A trip to 3rd and Starlight

An Interview with the Editor


We interviewed Robert B. Finegold, M.D., AKA Dr. Bob, the editor of 3rd and Starlight, an anthology of new voices in science fiction and fantasy.  He is our assistant editor for the Myths, Legends, and Fairy Tales department.  In emails I address him as Doc, but secretly I think of him as First Lensman Finegold.

Fran: Hi Doc; thanks for doing this interview.  3rd and Starlight –  I like the name.  How did you come up with it?

Dr. Bob: Thank you. I like the name as well. Spoken aloud, it sends an anticipatory tingle down my spine. I find it enchanting, but I cannot take credit for it. The annual Starlight anthologies were conceived by 1st and Starlight editor and author Sky McKinnon, and the title was carried forward to last year’s 2nd and Starlight edited by the indefatigable Dustin Adams. Consequently, the name for this year’s volume could not be Moishe’s Delicatessen of Tales. Perhaps another year.

Fran: I look forward to Moishe’s Delicatessen of Tales. Meanwhile, what is 3rd and Starlight?
Dr. Bob:
The Starlight Anthologies seek to bring edgy new voices in science fiction and fantasy to readers. I am inclined to say “edgy visions”; but this may be…ah, “dangerous.” I do not want Mr. Ellison to yell at me again (that’s another story).

Anyway, this year in 3rd and Starlight, we present fourteen tales, half of science fiction and half of fantasy, by sixteen remarkable new award-winning and award-nominated authors. They run the gamut from tales of alien worlds to dystopias, lands of magic and mayhem to paranormal encounters. There are even tales of urban fantasy and sword and sorcery. We’ve got bee gods and dirigibles; AIs, cyborgs and golems; thieves and djinn; far stars, altered genetics, and unique alien cultures. And questions:

What is it that makes us human?
How do we define sentience?
Wherein lies beauty?
What truly makes us happy?
How much should one pay – or sacrifice – for a little respect?

Overall, each story has been selected to amaze, delight, and touch the heart.

Fran: What tilted this project over from good idea to action?
Dr. Bob: The project is an extension of the good camaraderie among my fellow new authors who’d distinguished themselves in the L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest by becoming Winners, Finalists, and Semi-finalists.

Transitioning from apprentices to journeymen authors, we formed our own nefarious cabal!  I mean “friendly guild” at the Future Finalists Forum where we abet… I mean, assist… each other with the gestalt (and sea salt) of our accumulating writers’ experience and wisdom. The result has earned our members professional magazine, anthology, and novel sales, as well as laurels that include nominations for the Hugo and Campbell awards, the Sir Julius Vogel award, and winners of the Aurealis award and the Jim Baen Short Story contest award, etc.. And we have new initiates… new members… joining us all the time with their keen eyes and sharp knives…WITS! Sharp wits!

Like any gang… family, the idea of having a get-together, each of us bringing a favorite dish, inspired us. The Starlight Anthologies are a progressive dinner of our favorite recipes. This year I’m the hosting editor.

“Let your home be a meeting place for the wise: dust yourself in the soil of their feet, and drink thirstily of their words.”
–Ethics of the Fathers 1:4

But these fellows seem to drink a lot.

Fran: Were any of the stories edited for the anthology?

Dr. Bob: Yes. While 3rd and Starlight contains both original stories as well as “directors’ cut” reprints that were specially revised for this volume, I am a futzer. Stories to me are bonsai trees, and I appreciate the patience of all the contributing authors in working with me to care and prune them just so. There is a special hell… (dang it), trust!… inherent in the collaboration between authors and an editor who is also an author, and the result can often be phenomenal.

With new bright professional writers such as these, the majority of edits were minor (copy edits, word choices and re-phrasings for clarity, and the like), but many ideas were shared and collegially discussed. My goal as editor is always to strengthen the author’s vision, not impose my own.

By luck or Design, Baruch HaShem, I was very pleased to achieve the balance of seven fantasy and seven science fiction tales: a smorgasbord of hearty delights.

Fran: Did you have a particular focus for what to include?

