25 August 2015

Carriger interview

Last week we told you about one of the exciting stories we're featuring in the spectacular September 10, 2015 issue of Electric Spec. Another exciting element of the next issue is an interview with the Queen of Steampunk, Gail Carriger!

Carriger says Steampunk is a re–imagining of either the past or the future where steam technology never died, and electricity never dominated, and a Victorian aesthetic overshadows all. Think Jules Verne and hot air balloons flying to the moon.

Her next release, in November 2015, will be Manners & Mutiny of the Finishing School series. If you haven't read Sophronia's exploits yet, I highly recommend you do so posthaste!
Be sure to check out our interview where Carriger talks of hedonism, aether currents, canoodling and more!

18 August 2015

from author Killen

The super September 10, 2015 issue of Electric Spec is in the works! We're proud to share several excellent stories with you. One of these stories is "Peacekeeper" by Jamie Killen. It's a SF story set in a very intriguing culture where 'nats' and 'synths' are pitted against each other...

About the story, Killen says:

This story started out as my way of playing around with noir/crime drama tropes: the hardboiled detective, the hooker with the heart of gold, the corrupt public official. Of course, being me, I had to end up with a story in which these tropes took the form of cyborgs in outer space.

The second major piece of this story was my realization that very few stories about conflict between humans and robots/cyborgs/cylons/etc stop short of full-blown apocalypse. Instead of the conflict escalating to victory for one side or the other or ongoing total war a la The Matrix or Terminator, I wanted to explore a world in which a human-cyborg conflict resulted in a fragile but workable peace.

The end result is a story in which the main conflict stems from the tricky details and competing interests that come with that peace.

Very interesting! Thanks, Jamie!

11 August 2015

September 10 2015

We, The Editors, had our production meeting recently. The most important result of which is we are pushing the publication of the next issue from August 31 to September 10, 2015. A confluence of events made the earlier date impossible. (If I could just get my damn time machine to work properly...) Apologies, if this causes any inconveniences.

If you submitted a story by the July 15 deadline, you should have already received an email. If you furthermore had a story in hold-for-voting, you should be getting another email very soon.

As usual, it was very difficult to get the attention of the wait-person. Ha! Kidding! (No, I'm not.) No, as usual, it was very difficult to decide amongst the many excellent stories. All the stories in hold-for-voting were publishable. If you had a story there, pat yourself on the back. Nice job!
If you've submitted a story to us: Thank you very much! We appreciate it!

One deciding factor this time seemed to be length. We accept flash fiction, but it's tough to write a complete story in a flash length. We had a couple flash pieces as finalists but in the end, they weren't emotionally satisfying enough. At the other extreme, we had a loooong story that we enjoyed but it was ~7000 words and no one was willing to edit it. We may revisit our word length limits in the future.
Bottom line for writers: avoid the shortest and longest lengths.

As usual, genre was an issue. We had one story we decided was not, in fact, speculative fiction, so it had to go. The upcoming issue has to have a variety of genres, so the stories we ended up with reflect that. I will blog more about the upcoming stories in the coming weeks. We may even hear directly from some authors...

Some genres we don't get much and would like to see more of:

  • Steampunk. Make sure there's a complete story to go with your neat world. Also, the steampunk aesthetic should be integral to the story.
  • Macabre horror. Basically, non-gory horror.
  • Epic or high fantasy. Yes, this is swords and sorcery, and possibly creatures such as elves, fairies, etc. Essentially, this is good versus evil in an imaginary (or "secondary") world.
Stay tuned for more info about the scintillating September issue!

04 August 2015


Long time blog readers are expecting to read a production meeting post right now.
Due to a scheduling issue we're meeting a little later than usual this time, so I'll post something about it next week. In the meantime...

The New Yorker had a very interesting article last week: Samuel Delany and the Past and Future of Science Fiction. Peter Bebergal says From the beginning, Delany, in his fiction, has pushed across the traditional boundaries of science fiction, embraced the other, and questioned received ideas about sex and intimacy. Hurray for him! I think SF is the perfect place to push and explore boundaries of all kinds. Check out the article.

