Melissa Ann Singer - Tor/Forge Blog



Advice from a Tor Editor

One of the great things about social media is its ability to connect genre fans, or to connect authors and readers. It can also connect writers with editors, as Tor/Forge Senior Editor Melissa Ann Singer reminded us on Friday. Every once in a while, Melissa takes to Twitter to explain the reasons she rejected manuscripts recently. The reasons are all fairly general, but even a tiny glimpse behind-the-scenes of an editor’s thought process can be fascinating! So, we decided to collect Melissa’s tweets, and share them here for all the writers out there.

So there you are! Of course, as Melissa herself stated, these are all her own opinions, and may not reflect the opinions of other editors and/or agents. But we hope this peek behind the curtain is useful to all those aspiring writers out there!


Throwback Thursdays: Great Books You May have Missed

Welcome to Throwback Thursdays on the Tor/Forge blog! Every other week, we’re delving into our newsletter archives and sharing some of our favorite posts.

It’s a new year, and a lot of us are making new reading resolutions. Mine is to finally read those books I’ve been meaning to read for years now. In February of 2010, senior editor Melissa Ann Singer had the same thought. Here’s her look back at some wonderful books you may have missed. We hope you enjoy this blast from the past, and be sure to check back every other Thursday for more!

The Many Deaths of the Black Company by Glen Cook Science Fiction Hall of Fame edited by Robert Silverberg The Man Whose Teeth Were Really Exactly Alike by Philip K. Dick The World Inside by Robert Silverberg

Great Books You May have Missed

By Melissa Ann Singer, Senior Editor

It’s a sad truth that books are, at least at this point in the space-time continuum, ephemeral. Oh, sure, there are sellers of used books; and there are collectors who hold onto their copies forever; and there’s the brave, newish worlds of POD and epublication, which might ensure that nothing ever goes out of print…but there will still be the problem of letting people know about cool, interesting, enjoyable books that were published before (as in before now).

We’ve made it something of a cottage industry here, with the Orb list dedicated to restoring to print, or keeping in print, classic works of fantasy and science fiction; and with the Tor trade paperback list, which has become a good place to find new editions of books you may not have noticed the first time they came around.

The first few months of 2010 are a perfect illustration of our regard for “older” books.

In January 2010, we published The Many Deaths of the Black Company by Glen Cook, one in a series of omnibus editions of Glen Cook’s stellar military fantasy series, The Black Company. The Many Deaths of the Black Company contains two Black Company novels, Water Sleeps and Soldiers Live.

Hawkmoon: The Jewel in the Skull by Michael MoorcockThat same month also saw the release of Hawkmoon: The Jewel in the Skull by Michael Moorcock—the first of several Hawkmoon volumes we’ll publish in the next two years. I’m a huge Moorcock fan myself and I was very excited to see these books on our list—my old mass market editions are too fragile to read. Moorcock’s tales of the multiverse and the neverending battle between Order and Chaos are a kind of flamboyant fantasy that just sings when done right…and Moorcock is a master of it.

In February, we have a pair of blockbuster anthologies. In Orb, The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two B. I know, it’s a mouthful, and not the most attractive title you’ve ever seen. Xanth by Two by Piers AnthonyThe Science Fiction Hall of Fame honors great short sf&f fiction published before the Nebula Awards were invented; Volume One contained short stories and Volume Two A and Volume Two B contain classic novellas. All three are big fat collections well worth reading. On the fantasy side of things, we are re-presenting Legends, a doorstop of a collection of fantasy novellas by modern writers. And on a lighter note, we’re publishing a Xanth omnibus, Xanth by Two, containing Demons Don’t Dream and Harpy Thyme.

March will see the Orb edition of Robert Silverberg’s The World Inside, a classic look at overpopulation by one of sf’s most thoughtful writers, as well as a trade paperback edition of Philip K. Dick’s The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike, part of our ongoing program of restoring lost or little-known PKD books to print.

The Point Man by Steve EnglehartAlso slated for March is The Point Man by Steve Englehart. While Englehart is perhaps best known as a comic book writer, The Point Man demonstrated he was a stellar wordsmith in any form. After a long hiatus, Englehart has returned to writing novels, and The Long Man, a follow-up to The Point Man, will also be released in March.

