18 September 2018

Avoid Cliche

We are starting to work on the next issue of Electric Spec--which means reading slush. Last time, I said stories should grab editors. This time, I'm saying stories should surprise editors. I didn't entitle this 'Surprise Me' because authors do need to lay the groundwork for their story endings. The end of the story should be the perfect complement to the beginning of the story. That being said, we see a lot of the same type of story endings...

Avoid these story cliches:

  • the mysterious protagonist is actually an alien, robot, AI, elf, ghost, monster, insert_your_favorite_creature_here
    and closely related: the seemingly normal protagonist is actually an evil murderer/torturer
  • the mysterious seemingly-not-human protagonist is actually a human
    and the closely-related: mysterious planet is actually Earth
  • nonhumans act exactly the same as humans.
  • the protagonist discovers he/she/it is the special chosen one
  • brave knight saving the damsel in distress and/or killing the dragon/beast
  • the powerful magic-object/wizard/AI/etc. saves the day
  • scientists/science are/is evil
I'm sure you can come up with some yourself.
Subverting cliches, on the other hand, can work great...

Good luck avoiding cliches!

11 September 2018

Grab Me

While we are still reveling in the awesome August 2018 issue of Electric Spec, we are also starting to think about the notable November 2018 issue...

How does an author get their work published? By grabbing the editor. Why is this relevant? Because editors want the stories to grab readers. They are myriad ways to grab an editor, but in general it does need to be done on the first page of a manuscript.

Here are some grab-worthy sentences you might recognize:

  • Penelope was fading fast, but I agreed to meet her nonetheless.
  • After my installation in Gloria, I am silent.
  • He returns on a Thursday after the full moon.
  • But there were no hummingbirds.
  • "Will you put that bloody thing down and talk to me?"
These pique one's curiosity. How was Penelope fading? And why meet her? How the heck does someone/thing get installed in a person? Why be silent? Where does he return from? And who is he? What's with the hummingbirds? What is the bloody thing and why does it interfere with conversation?
The methods differ significantly but the result is the same: I'm grabbed.

Good luck with your grabbing!

04 September 2018

Awesome August Issue!

We're still enjoying the awesome August 2018 issue of Electric Spec. If you haven't checked it out yet, here's what you're missing:

Perhaps the greatest gift of speculative fiction is that you never stop encountering startling and creative new perspectives. In this issue, we were amazed by the imaginative paths our writers took to tell their stories--including riveting explorations of relativity and quantum uncertainty, a moving story from a machine's perspective, an unexpectedly chilling choice for a menacing monster.

  • "Hummingbird" by Kathryn Yelinek: One woman will learn to fear the buzzing of tiny wings...
  • "Twist" by Michael J. Nicholson: In a mad race to beat the world record for Rubik's cube, one competitor is about to take it a twist too far.
  • "Brother" by Subodhana Wijeyeratne: When a brother returns from deployment in space, we find relativity can be hell on relatives.
  • "There Is a Beauty in This Condition" by Neil James Hudson: What would you do if someone you loved was literally fading away?
  • "G10ria" by Michael Milne: An AI healing module implanted in a dying woman shows us a new perspective on the human experience.
  • In Editor's Corner editor Nikki Baird shares her discussion with editor Angie Hodapp about how to create an anthology.
  • Also in our Editor's Corner, editor Grayson Towler shares "Honor Dog," a story of a young boy's dangerous quest to preserve his father's legacy--and save the life of his best friend.
Which story is your favorite?

31 August 2018

We're Live!

We're Live! Check out the awesome August 31, 2018 issue of Electric Spec!

Thank you authors! Thank you artists!

Thank you editors!

And, most of all, thank you readers!

28 August 2018

from Author Hudson

We're proud to present "There Is A Beauty In This Condition" by Neil James Hudson in our awesome August 31, 2018 issue of Electric Spec. Here's what the author had to say about his story...

You can't step in the same river twice. New things arise and old things disappear. People fade away, and our memories fade with them. And as we age, we feel ourselves fading. Of course we should fight it, but it always ends the same. I've always kept diaries as a way of keeping it at bay; it makes me feel as if somehow the days can be preserved, the people kept real, and the past live on in the present. It doesn't, but I can't help hoping that the story of my life will be preserved after I've faded, as a kind of verbal corpse.

