15 August 2008


Something Lesley said in our recent editor's meeting struck me. She spoke of our mission being to support up-and-coming authors. Thinking in terms of mission begs the deeper question: Why do we do what we do?

Much of an editor's job is thankless and focused on the negative. We send out far more alas-ograms* than hold-for-voting notes. We read some less than stellar stories. Each editor reads slush here at ElectricSpec, the equivalent of a few books worth over the course of a reading period, so it consumes time. We spend three hairy weeks a year in production. And we don't get paid. So why? Why stay on?

ElectricSpec was not my idea. I'm not a founding editor. I was invited on staff for V1I2, tried it as an experiment, and I've haunted these virtual hallowed halls ever since. We're deep into our third year and after our promotion efforts at WorldCon, we've spent some time thinking about where we'd like to go with the magazine. Our subs are up. We've got momentum. We're getting our name out there. I mean, even Sheila Williams of Asimovs approached a couple of us to find out what ElectricSpec is, and by the end of WorldCon, people were at least pretending they'd heard of us.

But, vague fame and recognition notwithstanding, why do I stay on? What part of our mission calls to me?

It's the STORY itself, humankind's time-honored method of making sense of the universe and our place in it, recognizing the heroes in our midst, seeking reassurance that despite every odd, all will come right in the end. Story brings us together in a way nothing else can. Story creates a beneficial tension between author and reader, a contract that says: we both bring all of ourselves to a Table and there we will meet and understand and empathize. Enduring that tension involves trust of the deepest sort, a sort of negotiation of the soul. All this from a few words of prose. And I have the honor of maintaining one of those tables. Editing is like laying out candles and a cloth, and maybe a glass of fine wine, to enlighten the experience for both reader and writer.

And that, friends, is why I do it.

*Shamelessly stolen from some author at WorldCon--she has brilliant red hair and is tall--that's the most credit I can give at the moment. One of my collegues might recall her name.


Tburger said...

I'm always excited by magazines that (a) have a plan, (b) have driven editors, and (c) publish cool stories. It wouldn't surprise me if - like Apex recently did - you guys started paying pro rates in the future. What's especially exciting is that you guys aren't funded by a publishing house (I think), so running for three years under your own steam is impressive. Markets like ES are a great place for up-and-coming writers and established ones, in my opinion. Not to mention people who enjoy reading short stories.

On the other hand, I'm an idiot. After waiting for a story that I submitted to ES over two months ago, I only just realized that I sent it to your editors/query email address, and not your submissions address. I was wondering why I never got my "we're holding your story for voting" email! Oh well. I can see the future: I will be resubmitting.

David E. Hughes said...

I do it for the money! Money, money, money! Oh, wait a sec, I don't get any money. In fact, I'm actually spending money on this venture. So . . . I take it back, it must be for the story, as you say.

Oh, and thanks, tburger for your comment. We are not funded by a publisher or anyone else, for that matter. We'd love to pay pro rates, and we'll do so if we can figure out a way. As far as your story, I don't remember seeing something in the editor's in box. If you send it to the submission in box, you'll get an auto reply saying that we got it.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Thanks, tburger. :)

lesleylsmith said...

Hey, Bets, "alas-o-gram" came from Lisa Mantchev. In fact, I see she posted some pix from WorldCon on her blog: