21 November 2017

from Author Lowd

We're excited about the notable November 30, 2017 issue of Electric Spec!

One of our excellent featured stories is The Fish Kite. We're pleased to feature some remarks by its author Mary E. Lowd:

When I was ten, my grandmother died from early onset Alzheimer's. At the time, we didn't know whether her Alzheimer's was of the genetic variety that would have passed down to my father, sister, and me. We've since learned that it was not. But that question cast a big shadow over a ten-year-old. I wondered what it would be like to lose my memories. I worried that was how I would eventually die. In my ten-year-old way, I found a certain kind of peace with it; a way to live under that shadow. I had to, because it wasn't lifted until nearly fifteen years later. By that time, I had a daughter of my own, and I was seriously pursuing a career (as much as that's possible) writing fiction. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot of my fiction dabbled with questions of memory -- what it meant, and what it meant to lose it.

The first story I ever sold, "Forget Me Not," was about a man with an addiction to memory drugs -- Leland was a character with an artificial quirk inspired by my father's own perfectly normal forgetfulness. My mother has always had an excellent memory; my father not so much, and his forgetfulness has often helped him to remember his past in ways that are more comfortable than how they actually happened. I pushed that natural dichotomy to the extreme and provided a science-fictional explanation for it. A few years later, I was shocked and delighted to learn that the mechanism I'd described for targeted memory loss had actually been backed up by real science. Sometimes when science-fiction writers stab in the dark, we can still get it right.

Anyway, one of the strongest images from that first story, "Forget Me Not," involved a fish kite that Leland had made as a child. His fish kite was inspired by my own collection of My Little Ponies. I loved those ponies and treasured them -- until I was in high school and wanted some money. Somehow though, as an adult, I could always remember treasuring them, but I had a hard time remembering I'd sold them. Hours of happy playtime figured much large in my mental landscape than a few minutes spent handing a box over for a fistful of cash. Those missing ponies haunted me like Leland's fish kite.

Fast forward another decade, and discover the wonders of eBay. As my daughter got older, when I wanted to play ponies with her, my husband ordered us old ponies -- just like the ones I'd sold so long ago -- from eBay. Now, I have a new collection of ponies, similar enough to the ones I sold that I don't go looking for them any more. I know where my ponies are -- right on the shelf where I left them. My daughter and I can play ponies together any time she wants.

I was thinking about how I'd healed my own memory wound by replacing the ponies, and I decided that it was time to revisit Leland's story -- maybe give my character a chance to heal of his own.

(For anyone interested in reading "Forget Me Not," it's available online here: http://deepskyanchor.com/forget-me-not/ It's part of an entire collection of my short stories focused on questions of memory, called The Opposite of Memory.)

Thanks, Mary! Very interesting!
Be sure to check out this story and all the others on November 30!

14 November 2017

from Author Proctor

We had a successful production meeting last week. Most folks in hold-for-voting) should have heard back from us by now (there may be a few stragglers...sorry!). We're excited about the notable November 30, 2017 issue of Electric Spec!

One of our excellent featured stories is The Chain Outside of Time. We're pleased to feature some remarks by its author Aaron Proctor:

Any good story should be woven from some big idea. Once storytellers lose that idea, the story seems to lose it’s reason for being told. We all know that great show that just went off the rails at some point. Well, I believe that happens when the writers lose their authentic sense of of the idea upon which the story grows.

While writing “The Chain Outside of Time," I drew upon my past struggles with addiction. The fatalism. The isolation. But that doesn’t mean that the story is specifically “about” addiction because I’ve seen that fatalism and isolation reflected in the faces of many of you out there. Maybe you’re depressed. Maybe you’re anxious. Maybe you just feel out-of-step. And maybe this is all just grandiose writer BS; but—for better or worse--it helped me write the darn thing.

And I really hope you enjoy it and get something out of it.

Thanks, Aaron! Very interesting!
Be sure to check out this story and all the others on November 30!

07 November 2017

Short Fiction as a Marketing Technique

If you are reading this, you are probably a writer. We writers are living in a wonderful new age of possibilities. From Indie- and self-publishing, to bundles and anthologies, ezines, crowd-sourcing, Patreon, and everything else, there have never been more opportunities for writers. Isn't it awesome?
Unfortunately, it also means there's never been more competition for readers.
Writers need marketing for their work. A difference between publicity and marketing is: publicity is putting your product in front of other peoples' audiences, while marketing is putting your product in front of your audience.

Thus, an excellent way to market your fiction is via short stories. Short fiction can help create your audience. It gives readers a specific taste of what you have to offer. (What other artistic endeavour can do this?) Short stories are thus even better than ads, and bonus: editors pay you rather than the other way around. Short fiction enables you to get your name out there. Depending on the short story venue, you can get your name and product out in front of people you might not reach otherwise--but they're still readers who are interested in your kind of stuff.

In the case of Electric Spec we post an author bio and often an author blog post, as well as keeping your story itself posted forever (or until you ask for it back). Can you say: link s to your website and social media? And, yes, links are good things.

