19 December 2017
|When you think of Christmas, you naturally turn to ...vampires, right? :) Okay, I admit that is a little nontraditional. But I'm very excited to be part of the fun vampire collaboration Nightly Bites, available now!|
12 December 2017
Additionally, I've been reading a lot of 'Best Of' short story collections and, consequently, have been thinking a lot about what makes an outstanding short story...
Description can be tricky for authors. It almost never works to have a laundry list of adjectives or other descriptors. If your fiction has any of these, get rid of them. Nix the tall, dark, and handsome.
I've noticed 'Best' fiction rarely has objective descriptions. Physical characteristics of people aren't even described. Speculative fiction, however, is a unique genre because stories often have non-human characters and non-Earth settings. In that case, you do need descriptions. But...
They should be subjective descriptions. They should be told only through the lens of your protagonist(s).
They should also serve the story. For example, the reader doesn't need to know King Zdofudasdlkf has five tentacles until the reader needs to know it. :)
Please send us your laundry-list-free stories!
05 December 2017
- "Sparks" by Heather Morris: When nine of the Dictator's ten cadres are hunting you, you've got to keep moving. So what kind of spark does it take to get you to stop?
- "The Ballad of the Blind Hunt" by Matthew Hornsby: Two hunters are out for revenge in post-apocalyptic Texas. But you can't hunt the traditional way when your target is a pure-strain alpha freak.
- "Clara" by Adriana K. Weinert: Some kids would be thrilled to have their toys come to life. Unless they're like Clara's toys.
- "The Fish Kite" by Mary E. Lowd: Most people wonder what would happen if you could start over. In this tale, you'll find out what happens when that option is no longer available.
- "The Chain Outside of Time" by Aaron Proctor: What if deja vu wasn't a fleeting moment but a full-time occurrence? Find out what life would be like in this thought-provoking story.
Thanks again, to everyone who helped make this happen!
And, thank you, Readers!
30 November 2017
28 November 2017
One of our excellent featured stories is Clara. We're pleased to feature some remarks by its author Adriana K. Weinert:
When I was a child, there was a period when I couldn’t sleep with the light out. Each evening, I would direct my mom to leave the desktop lamp on and pull a chair in front of it to shield me from its direct glare. Similar to Clara in my story of the same name, we all had monsters, imaginary or not, to struggle with as kids, and we all have scars, seen or invisible, to bear witness to battles won or lost.
Demons and monsters in the wardrobe are not only childhood afflictions though. As we grow, the wardrobe merely becomes less tangible and the monsters harder to call out. Insecurities, heartbreaks, and grudges reside in closets in our minds waiting to peek out. But I’ve found that once I resolve to crack the wardrobe door open and shine some light on what lies within, the monster deflates and is far easier to manage. The hardest part is to find courage to face what must be faced, as Clara too finds out.
Eventually, one night, I peeked under my bed finding nothing but dust and forgot to tell my mom to leave the light on. I’ve been sleeping in the dark ever since—through all the subsequent battles.
Thanks, Adriana! Very interesting!
Be sure to check out this story and all the others on November 30!
21 November 2017
One of our excellent featured stories is The Fish Kite. We're pleased to feature some remarks by its author Mary E. Lowd:
When I was ten, my grandmother died from early onset Alzheimer's. At the time, we didn't know whether her Alzheimer's was of the genetic variety that would have passed down to my father, sister, and me. We've since learned that it was not. But that question cast a big shadow over a ten-year-old. I wondered what it would be like to lose my memories. I worried that was how I would eventually die. In my ten-year-old way, I found a certain kind of peace with it; a way to live under that shadow. I had to, because it wasn't lifted until nearly fifteen years later. By that time, I had a daughter of my own, and I was seriously pursuing a career (as much as that's possible) writing fiction. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot of my fiction dabbled with questions of memory -- what it meant, and what it meant to lose it.
The first story I ever sold, "Forget Me Not," was about a man with an addiction to memory drugs -- Leland was a character with an artificial quirk inspired by my father's own perfectly normal forgetfulness. My mother has always had an excellent memory; my father not so much, and his forgetfulness has often helped him to remember his past in ways that are more comfortable than how they actually happened. I pushed that natural dichotomy to the extreme and provided a science-fictional explanation for it. A few years later, I was shocked and delighted to learn that the mechanism I'd described for targeted memory loss had actually been backed up by real science. Sometimes when science-fiction writers stab in the dark, we can still get it right.
Anyway, one of the strongest images from that first story, "Forget Me Not," involved a fish kite that Leland had made as a child. His fish kite was inspired by my own collection of My Little Ponies. I loved those ponies and treasured them -- until I was in high school and wanted some money. Somehow though, as an adult, I could always remember treasuring them, but I had a hard time remembering I'd sold them. Hours of happy playtime figured much large in my mental landscape than a few minutes spent handing a box over for a fistful of cash. Those missing ponies haunted me like Leland's fish kite.
