15 April 2014

pet peeves

Today is the submission deadline for the May 31, 2014 issue of Electric Spec! Of course, after said deadline we're still accepting stories for the August 31, 2014 issue.
We've been trying to get through the mounds of fiction in the slush pile. (Thank you for submitting, by the way!) We're in much better shape than we were a month ago. Hopefully, we're doing a better job getting back to aspiring authors quickly.

Here are some thoughts motivated by the slush pile. Please note these are my personal pet peeves; they tend to engender strong negative reactions. Other editors may have others…

  • Don't be racist/sexist/homophobic. In fact, don't be any kind of "-ist" in your story. This is a huge turn-off and may (probably will!) result in an automatic rejection.
  • Don't proselytize. If I, as a reader, think you're trying to convert me…it may result in a knee-jerk rejection.
  • Don't campaign. This is why we recommend you stay away from politics in stories you submit to us. I have a strong negative response to stories with political agendas of any kind.
  • Don't bad-mouth groups of people, e.g. all lawyers are scum-sucking vermin. If a reader happens to disagree with the author's opinion ==> automatic rejection. One of my pet-peeves is scientist characters as one-dimensional losers and/or villains. Actually, you can easily avoid this by not creating one-dimensional characters. :)
Of course, I understand the most important component of a story is conflict and an author may intentionally chose to create a character that behaves in a negative manner of this sort. There is a little more leeway in character actions and dialogue, etc. than there is in the author's message. Am I contradicting myself? A little bit.

No one ever said writing was easy. Good luck!

08 April 2014

Fantasy sub-genres

I got into a bit of an argument lately with an industry professional about the difference between contemporary fantasy and urban fantasy. The professional said urban fantasy had to occur in a city. That was not my understanding. For example, I thought Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire (Sookie Stackhouse) series was considered urban fantasy and it definitely doesn't occur in a city. What I learned in grad school was urban fantasy is fantasy that occurs on contemporary Earth. The pro in question would say urban fantasy is a sub-genre of contemporary fantasy. I would say the sub-genres in fantasy are not well-defined.

To my mind there are two major types of fantasy: fantasy that takes place on some version of Earth OR fantasy that takes place on a so-called "secondary", i.e. made-up imaginary, world. This second type of fantasy is often called high or epic, sometimes it's called heroic or medieval fantasy or sword and sorcery fantasy. The quintessential author here is J.R.R.Tolkien, with George R.R. Martin also hugely successful. Epic or high fantasies often involve a quest, so sometimes are called quest fantasy.

Bridging the gap between these two types of fantasy are fantasies involving a portal. Often the portal goes from Earth to the secondary world. C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia are a great example of this.

Back on Earth (also called the primary world), we can have superhero fiction or historical fantasy or weird fiction or science fantasy or insert_your_favorite_here.

What about fairytale fiction? It could occur on the primary world or a secondary world, so this one depends on the story.

Have I confused you? Sorry. The bottom line here at Electric Spec is we don't care what sub-genre your story is. Just send it in!

01 April 2014

tips from the slush pile

Happy Spring! Around here it finally feels spring-y. I hope it's the same where you are, or will be very soon.
We've been working hard to catch up on slush here at Electric Spec. Something that struck me recently is: authors need to be aware of market. Over the last nine (!) years we have created a specific 'zine. Consequently, as a potential author you should read at least a couple stories to know what we like. Every market is unique and if you submit a story incompatible with it your story won't get accepted no matter how good it is.

So, here are some tips about what we like with the caveat that this is not an exhaustive list:

  • Science fiction, fantasy, and/or the macabre! This is a requirement. We don't take non-speculative fiction.
  • You must have one or more specific characters. Requirement. He/she/it can be anything from a giant space butterfly to an ogre to insert-imaginative-idea-here. The character is who the reader identifies with. The character must have something to lose. We should probably know who/what the character is by the end of the first paragraph, definitely by the end of the first page.
  • Something should happen. I going to say this is also a requirement. There must be an external plot. Again, this should be evident by the end of the first page. Ideally, your character(s) should also have an internal plot/arc but this is not required.
  • You should show us what happens, not summarize or tell it. This generally means there should be dialogue. Put the reader in the scene. If you have no dialogue your story probably isn't for us.
  • Your story should have an original unique idea, concept, character, world, technology or something else. This means you need to read speculative fiction. You need to know that a man killing his wife/girlfriend has been done. The witch with a heart of gold has been done. The robot prostitute has been done. Vampires have been done.
  • Related to the above, your story needs to have a non-cliche opening. Do not open your story with the main character waking up. Do not open your story with a dream. Do not open your story with the protagonist riding in a car. Do not open with your character looking in the mirror (for that matter: never have your character look in a mirror or other reflective surface).
  • We enjoy genre mash-ups. We enjoy humor. We enjoy irreverent stuff (but nothing political).
  • We'd like to see more:
    • fresh epic/high fantasy--this would be epic/high fantasy with some kind of twist
    • macabre fiction--spooky rather than bloody
    • fresh urban fantasy--note this is probably not vampires, werewolves. Give us some other kind of creature.
    • hard science fiction--SF based on extrapolation of actual science
    • a unique voice--this is a huge hook when we get it
I guess that's it for tips for now.
Good luck with your writing!

