Author Interview: Joshua Palmatier

Today I am interviewing Joshua Palmatier, co-editor of the three new anthologies, Guilds & Glaves, The Razor’s Edge, and Second Round: A Return to the Ur-Bar, which are currently on Kickstarter!.

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DJ: Hey Joshua! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview!

For this interview, on the first part I’d like to focus on the anthologies themselves, then for the second, I’d like to talk about the Kickstarter in particular.

For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Joshua Palmatier:  Certainly!  And thank you for hosting this interview.  We at Zombies Need Brains appreciate it.  I’m a fantasy author published by DAW Books, with nine novels out at the moment.  The most recently released was REAPING THE AURORA, the third and final novel in the “Ley” series.  I also began editing anthologies for DAW with fellow author Patricia Bray.  We did two anthologies for them—AFTER HOURS: TALES FROM THE UR-BAR and THE MODERN FAE’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING HUMANITY.  Working on those two anthologies got me hooked on SF&F anthologies, so I ended up creating a small press called Zombies Need Brains, which focuses on producing SF&F themed anthologies initially backed by Kickstarters.  ZNB has released seven anthologies so far, and we’re currently seeking to fund three new anthologies, titled THE RAZOR’S EDGE, GUILDS & GLAIVES, and SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR.

DJ: What are each of these anthologies about?

“The Razor’s Edge” by Justin Adams, Varia Studios

Joshua:  The themes are always my favorite part.  THE RAZOR’S EDGE is a military SF&F anthology focusing on that fine line between an insurgent and a freedom fighter.  When does the freedom fighter become an insurgent, or vice versa?  We’d like authors to explore that razor’s edge, both in science fiction settings and in fantasy settings.  GUILDS & GLAIVES is a sword & sorcery anthology, where we’d like the stories to somehow deal with a guild along with the typical style of sword & sorcery—so thieves, assassins, dark magic, treachery, etc.  And as you can guess from the title, SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR is a sequel to the first anthology that Patricia Bray and I edited, AFTER HOURS.  The premise is the Gilgamesh found his immortality by becoming the bartender of a time-traveling bar called the Ur-bar—which at any point in time is the uber bar at that moment.  We explored the bar in the first anthology, but there are still plenty of time periods left and we hope that the authors find a unique setting and a unique story for the sequel.

DJ: What were some of the inspirations behind each of them, as well?

Joshua:  The inspiration behind the Ur-bar is the most interesting:  Seven authors had a group signing and afterwards, as is our wont, we all ended up at a bar, drinking.  During the conversation over alcohol, I suggested we all write an anthology of stories set in a bar.  The discussion evolved into the idea of a time-traveling bar with Gilgamesh as the bartender.  Everyone laughed and we moved on to other topics, but I went home and wrote up a proposal for the anthology.  It ended up being pitched to DAW and they were interested.  And that started my road into editing.  For the other two anthologies, Troy Bucher and I were talking about possible themes at a con.  I said I’d like to do a military SF&F anthology, but I didn’t have a cool focus for it.  He suggested insurgency and THE RAZOR’S EDGE was born.  Since we already had an urban fantasy theme (Ur-bar) and what will probably be an SF-focused theme (THE RAZOR’S EDGE), I felt we needed to round it out with a fantasy-focused theme.  I thought a sword & sorcery theme would complement the military theme well, so I ended up with GUILDS & GLAIVES.

DJ: What kinds of stories can readers expect in each collection?

Joshua:  Ah, I’ve sort of already answered this, but:  THE RAZOR’S EDGE will be military SF&F (we will be looking for military fantasy here, not just science fiction); GUILDS & GLAIVES will be sword & sorcery, of course; SECOND ROUND will be more urban fantasy, the key being that the story has to involve the bar somehow and the story must be interesting.

DJ: Being an editor, what do you believe makes a good story?

