18 December 2009

The Electric Spec Production Meeting

Every four months Lesley, Dave, and I spend a week or two reading the best stories of the lot. Right now our hold for voting file is running about 25 stories per issue. We each read on our own with no discussion, and we put them in order, our favorites listed first. I'm most concerned with the top ten stories, getting that order the way I want it. We often have the same stories in the top ten, and if one of us has one listed first, that can influence the vote, especially at the end of determining the issue. So it's important that I decide which is my absolute favorite story of the group.

You'll hear editors talk about "issue balance" a lot. I'd say that after good stories – and most of the stories in our hold file are good, quality stories – this is our primary concern. In speculative fiction there are several sub-genres: SF, Fantasy, Horror, and then sub-sub genres (I'm getting facetious here) like military SF, urban fantasy, cyberpunk, steampunk, hard SF, futuristic, and then cross-genre, like a military SF mystery or a vampire romance… you get the picture.

We stumble over genre sometimes. One round we got several good werewolf stories, almost enough to fill an issue. Well, short of doing a themed issue, we had to choose only one. Which leads me to the more particular, likely annoying aspect of choosing stories: subjective preference.

This is what can get us into trouble with each other, because our tastes run to wildly different styles and genres. After four years, though, we know each other pretty well. We've gone from arguing against stories more to "I knew you'd love that story."

Generally, we can settle on the top four very quickly. It's often that last story that makes our meeting drag on. Save issue balance, we have to battle it out. If we have a story one of us is adamant about, then the others will often defer. But we'll often dig deep into a couple of stories, examining the plot, theme, characterization, and actual writing, trying to get at which most deserves the spot.

Oh, and beer. There's always beer.

So there you have it, our production meeting. Thoughts?

17 comments:

lesleylsmith said...

We try to be objective and give every story a fair shake. How do we do this? We each numerically rank the stories from hold-for-voting and then I compute a numerical value for each story based on the three rankings. Usually the stories with the top numerical rankings end up in the issue.
As Editor Betsy alluded to, if an editor gives a story top rank, it will often have a high rank in the final tally. Unfortunately, issue balance does always seem to be an issue, e.g. we don't want to publish a whole bunch of vampire stories in one issue--then we'd be Electric Vamp instead of Electric Spec! :)
Frankly, the process kind of breaks my heart every time. All the stories that we've selected for hold-for-voting are good. I wish we could publish them all. :)
Good luck authors!

Deb said...

Thanks for the peek behind the curtain.

Betsy Dornbusch said...

You said it, Lesley. The process breaks my heart every time, too. There are always stories that got under my skin that don't make the final cut.

writtenwyrdd said...

It's neat to know how you go about making the selections. I imagine it might get a bit louder as the beer goggles are donned?

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