Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Lockdown Anthology: To Benefit the BINC

Lockdown: Stories of Crime, Terror, and Hope During a Pandemic launches today, and I'm excited to have a story in it. The book is a collection of stories written quickly after editors Nick Kolakowski and Steve Weddle put out the call, back in March, for stories that would be set in a world under lockdown.  As Nick put it in an email about this world: "no planes flying, all cities locked down, limited people movement due to an illness that's flu-like but mutates rapidly".  I received an email inviting me to write a story for the book on March 24th, and the due date given was April 15th.  Nothing spurs a story idea better than the pressure of an imminent deadline.

For my part, I let a number of ideas float through my mind for a few days.  Then, out of the blue, I came up with something definite. It seemed both in tune with the mood of the lockdown where I live, New York City, at that timpandemic epicenter in the United States, and yet not quite what people might expect from a plague story.  With about six days to go before the deadline, I started writing the story, and I zipped through it rapidly, having a good deal of enjoyment while doing it.  

The collection has a standout list of contributors, and I'm looking forward to reading the thing myself.  

That list of contributors, by the way:

Hector Acosta
Ann Dávila Cardinal
V. Castro
Angel Luis Colon
Jen Conley
Terri Lynn Coop
S.A. Cosby
Alex DiFrancesco
Michelle Garza/Melissa Lason
Rob Hart
Gabino Iglesias
Nick Kolakowski
Richie Narvaez
Cina Pelayo
Renee Asher Pickup
Eryk Pruitt
Johnny Shaw
Steve Weddle

And very important to keep in mind: 100% of the book's proceeds will go to The Book Industry Charitable Foundation, the BINC.  We all know how much independent booksellers have been hurt by the coronavirus outbreak and the resultant lockdown, and throughout the pandemic, the BINC has been one of the few reliable sources of financial support for them. Help the BINC and you help the indie booksellers that I presume we all love and want to keep.

Besides the general lockdown idea, were there any unifying principles that the story contributors had to adhere to or that the editors, Kolakowski and Weddle, wanted to emphasize?  I asked Nick about this, and he told me a little about what he and Steve were trying to do with the collection.

Nick's words below:

From the outset, we were pretty loose with the stories’ guidelines. We had our fictional pandemic, which we defined as a respiratory disease, but against that shared background we wanted the authors to pretty much go wherever the muse took them. When the stories actually came in, we found something interesting: Around half of them (mostly the crime/suspense tales) stuck pretty close to “reality”—i.e., their characters were pulling off a heist, kidnapping, murder, etc. within a world where everyone around them was coughing and dying.

The other half of the stories took a stranger turn. We had zombies, cannibalism, ghosts; and in many of those stories, the wider world was apocalyptic, or close to it. And that gave us the leverage to structure the stories in a linear order: From a relatively normal world trying to wrestle with the outbreak of a mysterious illness, to a burned-out landscape; and from what you might call a conventional virus to, after a bunch of mutations, something that produced some unconventional side effects. 

Steve and I were editing the stories as they came in, given the super-tight deadlines, and I hadn’t written my story yet. When I had to sit down to churn out my own copy, I decided to write a story that acted as a bit of a bridge—the moment the world starts truly going off the rails. I also had the characters mutter darkly about mutations, how the virus itself seemed to be changing, which I hoped would create a thematic gateway to the rest of the book.

That doesn’t mean any reader is required to read the book in order; but for those who do, there’s a hint of an overarching mega-narrative which hopefully they find interesting


Considering the lineup involved, I expect readers will find the stories interesting.

Lockdown: Stories of Crime, Terror, and Hope During a Pandemic is published by Polis Books, and you can find it right here.

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