shawna mccarthy created a space of her own

TWENTY ODD YEARS AGO, I was turned on to Glimpses, a novel by Lewis Shiner. I'd never heard of the au­thor but as I don't keep up with much of any­thing any­more (it's the old age thing), that wasn't sur­pris­ing. Be­cause of the source of the rec­om­men­da­tion, I read the book and thought it might be an Amer­i­can­ized form of "mag­i­cal re­al­ism." 1

If I say any­thing more about this book — any kind of teaser to get you to read this book — it would be a spoiler. I can tell you that I loved it and if you do read it, the "magic" man­i­fests it­self early in the story.

The next Shiner book that I read was De­serted Cities of the Heart, which again seemed to con­tain el­e­ments of mag­i­cal re­al­ism. I liked this even more than Glimpses, al­though the emo­tional res­o­nance I shared with the pro­tag­o­nist in the first book wasn't in this book.

Like Glimpses, I can't say any­thing about what makes this book spe­cial or mag­i­cal be­cause it would also be a spoiler. can tell you that with this one, you have to read quite a while for the magic to hap­pen but my-o-my it is worth the wait!

I read the rest of Shiner's nov­els and, af­ter years of lol­ly­gag­ging and putz­ing around, I ac­tu­ally sent an au­thor a fan let­ter.

And the au­thor re­sponded!

That email turned into an en­joy­able cor­re­spon­dence where we dis­cov­ered we were kin­dred spir­its shar­ing many sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences and con­vic­tions.

And lots of co­in­ci­dences.


Shiner DesertedCities Doubleday hc 500

This is the first hard­cover edi­tion of Lewis Shiner's De­serted Cities of the Heart (Dou­ble­day, 1988). I can't say any­thing about what makes this book spe­cial or mag­i­cal be­cause it would be a spoiler! Just read it.

Similarities and coincidences

Lew is now one of my col­lab­o­ra­tors (along with John Ross) on Tell It Like It Was, a music-based pub­li­ca­tion that we launched on Medium on New Year's Day. Shortly af­ter the first ar­ti­cles were pub­lished, Lew an­nounced his part­ner­ship with John and me on his Face­book page. He promptly re­ceived a mes­sage from an old friend, Shawna Mc­Carthy.

When Lew be­gan look­ing for work as a pro­fes­sional writer, Shawna was the first ed­i­tor who be­lieved in him, in his writ­ing. She pub­lished a few of his sto­ries in Isaac Asimov's Sci­ence Fic­tion Mag­a­zine, where she was an ed­i­tor. They be­came friends.

Forty years later, he still thinks highly of her and fondly of her, nei­ther of which pre­pared him for the ques­tion he re­ceived from Shawna on his Face­book page:

"Is that Neal Umphred from Penn­syl­va­nia?"


Wikipedia is mired in a state where any con­trib­u­tor cit­ing any source is con­sid­ered fac­tu­ally cor­rect de­spite many of those sources be­ing decades old and demon­stra­bly in­ac­cu­rate.


In a brief friend­ship filled with re­mark­able sim­i­lar­i­ties and co­in­ci­dences, here was yet an­other one for Lew and me: Shawna and I had gone to col­lege to­gether in 1971!

I im­me­di­ately found Shawna on Face­book and we started mes­sag­ing, end­ing up on the phone play­ing catch-up. She told me about her ca­reer as an ed­i­tor in the fan­tasy and sci­ence fic­tion fields and how she had worked with many im­por­tant writ­ers. Now she was a lit­er­ary agent and a mother.

I re­mem­bered Shawna Mc­Carthy as a pretty co-ed who could hold her own in an ar­gu­ment with me or any­one else on the Wilkes Col­lege cam­pus. It was an odd and pleas­ant sen­sa­tion talk­ing with her forty-eight years later: I felt a lit­tle bit of pride in the ac­com­plish­ments of this per­son I barely knew — who I hadn't seen or spo­ken with in so, so long.


ShawnaMcCarthy SpaceOfHerOwn Doubleday 1983 hc 300

This is the first hard­cover edi­tion of Asimov's Space Of Her Own, edited by Shawna Mc­Carthy (Dou­ble­day, 1983). Un­for­tu­nately, Shawna did not re­ceive credit on the front cover.

An edgier and more literary tone

Af­ter we hung up, I checked Shawna out on the In­ter­net and found a rather ane­mic en­try on Wikipedia. Here it is in its en­tirety:

"Shawna Lee Mc­Carthy (born 1954) is an Amer­i­can sci­ence fic­tion and fan­tasy ed­i­tor and lit­er­ary agent.