In recent years (with the exception of a few pathetic baby canines) I think our society has caught up with the ideas and ideals Delany brought forth for our consideration. Authors like Delany contributed significantly to this change. Literature, even genre literature, has the ability to change the world.
As for troublesome puppy-types, Delany says, "It has nothing to do with science fiction. It has to do with the rest of society where science fiction exists."

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree?

As Grand Master James E. Gunn said in our January 2007 issue of Electric Spec, "Let's save the world through SF!"

28 July 2015

the value of editing

We, The Editors, are busy working behind the scenes on the next issue of Electric Spec.

With all the recent brouhaha surrounding Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee I can't help thinking about the value of editing. Of course, Ms. Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic. Until recently, I didn't know Lee's editor Therese "Tay" von Hohoff Torrey played such an important part in its development. You can read about several places including The New York Times: "The Invisible Hand Behind Harper Lee's 'To Kill a Mockingbird'".

Editors clearly can play a very important role.

Here, at Electric Spec, we do edit our fiction--although we're not in Hohoff's league. Usually, this editing consists of cutting words that aren't needed. Sometimes, we suggest or ask for alternate titles. We have even occasionally polished a diamond in the rough into a beautiful gem.

Once in a while an author refuses to make any changes. When this happens we agree to go our separate ways.

Hurray for all those unrecognized, unlauded editors throughout history! We salute you!

21 July 2015

write your passion

We've closed submissions for the August 2015 issue of Electric Spec. Of course, you can continue to submit for the next issue (November 2015). Thus, we are very hard at work behind the scenes getting the August issue ready to go.

So, in the meantime a few words... Writers are told to write what they know. I don't totally agree with this advice. I think it's better to write what you love. Write what you're passionate about. One of the things I'm passionate about is: the universe!
This week we saw some amazing new images of pluto. I can't help sharing one of them with you. Here's Pluto with it's moon Charon:
What are you passionate about? Send us a story!

14 July 2015

effective protagonist

The story submission deadline for the awesome August 31,2015 issue of Electric Spec is July 15, 2015! Tomorrow!

I've been reading a lot of fiction this summer. In my opinion the protagonist is the most important thing in any story. Yes, that includes speculative fiction stories. There are some different ways to achieve an effective protagonist...

Probably my favorite type of protagonist is a flawed but heroic protagonist. This is someone who tries to do the right thing but has some significant personal issue(s) that will make this difficult. This type of protagonist is very common in YA fiction and is very easy to empathize with. Often they also have a unique characteristic, like a supernatural ability, or extra gumption or brains or something similar. In modern fiction, there's a sliding scale of flawed heroism that goes all the way to the anti-hero. An anti-hero would be mostly (all?) flaws--but still opposing the villain.
Please note there's an important point here. In most cases, an empathetic protagonist should have at least one good quality. (Yes, fighting evil could be that quality.) An effective author tool to make readers empathize with a protag is to show other characters caring about said protag. Or, you could have said protag experience something bad, like bullying. Or, you could have said protag caring for babies or puppies. :)

In the olden days all protagonists were straight-up heroes. They are basically perfect and always fight evil and win. You shouldn't use this type of protagonist because it's too old-fashioned. Modern folks can't identify with perfection.
I read a novel recently in which the protagonist basically had no flaws or problems. I did not enjoy that novel!

Of course, the polar opposite of a hero is the villain. They work to oppose the hero. Again, there's a sliding scale here. He/she could be an old-fashioned all-bad villain all the way to a partially good-villain. What makes a villain? That can be hard to decipher in this day and age. I'm going to say villains pursue evil while heroes pursue good.

There is an interesting modern phenomena in which stories and novels are written in which the actor has no, or very few, redeeming qualities. Basically, the author has made the villain into the protagonist. The fiction of Gillian Flynn might be an example of this. And you can't argue with success! Therefore, one way to create an effective protagonist is to actually create a villain. Who knew? :)

Good luck with your protagonists!