I love anthologies and short story collections, and have loved them for as long as I can remember. I mean that very literally; some of the earliest books that I have a strong memory of reading are the Colored Fairy Books, Grimm's Fairy Tales, Asimov's Young Monsters series of anthologies, and the Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark books. (This list probably says a lot about the formation of my psyche.) I spent most of middle school tracking down the largely out-of-print Noun! series of anthologies—Dogs! and Mermaids! and Unicorns! and the whole super-excited bunch. There were some awesome stories in those things. Awesome, awesome stories.
I was in high school before I realized that some anthologies were write-to-request—it wasn't that twenty people just randomly decided to write stories about magic-using hyper-evolved insects, they were asked. This struck me as the absolute height of human achievement. Imagine being asked to write stories about magic-using hyper-evolved insects. Somebody comes up to you and says "hey, write me a story about a fireball-flinging butterfly," and you do, and then, if it's any good, it gets published.
Ladies and gentlemen, the holy grail.
I always said I'd know I'd made it as a writer when I started getting invited to anthologies. I got an agent. Shrieked a lot. Sold a trilogy. Shrieked even more (as well as crying, hyperventilating, and calling Vixy and making hysterical dolphin noises at her while she tried to work out whether the sounds I was making meant "we sold Toby" or "I have just been bitten by one of those nasty parasite things from Cloverfield and am about to swell up and explode"). And then I got invited to an anthology, and I just sat there and cried.
And then I got invited to another one, and I sat there and cried even more.
I love anthologies. I love the toybox fabulousness of them, the way you don't know what you're going to get, just—vaguely—what it's going to be about. I finished reading Pandora's Closet [Amazon]|[Mysterious Galaxies] yesterday. I picked it up on a lark. I found stories that made me laugh, stories that made me giggle, and a distinct lack of stories that made me want to throw the book across the room. And I thought, "wow." And I thought, "I get to do this now."
I've been smiling for three days.