An Editor (long form) and a Hugo
When it comes to The Hugo Awards, the lion’s share of pre-Worldcon debate and discussion seems to focus on the nominees in the prose fiction categories. This is not one of those posts.
I’m writing this to tell you why TOR/Forge Books senior editor Marco Palmieri deserves your Hugo Award nomination in the category of Best Editor–Long Form.
Full disclosure: Marco and I have been friends for many years, he has acquired books from me in the past, and I currently am working on a trilogy of original contemporary fantasy novels for him at Tor. That is not why I am writing this post. In fact, I suspect he would prefer I didn’t, because he is a modest man who prefers to let his authors be the stars. He would never campaign for an honor such as this—which, in my opinion, is just one of many reasons why he should receive it.
Before I tell you why Marco is so great at what he does, let’s talk about the job itself.
What Do Editors Do, Exactly?
One thing I have heard many folks in the publishing industry say over the years, with regard to the Best Editor awards, is that many Hugo voters seem to have only a limited understanding of the role that editors play in the art and business of bringing stories to the public.
An editor’s work is complex and varied. It’s not as simple as reading through submissions to find works of genius and then slapping covers on them. Editors must be able to understand and speak to the concerns of publishers (“Will this sell?”), marketers (“How do we sell it?”), sales executives (“What will this cost?”), art directors (“How do we package it?”), production departments (“Where’s the manuscript? Where’s the cover art? Are we late?”), authors (“It’s okay, come in off the ledge, put down the knife, we can fix it.”), and prospective readers (“Here’s why you’ll love this book!”).
Editors have to juggle numbers when they aren’t wrangling line edits, track production details when they aren’t balancing budgets, offer detailed feedback on huge manuscripts while trying to read new ones and promote those that are now (or soon will be) on sale. Most editors are thinking about three years’ worth of overlapping projects at any given moment.
It is a job for the mad and the masochistic, or for the truly superhuman.
Why Does Marco Palmieri Deserve a Hugo Award?
The description of the award offered by The Hugo Awards themselves are rather narrow with regard to what voters should take into account for Best Editor–Long Form:
Best Editor (Long Form): This is the first of the person categories, so the Award is given for the work that person has done in the year of eligibility. To be eligible the person must have edited at least 4 novel-length (i.e. 40,000 words or more) books devoted to science fiction and/or fantasy in the year of eligibility that are not anthologies or collections.
If we were to consider only those criteria, then I would urge readers to consider the following works acquired and/or edited by Marco Palmieri that were published by Tor in 2015:
- Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, by Lawrence M. Schoen
- The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth J. Dickinson
- Time Salvager, by Wesley Chu
- Last Song Before Night, by Ilana C. Myer
- Last First Snow, by Max Gladstone
- The Providence of Fire, by Brian Staveley
- Unbreakable, by W. C. Bauers
- When the Heavens Fall, by Marc Turner
- The Architect of Aeons, by John C. Wright
Those are nine superlative works that run the gamut of trippy science fiction, military SF, space opera, urban fantasy, high fantasy, and epic fantasy. That’s some serious range.
Barsk has been nominated for the Nebula Award.
The Traitor Baru Cormorant has been featured on more than a dozen “Best of 2015” lists.
Critically acclaimed debut novel Last Song Before Night made the 2015 Locus Magazine Recommended Reading List for First Novels (as did The Traitor Baru Cormorant).
Time Salvager had a Hollywood movie deal in place before it was released.
Last First Snow, the fourth installment of Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence, has earned rave reviews.
Unbreakable is an intense military-SF thrill ride with a female main character.
The Architect of Aeons is a classic sprawling space opera, hard SF at its best.
When the Heavens Fall is pure epic fantasy, a tale of mortals daring to war with gods.
And fans of epic fantasy already know that Brian Staveley’s Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne novels are flying off the shelves.
Is That All?
No, there’s more. I would posit that, beyond the letter of Marco’s professional achievements, what makes him deserving of recognition by professionals and fans alike are his less easily quantified contributions. Chiefly, his tireless efforts at promoting the works and appearances of all his authors and colleagues, and the excellence with which he pursues his craft.
Anyone who follows Marco’s accounts on social media (chiefly Twitter and Facebook) knows how hard he works to keep his writers in the public eye. Every good review, every convention appearance, every interview or podcast — whenever one of Marco’s authors or peers has something noteworthy going on, he lends his signal boost, day after day. That might not seem like much, but to authors struggling to push their messages through a tempest of digital static, his constant support and promotion is a much-needed source of encouragement.
As to my second point — the excellence of Marco’s craft as an editor — I want to make clear that I’m not talking about the skill with which he carries out the business and production aspects of his work. I’m talking about the insight he brings to the table when working with authors to help them refine their first-draft manuscripts into novels worthy of bearing the TOR colophon.
I first had the privilege of working with Marco many years ago, when he was a senior editor at Simon & Schuster. Shortly after the publication of my second full-length Star Trek novel, he invited me to work with him to develop a new series of books. That project became Star Trek Vanguard, one of the creative highlights of my work for the Star Trek novels.
While I was crafting Harbinger, that series’ first novel, Marco encouraged me to break out of the mold I’d fit myself into — that of a self-described “action-adventure writer” — and challenge myself to write something different, something more thoughtful and introspective. With his guidance, I was able to expand my literary tool set and discover new possibilities in myself and in my work. Having Marco Palmieri as my editor made me a better writer, because he was willing to push me to improve rather than ever say, “Good enough.”
Marco doesn’t want “good enough,” he wants excellence — from himself, and from his authors. He doesn’t let us coast or rest on our laurels. Whenever we think we’ve reached a peak, he is the one who points us toward the next summit and says, “Get climbing; I’ll be right behind you.”
Last but not least, for all who strive to see diversity promoted in the world of publishing, and particularly in the genres of science fiction and fantasy, Marco Palmieri is one of the most ardent, outspoken, and committed proponents of narrative and professional diversity. He brings to all his efforts an awareness of, and a sensitivity to, the marginalized and the under-represented. A prime example is his editing and support of Kameron Hurley‘s upcoming (as of this writing) collection of non-fiction essays, The Geek Feminist Revolution.
He has demonstrated, through public words and actions, his willingness to do the hard work that will be necessary to shape a more inclusive future for POCs, members of the LGBTQ community, and those who reject binary identities or easy classifications of any stripe. He sees human beings in their complexity and beauty, and he wants his authors and readers to see them and write them, with compassion and honesty.
Marco Palmieri acquires excellent, award-nominated, critically acclaimed novels spanning a range of styles and genres within SF/F.
He applies his vast expertise to help his authors become better at their craft, by pushing them beyond their comfort zones.
He is tireless in his support of his authors on social media and at various public events.
He encourages himself, his peers, his authors, and the community to embrace the marginalized, the under-represented, and the misunderstood.
He doesn’t just mouth paeans to diversity—he takes action to make it the new status quo.
Marco represents all that’s best in the SF/F publishing industry. I encourage all Hugo-eligible voters to recognize his talent, vision, hard work, and contributions to the community by nominating him for a Hugo Award in the category of Best Editor–Long Form.
That’s my rhyme. Peace out. *mic drop*