My favorite part of this process was when all of the nominations are coming in. Every day, for several months, I would check our inbox, and there would be upwards of fifteen emails of nominated work. The clerical part of this job was a simple, repeatable process of confirming the nominations and then tagging each email with the appropriate genre for our tremendous editing team to review. That part of the job was quick and painless. Even before our reading process began, I got to spend some time with each of the nominated pieces.
What is included in this final presentation of ours is work that has been read and appreciated many times over. A small army of readers, three energetic genre editors, and our very generous judges all experienced the work that ended up in this release. I had no vote or voice in the selections, but I read the hundreds and hundreds of poems, stories, and essays that we received as well. I read them all. It was glorious.
Last year we re-hashed many of the old arguments. Every year there is a particular genre that is dead or failing. Last year it was poetry's turn, and there are a dozen essays bringing it up and a hundred essays shooting it down. We addressed the MFA argument again and again and again in some sort of unending Sartre play that ended not with any new understanding, but with voices too hoarse to continue until the next year. I've never understood this discussion, but I'm excited that all writers are now considered to be more human than alien. Once again several old, straight, white men hollered about the quality of female voices or what they might consider to be alternative texts, and watching them get justifiably torn apart for doing so was always great sport. If that took your concentration away from the amazing new work that was published this year, then I'm glad you found us!
The pieces that were nominated and included in the Best of the Net this past year were innovative, passionate, and at certain points jaw-dropping. What might have been most stirring to me were the challenges that these works undertook—gender, sexual orientation, politics, the home construct, language creation and language barriers. All of these things were approached with an ecstatic touch. There was real adrenaline in the work that I read, and even if it all wasn't flawless, there was enough of a current that I would find myself writing pieces that answered or joined the discussion. Mine is the ultimate position for a literature fanboy, and I feel privileged I got to spend the time I did with so many new and growing voices.
Last year's work held real brilliance, and I'm excited to share what I believe to be an excellent representation of that in this year's Best of the Net Anthology.
Darren C. Demaree
Managing Editor, 2014 Best of the Net Anthology