Joshua:  I think the key is always to have MORE than just an idea.  I see a lot of stories submitted to the open call that in the end are just a cool idea that fits the theme, but there isn’t any character development around that idea or a story that encompasses that idea.  So while the idea itself is cool, the story ends up being rejected because it isn’t fully fleshed out.  Don’t just write down your idea, give it time to develop into a complete story with an interesting character.

DJ: This may will be a difficult question to answer, but what were some of your favorite parts from the stories in these anthologies? I don’t mean what you believe is the best story, but perhaps some story has a particular setting, theme, message, or character that stood out to you?

Joshua:  Well, I haven’t seen the stories for the three new anthologies yet—the anchor authors will only write them if the Kickstarter funds, and the rest of the stories will be coming from the open call, where anyone can submit their story for consideration.  However, I can talk about some of our past anthologies and what about some of the stories stood out and made them rise to the top of the submission pile.  For SUBMERGED, the theme was SF&F set underwater.  That’s a pretty wide theme.  One of the stories–“Seven Nights of Squidmas”–stood out from the slush because it was sci-fi and a great humorous play on Christmas, yet still had heart.  We try for a wide variety of tones in each anthology, so if you can do something atypical with tone or atmosphere, something few would attempt, and you pull it off, you have a better chance of making the final cut.  The story “Rosie Cleans House” did something similar in ALL HAIL OUR ROBOT CONQUERORS! with a very subtle kind of horror.  

DJ: What was your favorite part about editing for these collections?

“Breath of Heaven” by Justin Adams, Varia Studios

Joshua:  My favorite part of editing and publishing these anthologies is actually sending out the acceptance emails to the authors that we’ve selected from the open call.  It’s always nice delivering good news and some of the reactions from the authors—especially those where this is their first professional sale—makes all of the work behind the scenes worth it.  Coming in a close second for favorite part is actually getting the finished product in my hands.  I’m the first one to see the anthologies when I open the box (except those that printed it, of course, but they don’t have the emotional attachment to it that I or the authors do).

DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish them?

Joshua:  Well, hopefully they’ll be talking about their favorite story!  *grin*  Seriously, as I said before, we try to get a wide variety of types of stories, no matter what the theme.  So hopefully there will be three or four stories that each reader will connect with and enjoy.  And hopefully they’ll talk about those stories.

DJ: Earlier, you said that you decided to create your own small press, Zombies Need Brains. Why was that?

Joshua:  Well, Patricia Bray and I were publishing anthologies with DAW Books.  But there was a shake-up in the publishing world after our second one came out and the publisher’s were cutting here and there for economic reasons, and one of the things DAW did was cut back on their anthology line.  We waited to see if they’d bring it back after things had settled down, but after a few years I decided I’d try to find some way to do the anthologies on my own.  I came up with the current model—Kickstarters to get the funding, then publication through my own small press.

DJ: This is not actually your first Kickstarter. You have previously created 5 projects, all of which were successfully funded! What made you want to reach out to Kickstarter originally, and how has your experience been with it?

Joshua:  Well, one of the Kickstarters was not successful (the attempted foray into a kids-ish book).  But the original concept Kickstarters—adult-oriented anthologies—have all been successful.  I knew I couldn’t afford to fund the projects with my own (non-existent) extra money, so I needed to do some kind of crowdsourcing.  I researched the big platforms at the time and Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing model seemed the best fit for what I wanted to do.  That first Kickstarter was stressful and difficult, because I was learning what did and didn’t work with crowdsourcing and because I had no real backer base to draw from.  I was building everything from scratch.  But each successive Kickstarter has been a little easier, because the previous backers are coming back and supporting us with the new projects.  I feel like we’re building up a community of SF&F fans who enjoy the short story medium.  And they know that ZNB produces a quality product, delivered on time.

DJ: Something I also noticed, is that unlike previous projects, this Kickstarter is for three anthologies versus having to do a separate one for each every year or so.

