By Matt O’Keefe
Just a few months ago I came across a call for creators to submit stories to be published in a then-untitled anthology made up of stories that, for one reason or another, had yet to find a home. Before I knew it, the anthology was released digitally on DriveThruComics and sent to the presses for December 1st release. To get my head around the quick turnaround and the quality of a book made up of seemingly “unwanted” stories, I spoke with one of the editors, Marta Tanrikulu. She informed me of the process that lead to the creation of the anthology, eventually titled Out of the Blue: A Collection of Strange Stories.
I feel like I saw the call for submissions for the anthology pretty recently. How long did it take for the Out of the Blue to come together, from start to completion?
Once we decided to form an editorial team and solicit submissions and production help, it took 3 months from announcing the call to finalizing files for printing. The brainstorming on whether to do an anthology and how to organize the effort started a couple months earlier.
How did you turn it around so quickly?The biggest reason is that the stories were all essentially complete at submission. A few stories still needed lettering or coloring.
Did you get many submissions?We kept the call to word of mouth to keep submissions from being overwhelming and ended up with 40 of them. Some creators contributed more than one story.
What made you want to do an anthology for stories that didn’t have a home?
A lot of creators mention having stories completed that are seeking a suitable home. Since a common goal is having good-quality published versions to sell both at conventions and online, collecting stories as part of a larger book that would attract more readers seemed to be a community consensus. It just required someone to organize the effort.
Did you worry that people would perceive them as “unwanted” stories?
We did consider using a word like “homeless” or “unwanted” in the title, but that’s not really what defines or holds the stories together. These stories will likely all find more homes. We’re simply fortunate to have the opportunity to house them together.
All the stories in Out of the Blue are strong, so if that stigma’s there it’s unwarranted. How did you find such solid work with the restrictions you had?
The editors, Corey Fryia, Marcus Muller, and myself, all were familiar with the work of over half the contributors. So we knew their submissions were likely to be strong.
What were some of the reasons the stories didn’t have homes?
Some were developed with a different publication in mind, or a publication hadn’t been identified yet, while others may have been experiments in style or genre, independent of other projects the creators are working on.
The theme is “strange stories.” Was that theme determined by the submissions you received, or decided on beforehand?
The theme was determined by what would best unite the most stories as they were being reviewed, though we suspected based on presubmission interest that such a theme would be a contender.
An indy anthology is always a risky venture. Did you consider either a Kickstarter or digital-only release to lower the costs?
A digital-only release wasn’t of much interest because so many contributors wanted to sell printed copies, though upfront costs were definitely an obstacle. A Kickstarter was considered, but we wanted this anthology printed with no contingencies, such as successful funding. The anthology was lucky to attract the interest of Stache Publishing. We hope it will sell well enough so they have no regrets.
What are some stories from the anthology you want to spotlight?
To give readers a teaser of what’s in the anthology, it includes an intense one-page story called “The Wait,” and a twist none of us saw coming in “Deliveries.” There’s lots more, ranging from family stories to legends and futuristic tales.
A lot of creators put together anthologies to give home to their unpublished stories, but you don’t have a story in Out of the Blue. What, then, was the motivation for you to dedicate a lot of time and effort to make this anthology happen?
To avoid bias, none of the editors submitted a story. Speaking for myself, this project was another chance to work with comics writers and artists, which was tempting enough. Since I enjoy editing, it was also an opportunity for a proof of concept: developing an enticing, themed anthology around available stories. We hope both the contributors and their fans will consider it a success.