Mc­Carthy grad­u­ated from Wilkes Uni­ver­sity and stud­ied at Amer­i­can Uni­ver­sity.[1]

Mc­Carthy edited var­i­ous mag­a­zines for sev­eral years, start­ing as ed­i­to­r­ial as­sis­tant and ed­i­tor of Fire­house Mag­a­zine be­fore work­ing as the man­ag­ing ed­i­tor at Asimov's.[2][3] In 1983, she took over from Kath­leen Moloney as the editor-in-chief of Isaac Asimov's Sci­ence Fic­tion Mag­a­zine, a change un­der which the mag­a­zine "ac­quired an edgier and more lit­er­ary and ex­per­i­men­tal tone."[3][4] Dur­ing her time at Asimov's, Mc­Carthy edited four an­tholo­gies of sto­ries from the mag­a­zine (Isaac Asimov's Won­ders of the World (1982), Isaac Asimov's Aliens & Out­worlders (1983), Isaac Asimov's Space of Her Own (1984) and Isaac Asimov's Fan­tasy! (1985), and re­ceived the 1984 Hugo Award for Best Pro­fes­sional Ed­i­tor (she was nom­i­nated for this award three times).[5][6] She left the mag­a­zine in 1985 and was suc­ceeded by Gard­ner Do­zois.[3]

Af­ter leav­ing Asimov's, Mc­Carthy be­came an ed­i­tor for Ban­tam in 1985 and co-edited the first two vol­umes of that publisher's Full Spec­trum an­thol­ogy se­ries with Lou Aron­ica, et al.[4] Upon leav­ing Ban­tam in 1988, she be­gan work­ing as a lit­er­ary agent, first with Scott Mered­ith, then with Scovil Chichak Galen, and now as an in­de­pen­dent. In ad­di­tion, she was the fic­tion ed­i­tor of Realms of Fan­tasy mag­a­zine from its de­but in 1994 un­til its clo­sure af­ter the Oc­to­ber 2011 is­sue.[7]

That's it! A mere 200 words that are poorly writ­ten, poorly laid out, and bor­ing to read. (I know, that sounds ex­actly like every other Wikipedia en­try you've read lately.) It also fails to pass along any sense of Shawna's ac­com­plish­ments.

(And for read­ers who ro­man­ti­cize writ­ers and look at ed­i­tors as a writer's bane, I as­sure you that for every hun­dred tal­ented writ­ers there are, per­haps, a hand­ful of tal­ented ed­i­tors. But that's an­other story.)


ShawnaMcCarthy GoodOmens Workman 1990 300

In 1989, Shawna Mc­Carthy was work­ing for Work­man Pub­lish­ing, a com­pany spe­cial­iz­ing in cook­books, par­ent­ing and preg­nancy guides, children's books, and cal­en­dars. While there, she ac­quired for the com­pany its only novel, the hugely suc­cess­ful Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratch­ett.

Good omens

Not be­ing given to be­ing non­plussed, I de­cided to do the right thing and make things bet­ter. With Shawna's coöper­a­tion, I pre­pared a new bi­og­ra­phy of her for sub­mis­sion to Wikipedia. This is that bi­og­ra­phy in its en­tirety (tweaked a wee bit to look bet­ter on this blog):

"Shawna Lee Mc­Carthy (born 1954) is an Amer­i­can sci­ence fic­tion and fan­tasy ed­i­tor and lit­er­ary agent. Mc­Carthy grad­u­ated from Wilkes Col­lege and stud­ied at Amer­i­can Uni­ver­sity. She started her pro­fes­sional ca­reer as an ed­i­to­r­ial as­sis­tant and then ed­i­tor of Fire­house Mag­a­zine.

"In 1978, she be­came man­ag­ing ed­i­tor at Isaac Asimov's Sci­ence Fic­tion Mag­a­zine. In 1983, she took over Asimov's as the editor-in-chief and the mag­a­zine took on an edgier and more lit­er­ary and ex­per­i­men­tal tone.

"Dur­ing her time at Asimov's, Shawna pub­lished much of Con­nie Willis's award-winning work as well as sto­ries by Oc­tavia E. But­ler, Gard­ner Do­zois, Karen Joy Fowler, Es­ther M. Fries­ner, James Patrick Kelly, John Kessel, Nancy Kress, Ur­sula K. Le Guin, George R. R. Mar­tin, Pat Mur­phy, Kit Reed, Kim Stan­ley Robin­son, Lu­cius Shep­ard, Robert Sil­ver­berg, Bruce Ster­ling, Michael Swan­wick, John Var­ley, and Ze­lazny.

"She also edited four an­tholo­gies of sto­ries from the mag­a­zine: Isaac Asimov's Won­ders of the World (1982), Isaac Asimov's Aliens & Out­worlders (1983), Isaac Asimov's Space of Her Own (1984), and Isaac Asimov's Fan­tasy! (1985). For this, Shawna was nom­i­nated for the Hugo Award for Best Pro­fes­sional Ed­i­tor three times, win­ning it in 1984.