In this story, Penelope is the river that the narrator tries to step in twice. He knows it's not the same river, but he doesn't realise he's not the same man.

Very interesting, Neil! Thanks!

Check out "There Is A Beauty In This Condition" and all the others on August 31!

21 August 2018

from Author Wijeyeratne

As part of our awesome August 31, 2018 issue of Electric Spec we're pleased to present Brother by Subodhana Wijeyeratne. Here's what Subodhana has to say about it:

I've always been interested in incorporating the South Asian cultural context into my science fiction. Coming from a Sri Lankan family, even though I was born and raised in the West, I've always been keenly aware of the amazing depth and diversity of the subcontinent's religion, history, and art. The challenge for me was to bring this into my writing without making it appear tokenistic or modish. I already had a crack at this once with My Lady, The Lily, a short story I based on a Sri Lankan legend, which appears in my collection "Tales from the Stone Lotus." But I'd never done a SF piece in a similar register.

In the end, it was Sri Lankan legend to the rescue, again. Though based in the near future, Brother actually makes reference to Sri Lankan history too. The two brothers bear the name of the famously feuding monarchs Kasyapa and Mogallana. Having usurped his father, Kasyapa fled to a giant rock in the jungle and build a palace on its back, a structure he called 'Sigiriya' -- Lion's Rock. After a decade of tyranny, he was deposed by Mogallana, but not before he'd turned the rock into a great pleasure palace carved in the shape of a lion and adorned with images of heavenly maidens, Apsaras. The rock is still there in Sri Lanka, choked with tourists. Brother in some ways is my ode to that tale, and to brotherly relations the world over -- that curious mix of competition, love, hate, and tenderness that characterizes the bond between male siblings.

Thanks, Subodhana! Very interesting!
Be sure to check out Brother and all the other stories on August 31!

14 August 2018

from Author Nicholson

As part of our awesome August 31, 2018 issue of Electric Spec we're proud to present Twist by Michael J. Nicholson.

On Lightning Strikes and Mountain Climbs

As far as pop-culture goes, I am a child of the 80s. So when my son received a Rubik's cube for his birthday this year, I promptly sat down and learned how to solve it. It took roughly 24 hours until I had it down pat and the movements were almost second nature.

During this process, the concept of "solving" the cube by twisting reality, rather than the cube itself, occurred to me. Within about 5 minutes I had the story, pretty much fully formed, sitting in my head. About an hour and a half later I had Twist in a Word document.

Now, at this point you're probably thinking something along the lines of "screw this guy!". Bear with me. This isn't me bragging about how easy it is to write stories. If it were that easy I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be toiling away full-time developing IT systems for large corporations. But it isn't, so I am, and right now the writing takes third place behind family and work.

While the experience I had writing Twist has happened before, with other stories, it's not even close to the norm. Twist was a lighting strike. The usual process is more like scaling the north face of Everest, solo, with no oxygen. Or Equipment. Blindfolded.

I have stories I have wrestled into submission under many hours, days, weeks or months. I have a couple of stories that I really like, except for the fact that there is something indefinable wrong with them. These stories sit in folders on my Dropbox for years before I realise how I can make them into something that people might actually want to read. Or perhaps I will never feel that way about them.

It is this indefinable quality that makes us like a story. It's something bigger than the plot, bigger than the characters or the dialogue. It transcends good or bad proofreading and copyediting. It's there (or not there) regardless of how clever a twist (see what I did there) you finish with. It is of course all these things as well, but good fiction--fiction that grabs you and won't let you stop reading--can lack some of these elements and still be good. Bad fiction, on the other hand, can have everything you think should make it good, and still fail to engage the reader.

Twist is not an overly serious story. It was fun to write, and I hope it will be fun to read. My hope is that Twist has that "something", that strange, unmeasurable quantum-like quality that only exists when you, dear reader, take the time to engage with the story. It could not exist without you.

Thanks, Michael! Very interesting!
Check out Twist and all the other stories on August 31!