Dr. Bob: Yes – and no.  As I just noted, I wished half the tales to be science fiction and half fantasy — broadly speaking, and I desired a blend of short tales and long. The result is 3rd and Starlight includes everything from flash fiction to novelettes.

There were stories I knew I must have: Rebecca Birch’s “The Memory of Huckleberries,” Nick T. Chan and Jennifer Campbell-Hicks’ “The Temptation of Father Francis,” and Frank Dutkiewicz’s “A Green Tongue.” Other tales were new to me, and a number have never before been published – including a new urban fantasy novelette in WordFire Press author Julie Frost’s PACK DYNAMICS universe. All excellent.

I never expected a marvelous sword and sorcery story with humor like K. L. Schwengel’s “Last Time for Everything” (that happily recalled to me Fritz Leiber’s iconic tales of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser) , or a heart-touching paranormal tale of forgiveness and redemption as in Philip Brian Hall’s “The Waiting Room.”

Asimov’s cover author Sean Monaghan’s tale of colliding human and alien cultures over the miracle of birth and the sanctity of life – and death — in “The Root Bridges of Hamae” twists the heart. At least I hope that’s just emotional-tugging (I knew I shouldn’t have re-watched Alien).

All in all, 3rd and Starlight has something for every fan of speculative fiction.

Fran: How did you decide on the order of the stories?

Dr. Bob: Somewhat like an amusement ride: ease in with a beautiful short fantasy story in Rebecca’s incomparable prose. Take the plunge into Nick and Jennifer’s action-adventure in the future dystopian “New” West. And from there anticipatory moments of needed life-clarity interspersed between turns and twists, rises and descents, while alternating stories by genre, length, tone, and themes before gliding to a contented end with Hugo nominee Kary English’s and my short piece.

Fran: Is there anything in particular you hope readers will get from 3rd and Starlight?

Dr. Bob: A feeling their time with us was well-spent. That we we’ve presented them with new authors they will want to follow and stories they will remember with pleasure (and recommend to their friends, family, neighbors, library, school, book club, PTA, social media friends, nation-states…).

Fran: Were there any unexpected reservations from authors about being in an anthology, and if so, how were you able to overcome them?
Dr. Bob: None at all. Our authors have been generous of their time, their work, and their support. See our Kickstarter page (support our Kickstarter!) for the list of great Rewards they even contributed to encourage backers to support the project. There are ties that bind our authors, a gestalt vital in these volumes of our collected stories.
And I’ve promised to untie them when the book is released.

Fran: For an eBook, there is little limitation on length, number of stories, illustrations, so did you make different versions for print and ebook?
Dr. Bob: The ebook and print editions of 3RD AND STARLIGHT contain the same content: all fourteen stories and, special to this year’s anthology, fifteen marvelous illustrations by M. Elizabeth Ticknor — examples of which can be seen on our Kickstarter page.  We have limited prints and original art available as rewards.

The differences between the two formats reflect the limitations in the specific requirements for layout and design. They are completely different species. How an ebook appears on an ereader is predominately determined by the settings on the device not by the publisher. Thus, the special character fonts, stylized Drop Caps in the print edition, the entirety of the amazing cover art by Lou Harper

and the back cover material with >blush< quotes of praise by Nebula award winner William Ledbetter, Nebula nominee and multi-award winner Martin L. Shoemaker, and Locus award-winning novelist J. Kathleen Cheney are unique to the print edition of 3rd and Starlight.
Oh, and we can’t sign ebooks.

However, the ebook edition of 3rd and Starlight has active hypertext links to our author web and social media sites and other pages, as well as the color copy front cover images of the first two Starlight Anthologies in the promotional pages at the end of the book. And it is very portable and can be read on backlit ereaders or cellphones and tablets while parents or spouses are sleeping.

Fran: For people who want to publish, but know nothing about publishing, online or in print, what do they have to learn, and in what order?
Dr. Bob:
This could be the subject for another whole interview – possibly by someone more qualified. But, since you ask:

My experience may, perhaps, be somewhat unique. I had the benefit of mooching off the shared experience and wisdom of a mentor-friend who is a successful independent publisher and editor. This was of immense help. I’ve also made friends with the editors of a number of the anthologies in which my work appears, and they have been good resources as well.