Throughout the year, Tor strives to offer you the best in fantasy and science fiction, old and new. Though I’m a long-term fan, I’ve run into more than one previously unknown—to me—gem on our reissue lists. I know you will too.

This article is originally from the February 2010 Tor/Forge newsletter. Sign up for the Tor/Forge newsletter now, and get similar content in your inbox twice a month!


Throwback Thursdays: To Read, or Not to Read, that is the Question

Welcome to Throwback Thursdays on the Tor/Forge blog! Every other week, we’re delving into our newsletter archives and sharing some of our favorite posts.

The fourth volume of The Eye of the World: The Graphic Novel comes out in December, so this week we’re looking back to December 2010, when Senior Editor Melissa Ann Singer talked about having never read The Wheel of Time. Enjoy this blast from the past, and be sure to check back every other Thursday for more!

Image Place holder  of - 43By Melissa Ann Singer, Senior Editor

Okay, confession time: I’ve never read The Wheel of Time. Other than the story in Legends, that is.

I can hear the gasps of shock and horror now.

And my reason for not reading WoT is stupidly pedestrian. It’s no more or less than “I’ve been busy.” Seriously. When The Eye of the World was first published, I was editing a huge number of books and barely had time to keep up on developments in the genres I was working in (which did not include epic fantasy at the time). I figured, I’ll have plenty of opportunities to read Eye later.

The next thing I knew, there were six books in the series and I was having a baby. My outside-of-work reading shifted to things like What to Expect When You’re Expecting and books on child-rearing and child development. And then came the board books and picture books and children’s books . . . .

Two years ago as I write this, Tor signed up a series of graphic novels based on WoT, beginning with New Spring and The Eye of the World. This was tremendously exciting to me as a long-term comics reader. So I waved my hands and jumped up and down and said, “Me! Me! Me!” when Tom was looking for an editor for the project. And now it’s mine.

Which left me with a terrific dilemma. As an editor, what’s the better course: to read New Spring, Eye, and the rest of WoT to make sure that the comics and graphic novels stay true to Robert Jordan’s amazing vision? Or trust that the estate and the people working their butts off on the graphic adaptations are keeping on course, and therefore read only the graphic novels, to make sure that they work for people who have never read these stories before?

Ultimately I chose the second option. Chuck Dixon is a great writer and I knew he’d make New Spring into a great graphic novel. He and Robert Jordan worked together on the adaptation before Jim’s untimely death and I trusted Chuck’s ability to identify and illuminate the core plotlines and characters of WoT.

New Spring: the Graphic Novel is beautiful, in my opinion. The double-page spreads, the carefully drawn characters, the flowing garments of the Aes Sedai, the delicate and evocative coloring — it’s just a lovely book to look at.

New Spring: the Graphic Novel collects all eight issues of the New Spring comic book. We’ve added some bonus material—including emails between Jordan, Dixon, and the Dabel brothers — to give you a peek behind the scenes, as it were, of the creation of this graphic adaptation.

And perhaps the best thing of all is that New Spring: the Graphic Novel is just the beginning. The first volume of the multi-volume graphic adaptation of The Eye of the World will be published later in 2011. I’m really looking forward to reading it. I’ve waited long enough, don’t you think?

This article is originally from the December 2010 Tor/Forge newsletter. Sign up for the Tor/Forge newsletter now, and get similar content in your inbox twice a month!


A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: The Eye of the World Graphic Novels

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: The Eye of the World Graphic Novels

The Eye of the World: Graphic Novel, Vol. 3 written by Chuck Dixon, and illustrated by Marcio Fiorito and Francis Nuguit

Written by Melissa Ann Singer, Senior Editor

There are always risks to be taken when a work is adapted from one form to another. That’s true whether you’re talking about the novelization of a film, turning a fictional card game into the real thing, or creating a graphic version of a story that was previously told only in words.

I’m guessing that everyone has played the casting game with The Eye of the World—in the movie or TV series, who would play Rand? Moiraine Aes Sedai? What stars would make guest appearances as Elyas or Thom Merrilin? Beyond that, I’m sure everyone has a personal mental image of what Robert Jordan’s characters and world look like—the books are quite visually evocative.