"Dur­ing her time at Asimov’s, she also worked for Ana­log Sci­ence Fic­tion and Fact and Sci­ence Fic­tion Di­gest.


Shawna Mc­Carthy was nom­i­nated for the Hugo Award for Best Pro­fes­sional Ed­i­tor three times,
win­ning it in 1984


"Af­ter leav­ing Asimov's, in 1985, Mc­Carthy moved to Ban­tam Spec­tra, the sci­ence fic­tion di­vi­sion of Amer­i­can pub­lish­ing com­pany Ban­tam Books. As Se­nior Ed­i­tor, she ac­quired books from writ­ers such as William Gib­son, Con­nie Willis, and Robert Charles Wil­son. Shawna also co-edited the first two vol­umes of the Full Spec­trum an­thol­ogy se­ries with Lou Aron­ica, et al.

"At the same time, she was help­ing es­tab­lish Ban­tam Spec­tra, she also taught a suc­cess­ful work­shop in writ­ing sci­ence fic­tion and fan­tasy at the New School.

"Af­ter the birth of her first child, she went back to work as Se­nior Ed­i­tor at the non-fiction house, Work­man Pub­lish­ing. While there, she ac­quired that company’s only novel, Good Omens – The Nice and Ac­cu­rate Prophe­cies of Agnes Nut­terWitch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratch­ett.

"In 1988, she be­gan work­ing as a lit­er­ary agent with Scott Mered­ith. Af­ter a sec­ond child, in 1993 she worked as an agent with Scov­ille Chichak Galen. At the same time, she co-founded Realms of Fan­tasy mag­a­zine with Sov­er­eign Me­dia of Vir­ginia. Mc­Carthy was the fic­tion ed­i­tor of world’s most suc­cess­ful mag­a­zine de­voted solely to fan­tasy fic­tion, en­joy­ing a 17-year run be­fore fold­ing in 2013.

"In 2000, she founded her own firm, the Mc­Carthy Agency LLC. As an in­de­pen­dent agent, she has rep­re­sented many well-known fan­tasy and sci­ence fic­tion writ­ers, in­clud­ing Daniel Abra­ham, Eric Flint, Su­sanna Kears­ley, Tanith Lee, Katya Reiman, Liz Williams, Robert Charles Wil­son, and Sarah Zettel.

Shawna cur­rently re­sides in New Jer­sey."

I fol­lowed the gen­eral out­line and tone of the orig­i­nal, but my en­try is bet­ter writ­ten, bet­ter laid-out, eas­ier to read, and it makes her look like a per­son of ac­com­plish­ment. So I went to Wikipedia, where I have been an ed­i­tor for years, and I re­moved the old en­try and re­placed it with mine.

Wikipedia re­quires that con­trib­u­tors ex­plain ad­di­tions and al­ter­ations, so I wrote that the new in­for­ma­tion came from the sub­ject of the en­try, Shawna Mc­Carthy.

And that was that!

Un­til yes­ter­day.


ShawnaMcCarthy RealmsOfFantasy Vo1No1 300

This is the pre­mier is­sue of Realms of Fan­tasy (Vol­ume 1, Num­ber 1, cover dated Oc­to­ber 1994), a la­bor of love for Shawna. RoF lasted sev­en­teen years, mak­ing it the longest run­ning fan­tasy mag­a­zine in Amer­i­can pub­lish­ing his­tory.

A simple recitation of facts

Yes­ter­day, I dis­cov­ered that my en­try had been re­moved and the orig­i­nal en­try re­stored. I don't know if my text even lasted a day. I went to the Edit sec­tion of Shawna's en­try to see what rea­son was given for tak­ing my en­try down. It was sim­ple: "We can't re­place what RS say with what some­body claims the bio sub­ject told them."

I don't know what or who "RS" nor whether "RS say" means some­thing or is just more bad gram­mar on the In­ter­net.

I can un­der­stand the rea­son­ing, given the vast amount of spu­ri­ous in­for­ma­tion that has been posted on Wikipedia. They should be cau­tious about new en­tries, ex­cept that I have been a Wiki ed­i­tor for years and I should have some kind of record in their logs. While I haven't been a par­tic­u­larly pro­lific con­trib­u­tor, but I've al­ways been a fac­tu­ally cor­rect con­trib­u­tor. 2

If I had posted per­son­ally or pro­fes­sion­ally ma­li­cious state­ments about Shawna, cau­tion would be called for. But my en­try was none of those things: it was a sim­ple recita­tion of facts, all of which can be checked on­line.

But that re­quires ed­i­tors and fact-checkers.

