Books, Life, Reviews, Writing

Why I am nominating E. Catherine Tobler for best editor (short form), AKA #AHugoForElise

Awards season is upon us, and it’s glorious, because I have an excuse (as if I needed one!) to heap praise on the stories, publications, and people who do great work in speculative fiction. I’m nominating and voting for as many faves as I can and I always wish there was space for more. (Btw, you can check out my recommended reading list, if you like!)

This year, I want to mention one category and one nominee in particular: E. Catherine Tobler, a brilliant author in her own right, and also senior editor and Head Badger Extraordinaire at Shimmer.

The current issue of Shimmer is the magazine’s last. That’s a sad fact I am still coming to terms with, but here, I’d like to celebrate Shimmer and Tobler’s significant contributions to that zine, rather than mourn it.

As the zine’s editor for many years, Tobler has helped define and refine the magical, darkly luminous, exceptionally shimmery (yes!), and deeply resonant voice of Shimmer. There is a vibe of strangeness and beauty, horror and longing, hope and grief, all intertwined, in Shimmer’s stories, and Tobler knows exactly how to find that seam, that crack, that furrow, that runs through the best, shimmery prose. She has given Shimmer a voice that stands out in a field full of outstanding speculative fiction.

In 2018, under senior editor E. Catherine Tobler, Shimmer published exquisite stories like:

Also in 2018, Tobler, together with editors Aidan Doyle and Rachael K. Jones, edited Sword and Sonnet: an anthology of battle poets. It was one of my favourite reads in 2018, and it is brimming with wonderful, strong, powerful short fiction.

I worked with Elise on my own Shimmer story, “Hare’s Breath” in 2017, and that experience showed me the full extent of her skill and sensitivity as an editor. The best editors do not impose their will on your story. Instead, they help you hone and polish your story until it is still your story, but stronger and better, and that’s what she did for me. To quote my extended story-notes for Hare’s Breath:

Shimmer did not ask for a lot of edits when we went through the story, but I want to mention one specific editing moment that was an epiphany for me.

In her editing notes, towards the end of the story, Senior Editor Badger Tobler added a note saying something like “I really want to see the hare here”, or something to that effect. It was just a short, simple comment. And yet, as soon as I read it, something clicked into place in my brain: that was the moment when I thought of the title, and it was also the moment when I realized that the hare was the heart of the story. I also understood exactly WHY she had mentioned it, because it was like a beat missing, a skip in the rhythm of the story, and once the hare appeared in that paragraph towards the end, the story gained a new lustre.

In short: E. Catherine Tobler is one hell of an editor.

For more reasons to nominate and vote for E. Catherine Tobler, please check out the hashtag #AHugoForElise on Twitter. And oh yes, read Shimmer. The zine’s final issue is gorgeous and wonderful and heartbreaking, just as it should be.

There are many award-worthy editors in the short form category, and I will nominate as many of them as I can. But this year, as every year when I’ve been able to nominate, I will nominate E. Catherine Tobler in the category best editor (short form). I hope you will, too.

Badger by Walter Heubach (1865-1923)

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