How challenging it must have been when the creative team began to draw that world and those characters—images that would first have to satisfy Robert Jordan himself (and later, Maria, Alan, and Harriet) and then please readers. To illustrate the great battles as well as Rand’s dreams and visions; the dark city of Shadar Logoth and the bustle of Caemlyn; the journey downriver to Whitebridge and the long ride to Tar Valon.
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The artists who have worked on The Eye of the World: the Graphic Novel have risen splendidly to that challenge. Chase Conley’s striking page layouts; Jeremy Saliba’s fluid line-work; Andie Tong’s masterful use of shadow and contrast; Nicolas Chapuis’s brilliant color choices . . . their work, and the work of Francis Nuguit and Marcio Fiorito, have brought Jordan’s characters vividly and dramatically to life.

Matching these talents is a prodigiously gifted writer, Chuck Dixon, who faced a monumental task: to boil down thousands of Jordan’s words into the bits of dialog, thought balloons, and captions that would fit onto a standard comic-book-sized page. To figure out how to break the novel into 22-page bits (since the graphic adaptation first appeared in comic book form) and how to pace those 22-page bits so that they could be gathered into bigger chunks that would each have something resembling a beginning, a middle, and an end (as we turned them into graphic novels).
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That’s not easy, and we’re very lucky to have Dixon to do it; he’s a master of the form.

It’s been a wonderful ride so far, one that’s expanded my inner vision of the world of The Wheel of Time. I’m almost sorry that we’re halfway through with the graphic novels because watching Dixon and the artists solve the puzzle of creating the adaptation has been so amazing, but at the same time, I can’t wait to see how they handle the climax of the story.

We are grateful to the Dabels, who began the process of bringing The Wheel of Time to life in graphic form, and to everyone at Dynamite, who have been just splendid to work with.
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From the Tor/Forge January Wheel of Time newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.


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Office Space…the final frontier

By Melissa Ann Singer, Senior Editor

When I started at Tor in the mid-1980s, there were perhaps a dozen full-time staffers and a handful or so of part-time and freelance staff. Our offices on 36th Street were a tiny, mostly windowless warren crammed to the rafters with staffers, desks, manuscript shelves, and piles and piles of paper. The clearest spaces were the copy room/mailroom and the accounting office, but even there every inch of space did double or triple duty. I don’t want to think how many fire codes we violated on a daily basis.

Tom Doherty had an office. Barbara Doherty and the rest of our financial department shared their office—perhaps the largest single space we had—with Ralph Arnote, our Sales Director. Beth Meacham had an office and her assistant had a cubicle. Tom’s assistant’s desk was in what passed for a hallway.

At the end of that hallway was a little cul-de-sac which was shared by Nancy Weisenfeld, our managing editor, and Joe Curcio, our art director. It wasn’t really a room and it wasn’t really a hall, just sort of a wide-ish dead end. Nancy had a desk and most of the rest of the space was full of manuscripts.

Joe had a drafting table, but he only came in on Fridays, so the rest of the week, David Hartwell and I shared the table. We each came in two days a week (which enabled me to avoid receptionist duty). All my manuscripts were at home, in a six-foot-long, knee-high stack. The drafting table was right by the heating vent, and to this day I have a tiny scar on my forehead from the constant stream of hot air that blew on me all winter.

When Tom announced that we were moving to a brand-new space on 24th Street—a space that was being built for us—there was dancing in the halls! Well, actually, there was jumping up and down, because there really weren’t any halls . . . .

We brought in the stuff we had at home so that we could shove it into boxes. We packed for days . . . there didn’t seem to be any end to the packing. And then it was moving day, and there didn’t seem to be any end to the boxes . . . how we fit that much stuff into that tiny space is mystifying to this day. I’m half-convinced that Nancy Weisenfeld had a pocket universe under her desk.

The 24th Street offices felt so big. They had windows! Natural light! Carpeting! Enough furniture for everyone to have a desk and a chair of their own! I remember being there alone one evening soon after we moved in and just marveling at how huge and empty the spaces were. Everyone had keys, so whoever was there last could lock up and whoever got there first in the morning could open up. And there were two bathrooms. (Once, when the cleaning crew hadn’t been in the night before for some reason and accounts were coming to call, editorial scrubbed the bathrooms.)

