16 July 2019


The deadline has passed for the awesome August 2019 issue of Electric Spec. If you got your story in: Thanks! If you didn't get your story in: consider submitting for the notable November 2019 issue. :)

In our continuing series of obscure sub-genres of speculative fiction, today we consider fabulism. Fabulism is a form of magical realism in which fantastical elements are placed into an everyday setting. If you're thinking that sounds like magical realism, I agree. Some people consider fabulism to be a type of literary, rather than genre, fiction. In this context, Gulliver's Travels, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and Life of Pi would be considered fabulist.

In my graduate studies of popular fiction the consensus was fabulism is a bridge between fairy tales and magical realism. Magical realism is more real than fabulism. Fabulism is more real than fairy tales. Make of all that what you will.

Bottom line: send us your magical realism, your fabulism, or your fairy tale. We enjoy them all!

What's your favorite obscure sub-genre of spec fiction?

09 July 2019

Fairy Tales

We've all read fairy tales and know they often involve fairies (!), dwarfs, dragons, gnomes, goblins, and other similar fantastic folk. "Wait a minute," you're saying. How does this differ from fantasy? Doesn't fantasy involve stuff like gnomes, trolls, elves and the like? Yes, it does.

Fantasy, or fantastic fiction, is any kind of fiction with fantastic (not realistic) elements. It's worth noting fantasy is not based on reason or rationality. There should be some element of irrationality, such as magic.

Epic fantasy is sub-genre of fantasy with some element of epic-ness: setting, plot, or similar. Often it involves the whole good versus evil battle. Often there's a quest. High fantasy is differentiated from this by focusing a little more on character than on plot. Often there's one main protagonist. Both epic and high fantasy usually involve a secondary world--an imaginary world. Not our modern planet.

Fairy tales, then, have many similar elements of epic and high fantasy. Fairy tales are also called magic tales or wonder tales and are based in myth and/or folk tales. The main thing that differentiates fairy tales from other fantasy is the element of fable, namely, a moral lesson. There's a huge literary trove of fairy tales from Cinderella, to the Little Mermaid, Snow White, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, etc. Consequently, there have been many fun modern riffs on all aspects of these tales.

Consider sending us your fairy tale before the upcoming July 15, 2019 submission deadline for the awesome Auguest 2019 issue of Electric Spec.

02 July 2019

magical realism

Magical realism is another genre that's a little difficult to pin down. One possible definition is: modern-world fiction with magical or fantastic elements added. Often it's quite liminal, just on, or over, the boundary of the fantastic. Sometimes, the prose itself can be distorted or unreal in some way, e.g. utilizing nonlinear time.

Traditionally, its goal has been to make the reader question reality, to make some point (often political or social) about reality. I think this intention is crucial for something to be classified as magical realism. Of course, the most famous magical realism novel is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Latin American literature has a rich history with magical realism.

How do you create it? One way is to create a story with a very detailed realistic setting and let the strange invade. This strange could be fable or folk tale brought to life. Alternately, it could include supernatural powers such as telepathy or telekinesis. You begin to see how this could be difficult to differentiate from straight fantasy.
What do you think? What is magical realism? What's the best way to create it?

Consider sending us your magical realism story before July 15, 2019 if you want to get in our awsome August 2019 issue!

25 June 2019

slipstream fiction

There's a relatively new genre of speculative fiction called 'slipstream.' Author Bruce Sterling is credited with first defining it in 1989, It is a contemporary kind of writing which has set its face against consensus reality. It is fantastic, surreal sometimes, speculative on occasion, but not rigorously so. It does not aim to provoke a 'sense of wonder' or to systematically extrapolate in the manner of classic science fiction. Instead, this is a kind of writing that simply makes you feel very strange; the way that living in the late twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibility. Supposedly, slipstream falls between speculative fiction and mainstream fiction, so it's a sort of spec-fic 'lite.'

On the other hand, authors John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly say it's less about genre, rather, cognitive dissonance is what slipstream is all about. I've read quite a bit of fiction by Kelly Link that is considered slipstream. It's lovely. :) What do you think? What's slipstream? Who does a good job with it?

Whatever it is, we'd be happy to get some at Electric Spec. The deadline for the amazing August 2019 issue is July 15, 2019!

18 June 2019

similarities and differences: short stories and novels

I'm judging a novel contest right now while working on Electric Spec slush. So, I've been noticing the differences between short stories and novels. And, no, I'm not talking about the obvious one: length. :) In some ways short stories are similar to novel chapter ones and in some ways they're very different.

Today's short stories must grab the reader on page one. It's even better if they grab the reader in paragraph one, or, ideally, line one. There are myriad ways to grab the reader, some of which I mentioned here last week, including unique voice, engaging character, dramatic problem, etc. The pace of a short story often builds until the end of the story, the climax, and then relaxes in a short denouement.

Today's novels must grab the reader by the end of chapter one. Chapter one usually begins by setting the scene, introducing main character(s), building the world a little. The pace of chapter one usually increases until the end. Thus, ideally, chapter one ends with a dramatic cliffhanger. Obviously, what this cliffhanger is depends on the genre. In a murder mystery, for example, usually it's a body drop.

An effective writerly trick in both is an initial sentence of telling. For example, It was the best of times.... Another effective writerly tool in both is referencing other literary works either explicitly or implicitly. Literature has a long tradition of self-reference.

Whatever you're currently writing: good luck with it!

11 June 2019

so many stories...

We've started working on the awesome August 2019 issue of Electric Spec. I've been reading some of the many stories we've received. Wow! It seems like we're getting more and more really good stories! Thanks! Thus, instead of a list of 'don't do' from slush, I have a list of 'do do.' :) In your story:
  • Do start with a unique voice.
  • Do start with an engaging character.
  • Do start with a dramatic problem.
  • Do start with some amazing world-building.
  • Do start with some intriguing and realistic dialogue.
  • Do start with your_awesome_idea_here.
Thanks for sending us your stories! And keep them coming!

04 June 2019

Hurray for us!

We're still enjoying the fabulous May 31, 2019 issue of Electric Spec! Hip, hip, Hurray!
How about that nice cover art, huh?

What's your fave story? Tar? Krarg the Barbarian vs. the Afterlife? A Mouthful of Mushies? Zhai Chengda's Wife? Kill Screen? Pride Goeth Before A Fall? Garder L'Equilibre?

We enjoyed them all and hope you did, too!