18 November 2014

epic fantasy with a twist

To finish up our preview of coming attractions, at least as far as short fiction is concerned, we have some epic fantasy with a twist in the notable November 2014 issue of Electric Spec. It's a bit curious that we don't get more epic fantasy submissions... (Hint, hint.)

In grad school I studied speculative fiction and I wrote a paper one semester in which I stated (provocatively) that there are reactionary elements inherent in epic fantasy. I was trying to stir up trouble but I do think epic fantasy tends to be old-fashioned with damsels in distress and brave knights, etc. Thus, you can imagine my delight in Tyler Bourassa's "Plight of the Magi" featuring a kick-ass female protagonist in an epic fantasy setting. As I've said before, we enjoy original fiction here at Electric Spec.

We also have a lovely (creepy) mixture of epic fantasy and the macabre in the next issue. The story in question is "Corrine's Song" by Michael Haynes, and it's one of the creepiest and saddest pieces I've read.

Are you intrigued? I hope so! Check out all our new stories on November 30!

11 November 2014

humor in spec fic

Surprisingly, we have quite a bit of humor coming in our notable November 2014 issue of Electric Spec. Personally, I really enjoy humor in my spec fix. We'll be interviewing Cory Dale on her upcoming novel Demon Fare, a humorous steampunk alternate history urban fantasy. (!) But I'll tell you more about that later in the month.

In the issue will be one of the funniest stories I've ever read, "Aladdin's Neti Pot" by Sarina Dorie. Imagine, if you will, the genie Aladdin living in a neti pot instead of a lamp... What could possibly go wrong? :)

We'll also have the story "Dennis" by Nathan Ehret. This starts out with The trouble with being a robot was you never got to do anything for fun. It just gets better from there.

I'd have to say, in general, humor can be a little problematic. Humor arises when the reader's expectations are subverted resulting in surprise. The reason humor is tricky is every reader has different expectations. The story in Editor's Corner this time will be my "Green is the New Black." I think it's funny, but you'll have to decide for yourself if you agree.

Also in the next issue will be "Best's Laid Plans" by Lane Cohen. We selected this story because it's a very good time-travel story featuring Pete Best and the music world. At the production meeting I was surprised to find out the other editors did not realize "Best's Laid Plans" was humorous. Look at the title; it has an actual pun! How could this not be humorous?
Also consider a quote from the story: "Oops," Britney said. "I did it again." Ha! But be forewarned: Britney is definitely not the character you might expect her to be.

Be sure to check out all the stories coming November 30, 2014!
Stay tuned in coming weeks for more previews of coming attractions.

04 November 2014

notes from production meeting

We recently had another productive Electric Spec Production Meeting. Huzzah!

By now, all the folks in Hold-for-Voting should have heard from us with the possible exception of a couple acceptances. (It takes a little while to get the contracts together.) Even if we didn't take your story, you should feel proud to be in Hold-for-Voting. All the Hold-for-Voting stories were publishable.
Acceptances are asked to acknowledge the contract, send us their bio info and Paypal account info. Once we get the contracts back we start editing. We send the resulting edited story back to the author for his/her approval. We may repeat this step as needed. Eventually, we send the story to our copy-editor and the final step is posting the story on the preview page. The author has a final chance to check it over there. Finally, we publish. This quarter we go live on November 30, 2014!

I've passed along our hopefully-objective ranking system for the production meeting in the past, so I won't go into it again here. For the current issue we ended up accepting the top five stories. Thus, we had time to discuss stories in general. We agreed endings are particularly problematic for authors.

Short stories are works of art and authors can do whatever they like. However, for our market we like emotionally satisfying endings. Stories we publish have endings that wrap things up (good or bad); they do not just stop. This means in your story:

  • Something has to happen.
  • Something should be different at the end.
  • Your ending should relate to your beginning.
  • You should be able to state clearly what your story is about.
A writing or critique partner can help you decipher if you have an ending or not. We are currently accepting submissions for our first issue of 2015. Good luck!

Soon, I'll start bragging, er, blogging about the November 2014 issue. Stay tuned!

28 October 2014

Spinrad on story

In preparation for the production meeting I've been pondering what makes a good story. The first and foremost element to a good story is story.
Norman Spinrad wrote some interesting remarks on this in 2011:

Talented writers who misunderstand science fiction have often fallen into ...[a] trap, supposing that writing in the SF mode allows you to invent whatever literary world suits your purpose without regard to suspension of disbelief or scientific knowledge, and sometimes it even works.

But you do have to have a purpose, a theme, a didactic ax to grind, a revelation to convey—something, anything, that pulls together your series of events, uniting character evolution with dramatic structure and with philosophical vector to reach a satisfying conclusion for the reader, an epiphany, if you’re really on your game, even a satori.

There is a technical term for this.

It’s called a story.

... Stories arise somewhere below the intellectual surface of consciousness—the subconscious, the collective unconscious, the dreamtime, the zeitgeist—and you know when one arises from the vasty deeps because it grabs you with the grappling iron of emotion, and will do the same for the reader if you’re up to the task of conveying it. Stories call you. There’s no guarantee they’ll come when you call...

Good luck getting your stories to come when called!

Next week I'll report what happens at the production meeting for the November 2014 issue.

23 October 2014

Asimov on Creativity

We don't often give links to other stuff here but I can't resist...
Check out Isaac Asimov's article on creativity in the MIT Technology Review published on-line this week here.

21 October 2014

what's your line?

The submission period for the November 2014 issue of Electric Spec is closed. Of course, this means the submission period for the February 2015 issue is open.

We are working hard behind-the-scenes getting ready for the production meeting. We haven't quite gotten through all the slush but we're working on it. I've started reading the hold-for-voting stories and when I do so, I write a one sentence summary of each story so I can remember it for the production meeting.

In general, this is a very helpful exercise. If you can't express your story in one line...you may have a problem. For example, in our most recent issue we had stories that can be described via 'What happens to girls who get it on with fairies.' and 'A Hawaiian steampunk murder mystery.' These single lines make the stories sound intriguing, right?

In my own fiction, I recently sold a story which can be summarized by the line 'An astronaut's synesthesia saves the mission.' On the other hand, I've been working on a story which is not working (yet). It's line is: 'A robot gets Alzheimer's.' When I express it in one line, I can see that it's a setup for a story but not a complete story. Ah ha! I need to answer the question: what happens when the robot gets Alzheimer's? I should go work on it.

In the meantime, what's your line?

14 October 2014


First things first: tomorrow is the submissions deadline for the November 2014 issues of Electric Spec. Get those stories in.

Our submissions page says A note on our editorial policy: before publication we may edit the story for length or readability. However, we always remain true to the spirit of the story.

Some authors are scared away by this. Don't be. Obviously, we edit for spelling and grammar. The most common other edits are cutting extra words and lines. Many authors repeat themselves. Sometimes authors go off on tangents that don't relate to the story at hand.
Sometimes authors have pov shifts--we fix these with as few word changes as possible.
Sometimes we alter the spacing of prose on the page. For example if something is very important we might give it its own paragraph.
Once in a while we don't feel the title does justice to the story. We might tell the author: we think the essence of the story is this. Can you come up with a less generic title?

Electric Spec editors do not write any part of your story. We have never changed the essence of any story and we never will. If we didn't like your story we wouldn't have bought it.

And, bottom line, any change has to meet with the approval of the author.