In short, my path was one of schmoozing on forums and at science fiction conventions with other authors, editors, and publishers who  blazed the trail before me. Still, the internet is replete with numerous helpful blogs, and there are a number of “How-to” guides available for purchase.

Fran: Do you now want to write an e/print book on how to publish e/print books?
Dr. Bob:
No, no, no. There are many fine books on the subject readily available. My jungle safari into indie/self-publishing has been both enlightening and educational. It was important to do. But, while I am pleased to learn that you can teach an old “Doc” new tricks (ones I may use again someday), I am looking forward to devoting myself, once again, to my writing.

Fran: For which your fans will be grateful — I still love the story of yours we published last year — “Laila Tov“.  So, if you were to create a broader-based anthology, or an anthology series, what types of stories would you like to include, being as eclectic as you like.

Dr. Bob: I’m not considering this – presently.  But… if I were, I’d consider collections of fiction and anthology series that would be special to me:

  • Stories that recall the rediscovered adult fantasy classics edited by the late Lin Carter and published by Ballantine Books under the “Sign of the Unicorn” in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
  • A shared world anthology in the tradition of Robert Asprin and Lynn Abbey’s “Thieves’ Word.”
  • Tales that draw upon the myths, legends, folklore, bestiaries, angelologies and demonologies, doctrinal cosmologies, mysticism, and eschatologies of the world’s religions and spiritual traditions.

Collections somewhat like Jack Dann’s marvelous “Wandering Stars” [Jewish Lights Publishing, 1988] of Yiddishkeit science fiction, but ones that go beyond representative characters and situations, but instead delve into their source materials.

Or like Donald J. Crankshaw’s and Kristin Janz’s provocative “Mysterion: Rediscovering the Mysteries of the Christian Faith” [Enigmatic Mirror Press, 2016] which includes — as an example of how ecumenical some beliefs are — my Jewish-themed second WOTF contest Finalist story.

But “there are other faiths than these,” to rephrase what Jake Chambers tells Roland in Stephen King’s “The Gunslinger.” And a SF and fantasy anthology inclusive of tales from so many world faiths and beliefs that have captured the imaginations of men and women since before recorded history would delight me. My tenure as assistant editor of Myths, Legends, and Fairy Tales at Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores has been rewarding in discovering such rich jewels from all across our shared world.

So, “no,” Fran. I’ve given no thought to editing further anthologies.

Fran: Hmm.  That’s a lot of thoughtfulness for something you’ve given no thought to:)  So, can you tell us about the kickstarter you’ve been planning for 3rd and Starlight?  Is it for getting the word out, covering costs, looking towards future anthologies, or a little of each?

Dr. Bob: It has just started. And “Yes” to all. You can find our kickstarter here.

I’d greatly appreciate the support of our Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores readers’ (Hi readers!) even if it’s just sharing the link and spreading the word!

Fran: Yes, Go Readers – thank you guys, you are why we are here!  And one last question —  will there be a 4th and Starlight?

Dr. Bob: I anticipate there will, based on the excitement that 3rd and Starlight has generated among the members of our agathokakological order … (what, Fran? Our readers have online dictionaries)…ah, I mean… our group of wholly beneficent prize-winning and placing authors. Queries have been made, and the editor’s baton is polished and ready to be passed on.


Robert B Finegold MD is a recently retired radiologist, a former major in the U.S. Army, and the current editor of Myths, Legends, and Fairy Tales for the e-zine Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores. His stories of science fiction, fantasy, and Yiddishkeit have appeared in magazines, e-zines, and anthologies since July 2015. He resides in Maine. Find his musings at robertbfinegold.com, on Twitter at @DocHistory, and on Facebook at Robert B Finegold’s Kvells and Kvetchings.


editor’s note: And he is secretly First Lensman Finegold.  Even he may not realize this…

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