Joshua:  Yeah, the community we’ve built have has been supportive since that first Kickstarter, so we’ve been able to increase the number of anthologies produced each year.  The original plan was to do one anthology a year for five years and see where we were.  But after the first two anthologies were so successful, I decided the third year to try for two anthologies.  That was also a great success and so we moved on to three anthologies last year.  I feel I need to stay with three anthologies—at least for a few years—to see where things go, so we’re doing three again this year.  I’ve kind of maxed myself out at three, since I also continue to write my own novels and have a day job teaching mathematics at a college.  If I try for more than three anthologies, I might implode.

DJ: You have many, many, many pledge rewards for backers, ranging from $7 to $295. Since there are so many, I will not ask you to name them all, but instead, could you mention a couple that you think are particularly cool or backers have been fans of in the past?

Joshua:  One of the big types of reward level that are always popular are the tuckerizations, where a backer gets the chance to work with the author at incorporating a name of their choice into the author’s story.  Those always seem to go fast.  We also have some rewards featuring signed copies of some of the current and past anchor authors’ books.  Those obviously are for fans of those authors.  If a backer missed ZNB’s past Kickstarters, they can catch up with the ZNB Kickstarter Reward Level, or find one of the reward levels for one or more of the previous seven anthologies.  Other than that, backers can get one, two, or all three of the new anthologies in either ebook, paperback, or both.

DJ: This wouldn’t be a Kickstarter without some stretch goals too. The last goal in particular stood out to me 😉

Joshua:  Of course we have Stretch Goals!  These are mostly raises for the authors and adding in additional stories to the promised 14 in each anthology, but we do have some special rewards such as bookmarks, free ebooks from some of our anchor authors and if we reach the last current Stretch Goal, even a FOURTH anthology.  We’ve never gone that high on a Kickstarter before, so that would be stunning.  And of course, if we do go that high, we’ll add more Stretch Goals to the project.  We’re already considering adding in additional anchor authors as Stretch Goals.

DJ: Now that Kickstarter in underway, what is next for you?

Joshua:  Well, assuming the Kickstarter is successful, the next big thing is reading the slush pile from the open call.  That’s probably the most intensive part of the production process, since the slush pile continues to grow each Kickstarter.  That will continue almost non-stop until the end of January, if not February.  At that point, we’ll have all of the stories in hand and we’ll begin the actual editing process, which can also be intense. But it’s all worth it in the end, when I open that box and pull out the finished product.

DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?





Twitter:  @bentateauthor, @znbllc


DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about these anthologies and the Kickstarter that we haven’t talked about yet?

Joshua:  I should probably mention that ZNB has started to receive some recognition outside of simple readership this past year.  Our anthologies now count as “qualifying markets” for SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America), which means they can be used as credentials when applying to be part of that organization.  Also, we’ve had one of the stories in our ALIEN ARTIFACTS anthology—“Radio Silence” by Walter H. Hunt—as a finalist for the WSFA (Washington Science Fiction Association) Small Press Award.  Hopefully this is a sign that ZNB will continue to grow in the future, perhaps with this Kickstarter and our newest anthologies.

DJ: Is there anything else you would like add? (Or add your own question).

Joshua:  Nothing that I can think of, except swing on by our Kickstarter at and check us out!  If you find something interesting, back the Kickstarter and help this small press grow!

DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!

Joshua:  And again, thank you for hosting us at your blog!

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*** Guilds & Glaives, Insurgency, and Ur-Bar Anthologies are published by Zombies Need Brains and is available to back on Kickstarter TODAY!!! ***

Back on Kickstarer!

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“The Razor’s Edge” by Justin Adams, Varia Studios

About the Book:


One man’s insurgent is another man’s freedom fighter…

From The Moon is a Harsh Mistress to The Hunger Games, everyone enjoys a good rebellion. There is something compelling about a group (or individual) that throws caution to the wind and rises up in armed defiance against oppression, tyranny, religion, the government–you name it. No matter the cause, or how small the chance, it’s the courage to fight for what is right against overwhelming odds that grabs our hearts and has us pumping our fists in the air.