Fast forward another decade, and discover the wonders of eBay. As my daughter got older, when I wanted to play ponies with her, my husband ordered us old ponies -- just like the ones I'd sold so long ago -- from eBay. Now, I have a new collection of ponies, similar enough to the ones I sold that I don't go looking for them any more. I know where my ponies are -- right on the shelf where I left them. My daughter and I can play ponies together any time she wants.
I was thinking about how I'd healed my own memory wound by replacing the ponies, and I decided that it was time to revisit Leland's story -- maybe give my character a chance to heal of his own.
(For anyone interested in reading "Forget Me Not," it's available online here: http://deepskyanchor.com/forget-me-not/ It's part of an entire collection of my short stories focused on questions of memory, called The Opposite of Memory.)
Thanks, Mary! Very interesting!
Be sure to check out this story and all the others on November 30!
14 November 2017
One of our excellent featured stories is The Chain Outside of Time. We're pleased to feature some remarks by its author Aaron Proctor:
Any good story should be woven from some big idea. Once storytellers lose that idea, the story seems to lose it’s reason for being told. We all know that great show that just went off the rails at some point. Well, I believe that happens when the writers lose their authentic sense of of the idea upon which the story grows.
While writing “The Chain Outside of Time," I drew upon my past struggles with addiction. The fatalism. The isolation. But that doesn’t mean that the story is specifically “about” addiction because I’ve seen that fatalism and isolation reflected in the faces of many of you out there. Maybe you’re depressed. Maybe you’re anxious. Maybe you just feel out-of-step. And maybe this is all just grandiose writer BS; but—for better or worse--it helped me write the darn thing.
And I really hope you enjoy it and get something out of it.
Thanks, Aaron! Very interesting!
Be sure to check out this story and all the others on November 30!
07 November 2017
Unfortunately, it also means there's never been more competition for readers.
Writers need marketing for their work. A difference between publicity and marketing is: publicity is putting your product in front of other peoples' audiences, while marketing is putting your product in front of your audience.
Thus, an excellent way to market your fiction is via short stories. Short fiction can help create your audience. It gives readers a specific taste of what you have to offer. (What other artistic endeavour can do this?) Short stories are thus even better than ads, and bonus: editors pay you rather than the other way around. Short fiction enables you to get your name out there. Depending on the short story venue, you can get your name and product out in front of people you might not reach otherwise--but they're still readers who are interested in your kind of stuff.
In the case of Electric Spec we post an author bio and often an author blog post, as well as keeping your story itself posted forever (or until you ask for it back). Can you say: link s to your website and social media? And, yes, links are good things.
And oh yeah, there are other benefits to short fiction. It can really hone your writing skills. If you can writ
e an excellent short story, let's face it, you can do almost anything. :)
Bottom line: short fiction is an excellent marketing tool!
What's happening with Electric Spec? Why, I'm glad you asked. :)
We finished the slush pile for the notable November 30 2017 issue. All authors should have heard from us with either a 'no thanks' or a 'we're going to hold this for voting.' If you didn't hear from us by now, something probably went awry. Please resubmit your story.
Next week I'll blog about the production meeting and start bragging about the new issue! Stay tuned!
31 October 2017
When science fiction first began a few authors tried translating a standard story, for example a western, to a science fiction milieu. In such a case, they would give different elements of the story science-fictiony names, but that's all they would change. Editors and critics refer to this kind of lazy writing as 'calling a rabbit a smeerp.' Once in a while, we get a story like this. Don't do it!
Ideally, every science fiction story has some uniquely SF element that is crucial to the story. It actually doesn't matter what you call things.
The real trick is to show protagonists deal with this uniqueness in a compelling way that resonates with readers, in a way that evokes emotions in readers.
Speculative fiction has the added challenge that protagonists aren't necessarily human. In fact, the protagonist often isn't human. Think ghost, werewolf, elf, god, alien, robot... You get the idea. I've disagreed with other writers in the past, however, in that I say none of these protagonists are truly not-human. Since readers are human, they need something they can relate to. Do you agree? Disagree?
Send us a story that proves me wrong!
And, oh, yeah, Happy Halloween!
24 October 2017
Regarding the slush...
I've been noticing lately that our society is more fast-paced than ever. We're used to instantaneous news, texts and pictures. Our reading habits have changed as well. In particular, for on-line publications we want to grab a reader's attention more quickly than ever.
It has always been a good idea to begin your story in media res--in the middle. Now, it's more
important than ever! Let's face it, you don't want to bore your potential readers (including editors) with
a lot of pointless chit-chat in the beginning of your story. (In fact, drop all the pointless chit-chat). You don't want to begin with the protagonist waking up in the morning. You don't want to begin with the protagonist traveling somewhere.
Some markets like a story that begins with a lot setting descriptions; that is not this market.
You do want to begin your story when the story begins, not when the setup begins. If need be, you can give the reader backstory or a flashback after you've already gotten them hooked.
When does the story begin? When the protagonist is in trouble, has a signficant problem--which is about to get much worse.