25 March 2014

deep in slush

I hope you're still enjoying the marvelous March 15, 2014 issue of Electric Spec. I know I am. What's your favorite story or article? So many choices…

Unfortunately, our late publication of this issue means we are a bit behind with the upcoming marvelous May 31, 2014 issue. Thus, we are neck-, no, eye-deep, in the slush pile. What does this mean to you, our potential authors? It means we are a bit behind in letting you know if you advance to hold-for-voting or if you need to try again with another story. Sorry. :(
However, please do not email us and ask what the status of your story is. Despite having five(!) editors, we simply do not have the human resources to deal with queries about your queries.
Please also follow our submission rules outlined here.
Thanks! Following these rules makes things move along more efficiently.

Here's a little reminder of upcoming deadlines:

  • We close to submissions for the May 31 edition on April 15, 2014. Note: this is coming up!
  • We'll email all potential authors with a no-thanks or a hold-for-voting by approximately May 1, 2014.
  • We'll have our production meeting around May 1, 2014.
  • We'll email hold-for-voting authors by very approximately May 7, 2014.
  • We'll edit stories for the May 31 issue from approx May 7 through May 31, 2014.
  • We go live with the next issue May 31, 2014! :)
Of course, after April 15, 2014, we are accepting submissions for the August 2014 issue.

Happy Spring!

18 March 2014

Huzzah!

No doubt discerning readers have already gleaned the marvelous March 15 2014 Electric Spec issue is live! A resounding Thank you! goes out to our authors, our artist, the technical staff and our associate editors, Chris Devlin and Nikki Baird! We really appreciate everyone's contributions. Did you notice we're starting our ninth year of publication? So, can I also say: Nine years! We rock!

One highlight of the issue I didn't brag about earlier is the Inteview with Mark Lawrence by Editor Dave. Of course, Lawrence is famous for his novels The Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, and Emperor of Thorns. Check out the interview to find out who inspired the evil Jorg, what's the scoop on the post-apocalyptic setting, the value of short story writing, and Lawrence's new series.

Huzzah!

11 March 2014

More enticements

It's almost here! The marvelous March 15, 2014 issue of Electric Spec. We just have to wait until Saturday…

As promised, here's some more enticements about what's to come. We have a very intriguing SF story, "Digital Rapture" by Charles Ebert. This raises the question: what is a person? What's a soul? A consciousness? Are we merely software? Could we run on another platform?

We also have "Butcher's Hook" by Van Aaron Hughes which is nice combo of horror and SF as you may have guessed from the title. And I have to say, it's pretty horrifying. What's the worst thing that a person could do? What's the worst thing that could be done to them?
Here, at Electric Spec we really enjoy multi-genre combos. Send us some!

We also have an urban fantasy "The Nightmare of Red O'Leary" by Vanessa MacLellan. I do love urban fantasy. Somehow the combination of our modern world with fantastic elements is very fun. The fun is evident in this story about a Red Cap fairy. Can you imagine how a Red Cap would manage in our world?
As of Saturday, you won't have to imagine!

Be sure to check out the new issue this weekend!

05 March 2014

Enticing details about the forthcoming issue

Wow. Our March 15, 2014 issue of Electric Spec threatens to be our best ever! Here are some enticing details...
We have a steampunk story, "The Family Tree" by Daniel Kason, in the next issue. Steampunk is a fascinating sub-genre of speculative fiction.
Wikipedia says, "Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialised Western civilisation during the 19th century." I believe the term was coined as a reaction to cyberpunk.
Kason's story is steampunk set in the present-day, which is an excellent twist on the genre.
We'd love to see more steampunk in subsmissions...

We have cover art by Ron Sanders. Readers may not know this about Sanders, but this will be the fourth time we've used his work. About the piece for the March 15 cover, Exodus, he says it is "Ethereal and philosophic." It sounds intriguing, right? Check it out!

Earlier, I blogged about Fiction Inspired by Fiction. More specifically, we'll be featuring "This is Just to Say" by Timothy Mudie. Be sure to read how Mudie turns this classic poem into a speculative fiction short story. Very nice! Also in the Fiction-Inspired-by-Fiction category we have my own "A Sea of Stars" inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest in Editor's Corner. Does it work or not? You decide. :)

We have more stories and an exciting author interview also in the issue. I'll blog about them next week!