And oh yeah, there are other benefits to short fiction. It can really hone your writing skills. If you can writ e an excellent short story, let's face it, you can do almost anything. :)
Bottom line: short fiction is an excellent marketing tool!

What's happening with Electric Spec? Why, I'm glad you asked. :)
We finished the slush pile for the notable November 30 2017 issue. All authors should have heard from us with either a 'no thanks' or a 'we're going to hold this for voting.' If you didn't hear from us by now, something probably went awry. Please resubmit your story.
Next week I'll blog about the production meeting and start bragging about the new issue! Stay tuned!

31 October 2017

Avoid the Smeerps

We are working hard on the notable November 2017 issue of Electric Spec! Here are some more comments inspired by the slush pile...

When science fiction first began a few authors tried translating a standard story, for example a western, to a science fiction milieu. In such a case, they would give different elements of the story science-fictiony names, but that's all they would change. Editors and critics refer to this kind of lazy writing as 'calling a rabbit a smeerp.' Once in a while, we get a story like this. Don't do it!

Ideally, every science fiction story has some uniquely SF element that is crucial to the story. It actually doesn't matter what you call things.
The real trick is to show protagonists deal with this uniqueness in a compelling way that resonates with readers, in a way that evokes emotions in readers.

Speculative fiction has the added challenge that protagonists aren't necessarily human. In fact, the protagonist often isn't human. Think ghost, werewolf, elf, god, alien, robot... You get the idea. I've disagreed with other writers in the past, however, in that I say none of these protagonists are truly not-human. Since readers are human, they need something they can relate to. Do you agree? Disagree?

Send us a story that proves me wrong!

And, oh, yeah, Happy Halloween!

24 October 2017

In Media Res

We, the Electric Spec Editors, are working on the notable November issue, and are deep in the slush pile. Thank you for sending us your stories! Feel free to send us new stories now for our first issue of 2018.
Regarding the slush...

I've been noticing lately that our society is more fast-paced than ever. We're used to instantaneous news, texts and pictures. Our reading habits have changed as well. In particular, for on-line publications we want to grab a reader's attention more quickly than ever.

It has always been a good idea to begin your story in media res--in the middle. Now, it's more important than ever! Let's face it, you don't want to bore your potential readers (including editors) with a lot of pointless chit-chat in the beginning of your story. (In fact, drop all the pointless chit-chat). You don't want to begin with the protagonist waking up in the morning. You don't want to begin with the protagonist traveling somewhere.
Some markets like a story that begins with a lot setting descriptions; that is not this market.

You do want to begin your story when the story begins, not when the setup begins. If need be, you can give the reader backstory or a flashback after you've already gotten them hooked.
When does the story begin? When the protagonist is in trouble, has a signficant problem--which is about to get much worse.

A slow opening is one of the most common reasons for a story to be rejected. Take a look at the beginning of your tale: do you start in media res? If not, consider cutting or moving some of the setup.

Good luck!

17 October 2017

use specific details

Sadly, submissions for our last issue of 2017 are closed. Happily, we are accepting subs for the first issue of 2018.

We, the Electric Spec editors, are hard at work on the new issue. Right now that means we are going through the slush pile. Thank you for sending us your stories. We wish we could critique all the stories we get, but we just don't have that kind of person-power. So, here'a tip you might find useful.

Unique specific details make a story stand out. It's specific details that create your fictional world. The good news is: you, as a person, know a lot of unique specific details. Get them out, dust them off, put them in your story. Blow us away! For example, a black Aston Martin DB5 is much different from a silver Prius C, right?
The trick to making this work is expressing the details via your characters. When your characters convey unique specific details it actually helps you create unique characters. For example, does your character love his Prius, or hate it?

Send us your stories with unique specific details!
And check back here for more tips from the slush pile next week...

10 October 2017

showing and telling

Less than a week until the submission deadline for the final 2017 issue of Electric Spec: October 15, 2017! Get those stories in!

In the meantime, we've starting working behind the scenes to get the new issue out. I've also been reading a book on the history of storytelling, all of which has made me think about the whole showing versus telling thing.

Experts disagree on when the first novel was published. Some say it was Le Morte d'Arthur by Thomas Malory in 1485, but there are many other opinions. Let's just say, prior to about 1400, storytelling was primarily an oral tradition. Imagine those folks of long ago sitting around the fire telling stories. Some of us have had that experience while on camping trips telling ghost stories and the like. Notice my verb choice: telling. These stories were often narrative summaries of exciting events such as hunting expeditions, death-defying stunts, or scary hook-handed monsters in lovers' lanes. Telling stories orally is still quite common around the world, right? Let me tell you what happened today at work....

When the modern novel was borne showing became popular in storytelling. Some experts claim literary novels are mostly showing the details of one or more particular persons, places or things. In fact, a current writing mantra is Show, don't tell. Some would say we've abandoned the excitement of telling.

I say: showing is exciting when you're showing exciting events in the moment. This enables readers to be right smack in the middle of the action. At Electric Spec we very rarely buy stories that do not have this type of showing. However, the best stories have both showing and telling. Show the exciting bits. Tell, or summarize, the less exciting parts.

What do you think of the whole showing versus telling dichotomy?