I've had this is­sue with Wikipedia be­fore, usu­ally in­volv­ing an en­try on pop­u­lar mu­sic where the posted in­for­ma­tion is sourced but from an in­cor­rect source. For ex­am­ple, many if not most of the Wikipedia en­tries re­cy­cle fac­tu­ally in­cor­rect "data" about many artists and such im­por­tant things as RIAA Gold Record Awards, which Wiki con­trib­u­tors and just about every other writer on the In­ter­net get con­sis­tently wrong. 3

Cor­rect­ing them is ei­ther dif­fi­cult (as I said, many of the sources are also in­cor­rect) or a pain in the be­hind (spelunk­ing the In­ter­net for cor­rect sources).

I pub­lished sev­eral ar­ti­cles about these prob­lems on my blogs over the years and re­cently pub­lished one ad­dress­ing the RIAA cer­ti­fi­ca­tion cri­te­ria on my pub­li­ca­tion on Medium.


I haven't been a par­tic­u­larly pro­lific con­trib­u­tor to Wikipedia, but I've al­ways been a fac­tu­ally cor­rect con­trib­u­tor.


I un­der­stand that I can't ex­pect Wiki's ed­i­tors to be reg­u­lar read­ers of my blogs, but what can a poor boy do? I find an er­ror on Wikipedia, I cor­rect it, and some "ed­i­tor" puts the er­ror right back up where it doesn't be­long. 4

Why do they do that?

Be­cause the in­cor­rect in­for­ma­tion is "sourced," which Wikipedia places an enor­mous amount of faith in. Never mind that the In­ter­net is known by even the dimmest of its users to be re­plete with er­rors, mis­in­for­ma­tion, mis­un­der­stand­ings, out­right lies, etc.

Wikipedia is mired in a state where any con­trib­u­tor cit­ing any source is con­sid­ered cor­rect de­spite the fact that we are liv­ing in the "Age of Fake News and Fake Data."

Don't any of their ed­i­tors take the time to check to see if my cor­rec­tions are cor­rect?

Ap­par­ently not.

Can Wikipedia do things dif­fer­ently — do things bet­ter?

Can a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion de­pen­dent on con­tri­bu­tions from its users af­ford to hire fact-checkers and ed­i­tors?

Here are a few facts about the Wiki­me­dia Foun­da­tion found on its own Wikipedia en­try:

• For the years 2010 through 2016, Wikipedia re­al­ized an av­er­age profit of more than $10,000,000 per year.

• In its fis­cal year 2016-2017, Wikipedia made more than $40,000,000 above its op­er­at­ing costs.

• Wikipedia cur­rently has net as­sets in ex­cess of $100,000,000.

So the ques­tion be­comes, Can Wikipedia af­ford to hire fact-checkers and ed­i­tors?

Of course, it can!

It could hire thou­sands of well-trained fact-checkers and ed­i­tors while still re­ly­ing on us nor­mal folk to make the daily con­tri­bu­tions nec­es­sary to keep it rel­e­vant.

That doesn't seem to be a part of Wikipedia's long-term plan. As it stands, un­sourced ex­perts will be kept from the pages of Wikipedia by anony­mous ed­i­tors while clue­less novices with du­bi­ous sources will con­tribute mil­lions of words a year.

As some­one once fa­mous once said, "So it goes."


The next step is for me to some­how con­tact some­one in a po­si­tion of re­spon­si­bil­ity at Wikipedia and ad­dress this is­sue with them and see what hap­pens, hen­nah?


Medium IMAGE fantasy FrostGiant Pixabay 2925250 Kellepics 1000

FEATURED IMAGE: The fan­tas­tic im­age at the top of this page is the work of Stef­fan Keller, who signs his work "Kellepics." I se­lected this im­age as it could be read­ily used to il­lus­trate ei­ther a fan­tasy tale or a straight-ahead sci­ence fic­tion story. In other words, it could have fit many of the sto­ries edited by Shawna Mc­Carthy.



1   The cir­cum­stances that led to that book can be read in "On Know­ing the Phe­nom­e­nal En­ergi of Paul Williams."

2   I un­der­stand from friends with back­grounds in "hard" ar­eas like math and sci­ence that most of the in­for­ma­tion on Wikipedia is spot on. It's just in the ar­eas where ob­jec­tiv­ity has lit­tle sway and sub­jec­tiv­ity and emo­tion come to the fore that the Wiki method­ol­ogy fails.

3   The RIAA's own web­site is fac­tu­ally in­cor­rect on some is­sues, so of course, writ­ers with no mem­ory of the way things were can hardly be faulted for get­ting cer­tain things wrong.

4   The ti­tle of "ed­i­tor" at Wikipedia is a bit of a joke: any­one re­gard­less of in­tel­li­gence, ed­u­ca­tion, or even in­ten­tion can be­come a Wikipedia ed­i­tor.



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