Sorcerers, superheroes, and zombies.
Out of work, out of luck, out of practice.
Gods, clods, or four simple lads.
Here are the Beatles as you’ve never known them before: singing for their supper, singing for their souls, and singing to save the world.
Across the Universe is the Beatles tour you never thought you’d get a front row seat for, with speculative fiction stories examining other galaxies, worlds, professions and existences John, Paul, George and Ringo might have experienced …
or maybe they did ….
Authors/contributors to the book are:
Nancy Holder, Spider Robinson, Jody Lynn Nye, Charles Barouch, Gordon Linzner, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Allen Steele, Sally Wiener Grotta, Ken Schneyer, David Gerrold, Cat Rambo, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Bev Vincent, Patrick Barb, Carol Gyzander, Pat Cadigan, Gail Z. Martin, Barbara Clough, Eric Avedissian, Alan Goldsher, R. Jean Mathieu, Beth Patterson, Christian Smith, Gregory Frost, Matthew Amati, Gregory Benford.
Questions answered by Randee Dawn
How did you find your publisher? How do they treat you? Would you recommend them?
I became friends with Ian Randal Strock (who owns Fantastic Books) about ten years ago, but we hadn’t worked together professionally until Across the Universe. We met at the New England SFF con Arisia, and discovered we’d both gone to Boston University. He knew everybody in the SF world – he’d worked at Asimov’s for some time – and I only knew a few folks, so we went around to parties together and became friends. So my publisher treats me really good! I even know he makes terrific meringues and mandel bread. I heartily recommend him as a friend and a publisher.
What is your book about?
It’s about 278 pages. (Hi-hat sound.) But seriously, folks, Across the Universe: Tales of Alternative Beatles is an anthology of short stories of speculative fiction (some fantasy, some science-fiction, some a bit horrific) inspired by The Beatles. Some combination of the fab four appears in every story – everything from wizards to superheroes to The A-Team – and the tone varies from poignant (Pat Cadigan’s Meet the Beatles is a nostalgic look tinged with tragedy; Matthew F. Amati’s Apocalypse Rock is a far-future, post-apocalyptic fever dream; Spider Robinson’s Rubber Soul is poignant and funny as it imagines John Lennon’s soul returning to his body, assisted by Paul McCartney (that one’s a reprint).
Why did you write this particular book? What was the spark that made you put pen to paper?
Well, I actually edited this book so there was no pen to paper, but the idea came about in a slightly mercenary way: I saw someone who’d riffed on the classic Abbey Road album cover that featured The Beatles walking across the street, only instead of humans they were various forms of aliens. And I thought, Well, what if we had a whole book of stories inspired by The Beatles? I brought it to Ian to see what he thought and he said, “I’d publish that.” I hadn’t done an anthology before, so I let it sit there. Meanwhile, Michael A. Ventrella brought a similar concept to Ian, who said, “I need to get you two together.” So we met at another SFF convention, Balticon, and hashed out how this would all work. A year later, we had a book!
What was edited out of this book?
A lot of good stories, and a lot of not so good ones. We received over 220 stories overall for approximately 15 slush slots (we’d invited 10 authors ahead of time to submit) and some were really quite good. I learned a lot about the anthology process, and how hard it can be to turn down stories that have nothing wrong with them; I also learned that there were plenty of writers who had no problem ignoring the brief we’d set out – and who just sent stuff in anyway. Most of the stories lay between those two poles. I don’t know that we had enough awesome material to do a quick-turnaround Volume II, but there was at least the start of such a book in the leftovers.
Can you share a few lines from your best review of this book?
Do blurbs count? I’d love to share this one: “Across the Universe is way too much fun! It’s The Beatles in The Twilight Zone of infinite possibilities! Highly recommended.” That one came from author Jonathan Maberry. Vicki Peterson of The Bangles also blurbed for us, “This collection is a Magical Mystery Tour through alternate universes where the familiar narrative of The Beatles is turned on its head. Or ear. Or ass. It’s fun, irreverent, sexy and twisted – just like the Fab Four themselves.”
How many unpublished books do you have lurking under your bed/in your cupboard?
My goal wasn’t to become an anthology editor; this is just what came out first. I’m actually a fiction author as well, and have had many stories published in other anthologies, online and in magazines. I also have several novels lurking about – some my agent has tried sending around, some of which are still waiting for revisions or to be started. I’d estimate there are at least 15 novels in one of those stages. My agent currently has my third out to publishers; she’s expected to finish reading my latest in another couple of weeks. The challenge for her, and for me is this: Some are fantasy, some are science-fiction, some are horror. We’ll see what lands first.
What’s your least favorite part of the writing process?
The waiting. Technically, this isn’t exactly the writing process – because it’s about waiting for the story to be read and commented on by beta readers, editors and agents – but it usually is followed by a rewrite, and that makes it more difficult to bear. Knowing that changes are inevitable, knowing you can’t get started on them until you’ve heard the critique. It’s exquisitely painful.
And the best part?
Being in the zone. In those times when the scene flies out of me and almost feels as though it’s writing itself and I’m just the conduit. When I’m telling the story but the story is also telling itself to me and I come to a moment where I did not expect that to happen but it happens in a way that utterly makes sense. That is beautiful. I exist fully in those moments.
When did you first call yourself a writer?
Calling myself a writer is more a psychological transformation; I have been a writer since the first time I picked up a pen and began writing stories about my stuffed animals. I was probably about 8 or 9 at that time. But I never felt like I could call myself a writer until I’d been published. In the end, I got around that particular mental roadblock by becoming a journalist, so I was getting paid to write while I was still in college. So I guess I’d say when that finally happened.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Yes. (Pause.) Mostly energizes, because even when I’m exhausted by it I feel more myself, more alive – more purposeful. So overall, I’d say it energizes me because it allows me to run on all cylinders as I (hopefully) spin out tales that will one day make someone else nearly as happy as they make me.
Based in Brooklyn, author and journalist Randee Dawn writes about the glam world of showbiz by day for outlets including Variety, the Los Angeles Times and Today.com, while plumbing more fantastical, scary worlds in her fiction by night. She is the co-editor of the new Across the Universe anthology of Beatles-related speculative fiction. For more, go to RandeeDawn.com.
Michael A. Ventrella: