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March 2007
Locus Magazine
Toni Weisskopf: Jim Baen's Legacy
Toni Weisskopf's full name is Antonia Katherine Flora Weisskopf Reinhardt, and she sometimes uses T.K.F. Weisskopf as a byline. Born in Waltham MA, she moved to New York at age three and lived in Brooklyn for many years, "just down the street from the Brooklyn Museum and the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, giving me an undying appreciation for beaux arts architecture." The family moved to Huntsville AL
Photo by Beth Gwinn

Baen Books
when she was 12, where she became involved in fandom. She attended Oberlin College in Ohio, earning a degree in anthropology. She became an editorial assistant at Baen Books in 1987, where she rose through the ranks to become an editor. She took over as publisher following founder Jim Baen's death in 2006.

Weisskopf edited vampire anthologies Tomorrow Sucks (1994) and Tomorrow Bites (1995), both with Greg Cox, and two Cosmic Tales anthologies, Adventures in Sol System (2005) and Adventures in Far Futures (2005). She also co-wrote a book on children's folklore, Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood (1995), with Josepha Sherman.

Weisskopf and Jim Baen had a daughter, Katherine (born 1992). Weisskopf is now married to writer and sword maker Hank Reinhardt. They live in Athens GA.
Excerpts from the interview:

“In my senior year I went around to all the East Coast conventions and handed people my résumé at parties! I think it was at a Tor party that I cornered Betsy Mitchell and gave it to her. Betsy was Senior Editor with Jim at Baen. They were not happy with the editorial assistant they had, so they called up and offered me a job. Unfortunately, I had already accepted a job at Locus. Of course Charlie knew what I really wanted to do was work in New York publishing, so when I called him up and said I'd had an offer from Baen, he said 'Good-bye!'

“Then I worked my way up at Baen. I did editorial assisting, I was a production assistant, and when Betsy left I stepped up to fill her shoes and began to learn all about the business of publishing. Betsy and Jim were both very generous in training new people. They allowed the editorial assistant to do things beside filing and answering the phone. (One of the nicest things that Jim did was to arrange for me to speak to Robert Heinlein on the phone. I was floating!) And here I am now.”


“Since Jim died last June, I'm stepping up as publisher and I'll be doing the jobs he did: acquisitions, art direction, liaison with Simon & Schuster (our distributor), financial analysis -- all the publisher things. In the short term, I'm also doing all the executive-editor things, but we will be looking for a new person to help out editorially. It's not a hiring I'm going to rush. I want to make sure it's somebody who fits in with Baen's corporate culture and with Baen's editorial philosophy.

“In terms of editorial policies, Jim and I fought about everything except SF. We always agreed on what makes good SF, so there won't be any editorial policy changes. I've got to be me, of course (shades of the Gary Larson Far Side cartoon), and Baen can't stay true to Jim's vision by staying static. It has to continue to grow, to evolve, as it did when Jim was in charge. What I'm saying is that there aren't going to be any wild changes of direction. We're still going to publish military SF, urban fantasy, planet adventures, alternate history -- the things that Jim enjoyed and that I enjoy.”


“Part of what led to the company's doing so many collaborations was Jim thinking about how we could grow our younger authors (people like Elizabeth Moon) and get them up to the level of shipping that they deserved, faster than just by publishing a book a year. He remembered what Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle had done in their collaborations, and he thought he could reproduce their method and have a similar system work for our younger writers, paired with established older writers who didn't necessarily have time to write all the plots they wanted to write. We started out with David Drake, who plots like no one else -- he doesn't think it's hard! For him, it's like putting on his shoes in the morning. I'm not a writer myself, but I've met plenty of writers who say, 'I'd cut off my left foot to plot like he does.'

“Around the same time, I was reading Aristotle's Poetics and realized there's a philosophical underpinning for this method of creating fiction. I recommend The Poetics for anyone who is doubtful about this way of doing things. It's similar to the way the Great Masters worked, the painters in the Renaissance. They would create the outline of the painting, their apprentices would fill in the details, and then the masters would come back and make the finishing touches that made it a brilliant painting. This is the same way that our 'arranged marriage' collaborations work (though not all the marriages are arranged; some of the writers come to us as 'couples' already). David Weber and Steve White's first novels were collaborations, for instance.”


“Science fiction is inherently flexible. It's always going to grow with the culture, to reflect the culture. It's not like the Western, which is so tied down to one format it can't change. That's the neat thing about SF: it will always be able to answer the needs of the culture it belongs to, so long as that culture has a perception that looking to the future is a good thing. Without that you get no SF, so I'm hoping our culture will continue to have that! (It's what I'm betting the bank on.) One of the jobs of SF is to make sure our culture still does have that perception.

“Science fiction has always been a literature of interaction, with a tremendous amount of interaction between readers and the publishers and the writers, back and forth and all the way around. And the Internet is helping us get back to that model that Hugo Gernsback had in the magazines and Astounding had with the readers' polls and Planet Stories had, where you had a lot of reader input. The web is allowing for that again, the back-and-forth between the writers and the readers, and it's allowing the publishers to watch that and see what the readers want. That's a tremendously good thing for science fiction, which -- perhaps more than any other genre -- lends itself to that kind of collaboration. In SF, the exchange of ideas is necessary. If you have two people, you can make a greater thing than just by one person. I think it's exciting.”

© 2007 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved.