A little while ago, David put up a quick update about where we are with our story decisions. There weren’t a whole lot of details in the post, which caused some folks to speculate about what’s going on. David is recovering from the post-convention haze of World Fantasy Con, so I figured I’d fill in some of the gaps.

Expect a response in the next week. We hope to email everybody over the next several days — the sooner, the better. I expect that the bulk of emails will go out by Friday, but some decisions may take just a little bit longer.

Some folks have been speculating that it’s taking us longer to reply because we’re writing personal responses to everybody. This would be an amazing thing to do! But sadly, that’s not what’s causing the delay. You should expect to get a form response. We are trying to add a little extra detail to some of the form responses, but unfortunately none of them will really be personalized.

At this time, we are still making decisions. Some people were speculating that everybody who’s been accepted has already been contacted. This isn’t true. We are still making final decisions and sending out acceptances. This is the part that’s taking a while, so there’s no reason to assume that the response is one way or another until you actually hear from us.

What’s taking so long anyway? There are a few things that are contributing to the delay, but mostly it’s because we have so many great stories to pick from. Here’s a little insight into what we’ve been doing for the past few months.

1. First, we’ve read your stories! We laughed, we cried, we were delighted. But there were so many that not all of us were able to read every single one. I’m still catching up on a few stories that Ryan and David have marked as their favorites but which I haven’t read yet. They are both also doing the same. So there is a small amount of second and third reading being done, but luckily the list of contenders is (by this time) pretty manageable.

2. Second, even for the hundreds of stories that all three of us have read, we don’t always agree. In fact, we often disagree. Imagine if you and two of your friends had to take a list of 2,000 movies and agree on which 30 were the best. You’d probably easily agree on broadly which ones you liked… But when it got down to the nitty gritty of the top 1%, your different tastes would come out. So this is what we’re doing right now: arguing about which of the stories we like are the absolute best ones. Just think, at this moment, one of us may be making a passionate argument in favor of your story. This is actually happening!

3. Finally, in addition to picking the best stories, we have to consider variety too. There’s another dimension to our decision-making, which is that we want a broad range of stories in the book — different genres, different viewpoints, different settings. So we find ourselves sometimes diving back into the pile of contenders to pick out stories that have qualities that may be otherwise underrepresented. This balancing act is a pretty complicated calculus, and it’s taking longer than we thought.

Whew! So that’s what’s going on with us. One of the things that this experience has taught me is that a rejection from a publication doesn’t always mean that your story isn’t good. A book edited solely by Ryan would be different from a book edited solely by David or a book edited solely by me. Different editors love different kinds of stories — just like different readers love different kinds of stories. Because that’s what we really are: we’re readers.

When we publish the table of contents for volume two, it’s not going to be a list of the “best” stories out of the 2,000 submissions we got. It’s going to be a list of about 30 stories that we think make a great book together — a book that we’re going to love reading and we hope other people will love reading too. For many, many, many stories that we don’t accept, there is some other hypothetical book that we decided not to publish that they would be perfect for. So keep that in mind if we decide not to go with your story.

Why don’t you publish all those other hypothetical books too? One thing at a time! We’ve talked about whether there’s something else we can do with some of the stories that won’t fit into volume two, but we haven’t made any decisions yet. We have some fun ideas, but first we have to finish what we’re working on now.

We also don’t want people to get sick of Machine of Death. That’s why we’re not publishing a book with 200 stories in it. (Also, it would be super expensive.) But if readers keep clamoring for more and more stories, then we certainly have a lot of material we can consider again. But this is all in the distant future of six to twelve months from now, and we may have a whole new set of ideas in that time. We want to keep doing awesome stuff whenever we can, but we don’t know exactly what shape it will take.

Anyway, thanks again to everybody who submitted. We’ll be contacting you as quickly as we can with the results!