You’ll Never Walk Alone

As an editor, I know how annoying it can be when writers don’t stick to the guidelines. So I can imagine what went through editor Mike Ashley’s mind when I delivered the manuscript of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

He asked for farcical tales not over 6,000 words, and I delivered a piece almost twice that length. If I’d been there when he first looked at the piece, I imagine I would have heard him groan. And not only that—the story was written entirely in dialogue, with no descriptions or stage directions, not even a “he said” or “she said.”

Rereading the story before shipping it off to him, I considered making Ashley’s editorial decision for him. I thought of putting the story back in a drawer and writing him a different, shorter tale. But the story seemed so on target for the sort of humorous fantasy he wanted that—urged by fellow writer Paul Di Filippo—I figured I’d send it along, and ask Ashley whether he could see any fat I could excise.

He couldn’t. And luckily, the story proved as magnetic to him as my protagonist—who is blessed (or cursed) with a literal magnetic personality—is to those around him. So John Cleese’s story starts the anthology, and mine ends it.

It was chosen to be the final story in The Mammoth Book of Awesome Comic Fantasy (which appeared in June, 2001) because, as Ashley put it in the intro, “Believe me, there’s no way anything could follow this story—except maybe a stuff drink.”

If you’d prefer reading the story in German, you can find it as “Einer Geht Noch … ” in Hokus, Pokus, Hexenschuss.