15 August 2017

behind the scenes production

We're working hard on the awesome August 31, 2017 issue of Electric Spec. Last week we had our production meeting. Things went pretty smoothly; our current group of editors has definitely figured out how to make issue decisions. Editors do advocate for their favorite stories and usually end up editing them if they're successful.
If your story made it into hold-for-voting you should have heard back from an editor with a thumbs-down, if relevant. We're still sending out a few of the thumbs-up. Thumbs-ups get a congratulations email with a contract and a request for a bio and some optional wise words for the blog. Stay tuned for these wise words right here in August.

Once we hear back from authors about the contract, we start the hard work of actually editing the stories. This can be as simple as a few minor grammar/spelling suggestions all the way to a rewrite. Of course we don't ask authors to change story essences. We wouldn't have bought the stories if we didn't think they were good. Editing is all about making the story the best possible version of itself. Editors work with authors to make this happen.

The final stage of production is creating the web pages for the issue. We've gotten a pretty good handle on this as well over the years. All that's left is final author approvals and publication. Yay! We relish the new issue, appreciating and savoring all the great new stories.

Of course, then, the whole process begins again, starting with slush...

Check out the new issue on August 31 2017!

08 August 2017

slush tips: speculation

I believe the Electric Spec Editors have recently finished with slush. Please note we rarely keep a story longer than a hundred and thirty-five days because of our quarterly production schedule. Each issue accepts submissions for approximately ninety days (three months). Our production schedule then takes approximately forty-five days (a month and a half). This means if you sent us your story within the ninety-day August-2017-issue submission window, you should have heard 'No, thanks,' or 'We're going to hold this for voting,' from us by now. If you haven't heard, resubmit.

One unique thing to speculative fiction is some kind of speculative element. Every story we hold-for-voting has a speculative element. By speculative element I mean an element of fantasy, science fiction, and/or macabre horror. This could be characters such as: elves, witches, vampires, werewolves, secondary-world royals, aliens, robots, AIs, ghosts, murderers, etc. Or, it could be situations, e.g. what would happen if we got immortality? Or, it could be setting, e.g. outer space or a spooky haunted mansion. The point is: there must be some kind of speculative element. If not: rejection. Sorry, not sorry.

Once in a while we get a story in which we can't tell for sure if it has a speculative element, e.g. alternate histry (is it alternate enough?). Those we just have to take on a case by case basis. Those sometimes cause arguments at the production meeting.

Anyway, rest assured we are working hard on the awesome August 2017 issue. Stay tuned for more info!

01 August 2017

slush tips: plot

We are still in the thick of it behind the scens at Electric Spec. We're still reading slush. Sadly, we can't give 'no thanks' authors critiques. So here I continue to give some tips I wish I could give authors directly.

A crucial story element especially for speculative fiction is an external plot. Notice this is genre-dependent. Mainstream or literary fiction might not necessarily have an external plot. I'd be surprsied if it didn't have an internal plot associated with it, however. This would be some kind of internal change in the character. Good speculative fiction should also have an internal plot.

So what is external plot? This is what I'm calling: the character has a problem, the character accepts or rejects the call to action, the character does something resulting in something being different in the external world. The external world difference can only be with regard to the character, that's fine. So, the bottom line for authors is: if I read your story and nothing is different at the end...I am most likely going to pass. :(

Another tip: it's very difficult to have a successful external plot without any dialogue. So if your story has no dialogue it is a red flag for me. If you don't have dialogue you are probably telling a story rather than showing a story. That's a perfectly effective way to convey a story--but not how we convey stories at Electric Spec.

We are accepting submissions for our final issue of 2017. Send us your stories!

25 July 2017

slush tips: character

We're working hard behind the scenes at Electric Spec. FYI we will be a little slower finishing up slush than usual. We will be a little slower getting back to hold-for-voting authors than usual. (Sorry!)

IMHO the most crucial element of a short story is character. Every genre of short story must have at least one character. The character has a problem. This can be a very small problem, such as a pimple or an exploding water balloon, or a very large problem such as an exploding universe. Then, the story is the character acting to solve the problem (or refusing the call).

There's a lot of debate about whether a character has to be sympathetic or not. I say, nope, the character doesn't have to be sympathetic. But the reader must be able to empathize with him/her/it. The reader must be able to put themselves in the character's shoes (or whatever). This is because a story is really a collaboration between the author and the reader. And, in general, the goal of a story is to evoke an emotional response in the reader. How do we engage the reader? By creating a realistic character.

Stories that make it into our hold-for-voting pile have characters that grab our attention. This can be achieved by a unique perspective/way of thinking, unique experiences, an especially dire or relateable problem, or insert-your-neat-idea-here. There are as many ways to create an effective character as there are writers. When I finish a story, if I can answer the question 'Who was the character and what do I think of him/her/it?' it's a very good sign. If not...

18 July 2017

in the thick of it

The deadline for the August 2017 issue has passed. (We are accepting subs for the next issue--November 2017.) If you got your story in: THANK YOU!

Wow! We editors are in the thick of it, working hard on the awesome August 2017 issue of Electric Spec! We're currently carefully going through the slush pile. If you're not familiar with the terminology, slush pile refers to the stories authors send us. We are very grateful for the slush pile. For each issue of Electric Spec we get hundreds of stories submitted so it's a big job to go through them all. There are five editors that work their way through these submissions, and stories are assigned randomly to said editors. Each editor then decides to reject or hold-for-voting their assigned stories and send the author a relevant email.

Since we publish four issues a year this means we never take longer than three and a half months to decide on a story. Thus, if you ever send us a story and don't hear back within three and a half months something went awry. (Frankly, you should just send it in again. Querying us just slows down the whole process.)

Once we get through the slush pile we make ranked lists of the stories in hold-for-voting, I compile a ranked master list, and then is...The Production Meeting. I'll tell you more about that in August. Next week stay tuned for more slush tips. In August we'll start bragging about the upcoming issue with, hopefully, some author blog posts.

11 July 2017

tips from the slush pile

The submission deadline for the Awesome August 2017 issue of Electric Spec is approaching: July 15, 2017.

In the meantime, we've started going through the slush pile in earnest. Thus, I have some tips:

  • Do proofread your story. We don't reject automatically for a few grammar, spelling errors...but if there are a lot of errors we probably will.
  • Do show your story, rather than tell it. To be honest, this is a market-dependent issue. At Electric Spec we do want some showing. Showing is being in the 'now' of the story. Often it involves dialogue and/or in-the-moment thoughts and/or actions.
  • Do have a story resolution. This is also market-dependent; some markets prefer ambiguous endings. We do not. We prefer something to have changed.
  • If you have death in your story, earn it. I can't tell you how many stories we get where a male creature kills a female creature. If I don't identify, emotionally connect, with one of these characters as a reader...who cares if he/she/it dies? Not me.
  • Do write with a unique voice. Voice is tricky to define but involves everything: subject, tone, word choices, sentence lengths, punctuation, plot, characters, similes and metaphors, everything. Your fiction should be unique to you.
  • Do be creative. We'd love to see more mash-ups of traditional fantasy/sf/horror tropes, steampunk, magical realism, nonlinear chronologies, liminal fiction, your_creative_idea here.
Get those stories in!

04 July 2017

Celebrate!

I'm a believer in celebrating small victories. I just finished a chapter! Woo hoo! So, if you just submitted a story for the awesome August 2017 issue of Electric Spec, if today is a holiday, or if insert_your_achievement_here ...Celebrate it!