Author Interview: David Steffen

Today I am interviewing David Steffen, editor of the new science-fiction anthology, The Long List Anthology: Volume 5, fifth book in the Long List Anthology series, who is also editor the webzine Diabolical Plots, and co-founder and administrator of the Submission Grinder website for writers. 

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DJ: Hi David! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! 

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

David:  I’m an erstwhile writer and current editor and publisher, and a software engineer by day.  I’m probably most well-known in writing circles for co-founding and administering a tool for writers called The Submission Grinder.  I run the Diabolical Plots, LLC publishing house, although its Twitter feed is probably cross-stitch photos by volume.

DJ: What is The Long List Anthology: Volume 5 about?

David:  The Hugo Awards are a fan voted award, nominated and voted by whoever pays a supporting membership to WorldCon that year (you don’t need to physically attend).  There’s often great stuff on the final Hugo Award ballot that gets a lot of attention, and deservedly. After the Hugo Award ceremony, the WSFS (the organization that runs the Hugo Awards) publishes a longer list of nomination statistics, including a ranked list of works that weren’t on the ballot.  I had used this list for years as a recommended reading list, but those stories didn’t get anywhere near the attention of the works on the ballot, so I wanted to help get them some wider exposure. This anthology each year is entirely composed of stories that were on the longer nomination list that year in the Short Story, Novelette, and Novella categories.

DJ: What kinds of stories can readers expect in the anthology?

David:  They’re all science fiction/fantasy/horror of some kind, but it’s a very ecclectic mix, because it’s whatever an amorphous fan group of varying size and composition decided they liked in a particular year.  Usually there’s not a huge amount of horror, but usually one or two solidly in that category. There can be some trends in a particular year (i.e. this year there are quite a few science fiction mystery stories) but as a whole I think this anthology is probably one of the most varied in type of story out there because it’s not a single person picking the stories.

DJ: Being an author, what do you believe makes a “good” short-story How does it differ from writing novel-length stories?

David:  Short stories are a very different art-form from novel-length stories.  A short story has to be concise, every paragraph has to count toward the greater whole, where a novel can afford to be a little looser in this definition.  This does tend to mean that the worldbuilding can tend to be less complex, because there’s less space to build the scaffolding the story is build around. On the other hand, because a short story is so short, a very short story can experiment more with expectations and structure without taking big risks disappointing the reader.  

DJ: This may… this will be a difficult question to answer, but what are some of your favorite stories in The Long List Anthology: Volume 5? I don’t mean what you believe is the best, but perhaps some stories has a particular setting, theme, message, or character that you stood out to you?

David:  There are so many!  One would be “Mother Tongues”, where one can extract language from your brain and sell it for significant money, and the impact of making that choice–it’s such a heart-wrenching story about culture and language and family.  Or “Thirty-Three Percent Joe” about a heavily augmented soldier with smart implants who have their own private internal dialogs–in some ways it’s a comedy despite bleak subject material. Or Umbernight, which has a very classic SF feel, exploration and adventure in an alient ecosystem.  

DJ: What was your favorite part about editing The Long List Anthology: Volume 5

David:  It’s always a pleasure seeing the interesting mix of stories come in, and getting excited responses from authors when I send them the query to reprint their story.  But probably my favorite part is helping to arrange the cover art. For these anthologies, the artist is given a lot of flexibility–I just ask that what they make has a feel that includes both fantasy and science fiction.  Amanda provided a couple proposals and I had some back-and-forth with her to decide on a final design. I am not an artist myself but it is so wonderful to have some influence on the final art.  

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

David:  Hopefully that they are excited about the state of short fiction out there now–there are so many awesome short fiction publications out there!  This is just a small sampling of fan favorites, but there are SO MANY stories out there.  

DJ: When it comes to getting stories for these anthologies, how does that process work? Do you send requests to certain authors, asking them to write a story? Or do you get stories from authors asking for consideration to be included?

David: For this particular anthology I wait until the Hugo Award ceremony, after which they publish the statistics list.  Then I query the authors on that list. As far as editorial selection processes go it’s pretty straightforward, though it can be kindof a time crunch because then I run a Kickstarter campaign and try to get it published before the end of the calendar year.  

DJ: Now that The Long List Anthology: Volume 5 is released, what is next for you?

David:  I need to finish editing the original stories I selected for my other publication:  Diabolical Plots, which will start publishing on the DP website in April.

DJ: The Long List Anthology: Volume 5 is the fifth book to be released in the collection, how many do you plan on having?

David:  No particular number.  I’ll probably keep producing them as long as I am able and as long as people buy them!

DJ: Where can readers find out more about you? 

Author Newsletter:


Bookbub: (I do do BookBubs for these but I don’t think there’s a page for me?)




Website: and

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

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***The Long List Anthology Volume 5 is published by Diabolical Plots and is available TODAY!!!***

Buy the Book: 


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About the Book:

This is the fifth annual edition of the Long List Anthology. Every year, supporting members of WorldCon nominate their favorite stories first published during the previous year to determine the top five in each category for the final Hugo Award ballot. This is an anthology collecting more of the stories from that nomination list to get them to more readersThe Long List Anthology Volume 5 collects 20 science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories from that nomination list, totaling over 450 pages of fiction by writers from all corners of the world. From science fiction mysteries to studying wish-granting fairies, research on haunted houses to extracting language knowledge from your brain, from sex-changing dinosaurs to survival stories in a wild alien environment. There is a wide variety of styles and types of stories here, and something for everyone. The stories included are:

“Mother Tongues” by S. Qiouyi Lu
“Field Biology of the Wee Fairies” by Naomi Kritzer
“Meat and Salt and Sparks” by Rich Larson
“Sour Milk Girls” by Erin Roberts
“Asphalt, River, Mother, Child” by Isabel Yap
“The Starship and the Temple Cat” by Yoon Ha Lee
“Waterbirds” by G.V. Anderson
“You Can Make a Dinosaur, but You Can’t Help Me” by K.M. Szpara
“And Yet” by A.T. Greenblatt
“She Still Loves the Dragon” by Elizabeth Bear
“An Agent of Utopia” by Andy Duncan
“A Study in Oils” by Kelly Robson
“The Substance of My Lives, the Accident of Our Births” by José Pablo Iriarte
“No Flight Without the Shatter” by Brooke Bolander
“How to Swallow the Moon” by Isabel Yap
“A World to Die For” by Tobias S. Buckell
“Thirty-Three Percent Joe” by Suzanne Palmer
“The Privilege of the Happy Ending” by Kij Johnson
“The Nearest” by Greg Egan
“Umbernight” by Carolyn Ives Gilman

About the Author:

David Steffen lives in Minnesota with his lovely wife and two crazy dogs. He works as a software engineer, writing video processing algorithms for traffic cameras. No, not the kind that give you tickets. The good kind. Yes, there is a good kind. He writes speculative fiction (mostly contemporary fantasy) and is an all-around media enthusiast (particularly movies and video games).

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