Tag Archives: Therese Arkenberg

Giving Short Stories a Shelf Life

I stumbled across Anthology Builder recently–a new discovery for me though I think it’s been around a while. Customers can visit the site, design a custom anthology based on the short stories available there, and have it printed and mailed to them. If they like, they can put the anthology they designed into the library so that others can buy the same mix of stories.

The stories seem to be mostly works in the public domain or reprints that authors have uploaded. The site seems to have some editorial process–the requirement that stories be reprints keeps the noise-to-signal ratio from getting too high. I checked out the available stories and there’s some good stuff there, particularly in the SF/fantasy genres, with which I’m most familiar. There are a few stories from authors I’ve written about here before, including Rhonda Eudaly, Samantha Henderson, and Marsheila Rockwell. Funnily enough, I found an anthology put together by Therese Arkenberg–I’ve also written about her. Anthology Builder also has a partnership with the interesting Book View Cafe.

It’s a neat idea, but I’m a little uncertain about it. I love short fiction, and I like the idea of reading an anthology put together by people who interest me. In terms of building anthologies myself, I think I would only do it if I were intimately familiar with all the stories that went into it. The discovery aspect of the site and the anthology building aspect seem like they may not be entirely compatible. This has an almost-but-not-quite feeling to me. Still, I plan to try out some of the anthologies in the library, as well as building my own anthology. I can also see myself using the site to pick up “collected stories” of an author I like.

Authors get some small amount of royalties from the site–each book sold gives a $1.50 royalty, divided among the authors whose stories were included.

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A True Thoughtcrime Experiment

Therese Arkenberg’s “Goldenseed” is the story in the Thoughtcrime Experiments anthology that best fits the project’s name. Xan, a recognizable, though altered, Johnny Appleseed, wanders the countryside engaged in a political experiment:

“Mostly because they’re beautiful. But also for the gold.”

“No, I don’t want to become rich in the least. But I want more gold in the world.”

“You want to become rich?”

“Not at all.” Xan shook his head grimly. “No, I don’t want to become rich in the least. But I want more gold in the world. Look.” He gestured at the trees. “I’ve planted orchards like this all across the West. They’re all open, unguarded. I don’t care if people take golden fruit by the bucketful. In fact, I want them to take it.”

“So everyone can have gold?”

His head bobbed. “Yes. Free for all.”

“But…” I frowned. “Say someone was poor, with no money, and picked one of these—” I hefted the Orel—“and took it to the store in town. But why should the shopkeeper give him anything, when he can walk out here and pick a fruit himself?”

“There’s no reason he should,” Xan said. “No reason at all. By putting out gold like this, I’m making it utterly worthless. Oh, it’ll still be pretty, good for jewelry, but no path to wealth. That’s what I’m hoping for—though I pity the poor man in your example.”

I looked down at my Orel and felt a sudden urge to throw it away. It wasn’t that I hated Xan’s idea, not exactly, it was just so strange. “But without using gold, how will people buy anything?”

The story is about the reactions others have to Xan’s radical ideas about money–their lack of understanding, their fear, and their greed. It’s a poignant look at how an idea and a person can have attractive vision, and yet ultimately repel and alienate others because that vision asks people to risk too much of the status quo.