On the other hand, the greater good isn’t always good for everybody, and someone (or some group) must enforce the laws necessary to keep the disaffected from tearing society apart. Where is the line between the freedom fighter and the insurgent, or is it simply a matter of perspective? When does fighting for a cause slip from right to wrong, where does the moral high ground become immoral, and when do the ends no longer justify the means?

Win or lose, it’s the righteous struggle we cherish, and those who take up arms for a cause must walk The Razor’s Edge between liberator and extremist.

Edited by Troy Bucher & Joshua Palmatier, this military SF&F anthology will explore the heroes and villains on both sides of insurgencies, both in the realms of science fiction and in fantasy. It will contain approximately 14 stories with an average length of 6000 words each. It will include short stories by:

  • Gerald Brandt
  • William C. Dietz
  • D.B. Jackson
  • Chris Kennedy
  • Kay Kenyon
  • Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
  • Seanan McGuire
  • L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
  • Steve Perry

All other slots aside from the named authors will be filled by the open call for submissions following the successful completion of the Kickstarter.


In 2011, DAW Books published AFTER HOURS: TALES FROM THE UR-BAR, the first anthology edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, starting them down the road that eventually led to the formation of the small press Zombies Need Brains. Now, we’d like to return to that legendary time-traveling bar with all new stories set throughout the ages. Here you will find heroes and villains alike, as the immortal bartender Gilgamesh serves up drinks mixed with magic and a dash of intrigue. And if you’re lucky, perhaps he’ll even mix you up his own special elixir!

Edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR will contain approximately 14 stories with an average length of 6000 words each. The anthology will include short stories by:

  • Jacey Bedford (June 30th, 1916, France, Battle of Somme, WWI)
  • Gini Koch (Old West)
  • Juliet E. McKenna  (Mars, near future)
  • C.E. Murphy
  • Kristine Smith (Present day-ish, New York City)
  • Kari Sperring (Wales, 1400-1415)

All other slots aside from the named authors will be filled by the open call for submissions following the successful completion of the Kickstarter.


Sword and sorcery has long been a much beloved staple of the SF&F community, from Fritz Leiber’s “Lankhmar” novels and Moorcock’s “Elric” saga, to Violette Malan’s more recent “Dhulyn and Parno” series. Who doesn’t like a daring thief skulking through back alleys in the dark of night, or a deranged mage conjuring death spells in a bubbling cauldron? This anthology will tackle the subgenre of thieves, assassins, guilds, and dark magic with some of today’s hottest authors!

Edited by S.C. Butler & Joshua Palmatier, GUILDS & GLAIVES will contain approximately 14 brand-new stories with an average length of 6000 words each. It will include short stories by:

  • David B. Coe
  • James Enge
  • David Farland
  • Esther Friesner
  • Howard Andrew Jones
  • Gini Koch
  • Violette Malan
  • Seanan McGuire

All other slots aside from the named authors will be filled by the open call for submissions following the successful completion of the Kickstarter.

About the Author:

oshua Palmatier was born in Coudersport, PA, but since his father was in the military he moved around. Alot. He’s lived in the states of Pennsylvania (three times), Florida (twice), Washington, California (briefly), Virginia, Texas (twice), and now resides in upstate New York. He has spent the majority of his life so far going to school, earning a Bachelors of Science and a Master of Arts degree in mathematics from the Pennsylvania State University, followed by a PhD in mathematics from Binghamton University. He is currently teaching mathematics (what else) at the State University of New York–Oneonta, taught for two years at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, and taught for three years at Bloomsburg University while taking a break between his masters degree and the PhD.

Joshua started writing science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories in the eighth grade, when the teacher assigned a one page Twilight Zone-ish short story. He wrote a story about Atlantis. It was from the perspective of one of the inhabitants as he escaped in a spaceship, watching his world being destroyed by water from one of the viewports of the ship. He got an A. Joshua has never stopped writing since, mainly focusing on novels.


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