long-term commitments and resources that most of us just can’t supply. Well, I suppose I should lead by example. So…

My vague thoughts: I’m thinking about editing an e-only short anthology of alternate Mormon history stories. I know for a fact that at least two of the entries in this year’s Mormon Lit Blitz are in the alternate history genre (one of them is mine). I’m guessing there might be more. It’s funny. I’ve been thinking about this for several months and even went so far as to toss some ideas around with Theric. And then Scott Hales recently posted Emily Adams review of  D. J. Butler’s  City of the Saints series, which is Mormon alt history steampunk. And, well, it just seems like it’s in the air. Indeed, it seems to me that in this post-Mormon moment moment alternate visions of Mormon history could be one of the more compelling ways of expressing our culture and help us think through both our past and future trajectories in interesting and fruitful ways.

Details and timing: I don’t know for sure yet. My best guess is that I’d put a call for entries out this fall with a deadline of  early spring 2015 and a goal of having the anthology out in fall 2015. I would pony up the funds for token payments to the contributors. The anthology would likely be limited to 7-8 short short pieces, 3-4 short stories, and 1-2 novelettes with a goal of hitting 45-65k words (Monsters & Mormons is close to 180k). As with M&M, I’d be looking to range across the pulp and literary spectrums, but I’d also be shading a bit more towards the literary (where with M&M we shaded more towards pulp). And with the short short pieces, I’d be looking for a variety of forms of discourse including sermon, journal entry, reportage, personal letter, etc.

Feedback: If I decided to do this, who would be interested in submitting? Or reading? Reviewing? Am I wrong that Mormon alt history is swirling about the current Zeitgeist? What are the promises and pitfalls of Mormon alternate history?

Speak up in the comments below, or if you’d prefer not to be public with your thoughts, email me at william AT motleyvision DAWT org.

27 thoughts on “Interest gauge: anthology of Mormon alternate history”

  1. It is if the scriptural story or wording of it is unique to Mormonism. An alternate history story where Samson never gives into Delilah, for example, or Moses takes over Egypt rather than leaving for the wilderness likely wouldn’t fit. But as always: the right story can always make me change my mind.

  2. Yay! This will be more explicit in the formal call for submissions, but I want to do even better than Monsters & Mormons did with including work by Mormon women. And that one of the advantage of alternate history is that, of course, it’s more a setting than a plot (although the two are especially intertwined w/alternate history), which means that stories can be (and are likely to be) also mystery, romance, adventure, suspense, action, slice-of-life, epiphanic, etc. stories.

  3. That would be awesome, EJS.

    I have considered a Kickstarter, but if I were to do that, I would want to be able to offer a lot more (print versions, illustrations, stretch goals, etc.). That lot more requires additional administration. So my plan is to start with a modest-sized e-anthology and then we’ll see where things go from there.

  4. I’d like to submit something but am not sure I’ll get around to it.

    What I can pledge to do, though, is to recruit some historians guest posters to write about points in Mormon history fiction writers may not be aware of and might be able to spin alternate histories out of. Maybe learning about Frederick Ferdinand Samuelsen could inspire someone to write an alternate history where he rises to become a major leader in Denmark. Maybe learning about missionary work in the Ottoman Empire could lead to an alternate history where the mission really took off. Maybe learning about competing plans for the Church welfare system before Heber J. Grant felt inspired to embrace one will give someone an interesting alternate modern Mormonism.

    Let me know if and when you’re interested and I’ll see what I can do.

  5. Brian G: Excellent.

    James: that would be awesome. I’ll be in touch (although I probably won’t pick this project up in earnest until after the summer is over).

  6. I’m sharpening my metaphorical pencils. Let the games begin! Cry havoc and let loose the dogs of alternate history!

  7. I’d submit. But this comes dangerously close to a project I’m going to seek funding for, damn you. I think we’re alright, but maybe we can talk off-line and mark the territory. (Another reason I should do things when I think of them, and not wait for sunnier weather.)

  8. Not my usual bag, but I’m willing to try it. I’ve got this idea involving Islam…

    Glad to hear this kind of talk. A family of anthologies might work better than a magazine.

  9. Not my usual bag, but I’m willing to try it. I’ve got this idea involving Islam…

    Glad to hear this kind of talk. A family of anthologies might work better than a magazine.

    Oh, and I’d be happy to help with stuff like editing.

  10. (Although, I’m not sure if I should write anything, if I can’t even spell my own name.)

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