As with every Tor office, the place on 24th Street had its idiosyncrasies. For instance, only about half the offices had walls that went all the way up to the 12 foot ceilings. The rest of us had cubicles of various sorts or offices with nine foot-high walls. Editorial could have meetings without ever leaving our desks; all we had to do was lift our heads and slightly raise our voices. We threw stuff at each other over the walls (not manuscripts).

Wanda June Alexander’s daughter Raya was pretty young then, and on days when there was no school she’d often come to work with her mother. She liked to play and do her homework under my desk, which was roughly the size of an aircraft carrier. There was even a little shelf down there that was just the right size for some small toys or a snack. She was usually so quiet that I’d almost forget she was there . . . and then a little voice down near my feet would ask, “how do you spell elephant?” And we’d sound it out together.

One day, one of the Tor kids accidentally locked herself in one of the offices—an office whose usual inhabitant was not there, so we didn’t have the key to the door. The child couldn’t get the door open from the inside for some reason—small hands, nervousness, who knows? Several of us tried to coach her from outside with no luck. Finally, Hans, an editorial assistant who was six-foot-something, climbed onto the assistant’s desk outside the office and went over the wall. He twisted his ankle a bit on landing, iirc, but opened the door and rescued the little one. Our hero!

Before long, that 24th Street space, which had seemed so large, was crammed full. There were people, books, and manuscripts everywhere. Once again, people were working in hallways and cul-de-sacs; single-desk offices had become two-desk offices and spaces which weren’t offices at all had tables and chairs squeezed into them.

So we moved again, into the landmark Flatiron Building. This time, we only had to pack the contents of our desks and our personal belongings; the movers did the rest. Hooray! My biggest problem was my office ficus tree, which was at least ten feet tall. I had to cut off the top couple of feet to fit it into my new space, but it survived and did well until a harsh winter with too little sunlight did it in, a few years later.

Working in a landmark is kind of strange. Tourist buses drive by all the time; until my window was sealed up a couple of years ago when the air conditioner was put in, I could hear the guides’ spiels even though we’re up on the 14th floor. People regularly ask if we have a gift shop or observation deck (no and no) or ask us to take their picture standing in front of the pointy end (well, technically, all three corners are pointy, since the building is triangular, but the front is generally referred to as “the point”—and yes, we take photos for people). Most of us refer to the Flatiron as “she,” since to us, the building looks so shiplike, sailing up the avenue with that narrow prow out in front.

When we first moved in, the Flatiron was not quite 100 years old and had the last working hydraulic passenger elevators in New York. The elevators were very bouncy—we used to tell new hires to take Dramamine before coming to work—and once, when a tank burst, the building’s lobby flooded, just like in The Shining! Now we have new, modern elevators that have been retrofitted to look like the original cabs from 100 years ago. Way cool.

The whole Flatiron’s been thoroughly scrubbed, repaired, and modernized (to an extent—it is a landmark) inside and out since we moved in. The statue at the top of the building’s nose, heavily damaged by pollution, acid rain, and age, was recreated from original drawings and dropped into place with a building-shaking THUD one morning several years ago. We temporarily relocated to the 19th floor for a few months while 14 was being completely renovated—and while our views from 14 are special, the views from 19 are spectacular!

We’ve been back at the old stand ever since. From Tom’s office on 14, you have a great view of Madison Square Park, which is lovely in every season. You can look up Fifth Avenue and spot Central Park in the distance, and look north along Broadway as far as Times Square. My own window looks west, which gives me plenty of natural light (good for me and my little garden and lets me keep the fluorescents off most of the time). Since there’s nothing really tall between us and the horizon, I get to see some pretty fantastic sunsets and to watch the weather coming in from over New Jersey.

The oddest thing about working in the Flatiron is that none of the offices are the same size or shape and almost none of them are square. And there’s only one bathroom on each floor (men’s on the even floors, women’s on the odd [and yes, there is a 13th floor]).

When we first arrived, we had plenty of room on our single floor. But again, Tor kept growing, and now we have people working on two floors . . . and while we only occupy about ¼ of that second floor, we think of it as the first step in the Tor takeover of the entire Flatiron <insert evil laugh here>. Next comes the zeppelin mooring mast on the roof, and that Van de Graaf generator for the basement … .


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