A slow opening is one of the most common reasons for a story to be rejected. Take a look at the beginning of your tale: do you start in media res? If not, consider cutting or moving some of the setup.
17 October 2017
We, the Electric Spec editors, are hard at work on the new issue. Right now that means we are going through the slush pile. Thank you for sending us your stories. We wish we could critique all the stories we get, but we just don't have that kind of person-power. So, here'a tip you might find useful.
Unique specific details make a story stand out. It's specific details that create your fictional world. The good news is: you, as a person, know a lot of unique specific details. Get them out, dust them off, put them in your story. Blow us away! For example, a black Aston Martin DB5 is much different from a silver Prius C, right?
The trick to making this work is expressing the details via your characters. When your characters convey unique specific details it actually helps you create unique characters. For example, does your character love his Prius, or hate it?
Send us your stories with unique specific details!
And check back here for more tips from the slush pile next week...
10 October 2017
In the meantime, we've starting working behind the scenes to get the new issue out. I've also been reading a book on the history of storytelling, all of which has made me think about the whole showing versus telling thing.
Experts disagree on when the first novel was published. Some say it was Le Morte d'Arthur by Thomas Malory in 1485, but there are many other opinions. Let's just say, prior to about 1400, storytelling was primarily an oral tradition. Imagine those folks of long ago sitting around the fire telling stories. Some of us have had that experience while on camping trips telling ghost stories and the like. Notice my verb choice: telling. These stories were often narrative summaries of exciting events such as hunting expeditions, death-defying stunts, or scary hook-handed monsters in lovers' lanes. Telling stories orally is still quite common around the world, right? Let me tell you what happened today at work....
When the modern novel was borne showing became popular in storytelling. Some experts claim literary novels are mostly showing the details of one or more particular persons, places or things. In fact, a current writing mantra is Show, don't tell. Some would say we've abandoned the excitement of telling.
I say: showing is exciting when you're showing exciting events in the moment. This enables readers to be right smack in the middle of the action. At Electric Spec we very rarely buy stories that do not have this type of showing. However, the best stories have both showing and telling. Show the exciting bits. Tell, or summarize, the less exciting parts.
What do you think of the whole showing versus telling dichotomy?
03 October 2017
Of course, this means we are starting to gear up for this new issue. This editor is deep in her slush pile--which means I have some advice for prospective authors. I think this advice is pretty general:
- Do check the submission rules of your desired market and follow them in your document. This includes: file format, document formatting, word length, genre, and, basically anything else that's listed.
- Do write a reasonable cover letter. This includes name, contact info, word-count, genre, and a short bio, including a few previous pubs. If in doubt, shorter is probably better.
- Do familiarize yourself with the market to make sure your story is compatible. The good news is: it's free on our site. :)
- Do avoid spelling and grammar errors--especially on the first page.
- Do grab my attention on the first page. There are a myriad ways to do this. It could be a great character, a great plot, setting, mystery, anything. You want me to think Ooh! I need to read more!
- Do have something changed at the end of the story.
- Do create something unique.
We want more steampunk. I also really enjoy genre mashups. Okay, if I'm being honest, it's hard to me to resist time-travel tales and SF involving quantum physics. Send them to us!
26 September 2017
One thread addressed the question: are authors really always writing about themselves? I had believed in some sense, every character is the author. But the idea that every piece of writing is about the writer was a new one for me. I'm not sure I agree. What do you think?
Closely related to this idea is: can writers inhabit otherness? Can they truly inhabit an alien being, be it a literal animal (or whatever) or a metaphorical one? I don't think they can. What do you think?
One thread dealt with the writer-reader relationship. Both writing and reading are transformative processes. Both are intimate processes, almost involving mind-to-mind communication. Wow. That's kind of mind-blowing to think about (as I write this and you read this)!
As with other forms of art, this two-person communication is necessary to make it art. Or is it?
When considering writers as artists... Some people think artists must walk a tightrope between the alien and the familiar. Art is the union of the bizarre and the normal. In creating art, do artists create a new world of the imagination?
Why do people read? One author said mystery is at the center of everything and readers are trying to solve mysteries. Or do readers want to be transformed? What about transgression? One author thought readers want to do things in literature that they can't do in real life. What do you think?
Suffice it to say, I'm still pondering all this stuff!
The submission deadline for the final issue of 2017 is October 15. Get those stories in!
19 September 2017
Probably the most common issue we see with stories is authors start the story too soon. Authors want to start at the beginning, but they need to start when the action starts--literally or metaphorically.
Rarely do you want to start with the protagonist being born, waking up, eating breakfast, driving somewhere, arriving at the office, answering the telephone, etc.
As an author myself, I totally understand the urge to start at the beginning. What I do is write those scenes (because I can't seem to help it) but then cut them after I've finished the first draft. I highly recommend looking at your first draft the way you imagine an editor would. What words does your story beginning need? Cut the extras.
A very effective writerly trick can be: giving a little non-chronological telling in the first paragraph of a story. This telling can really hook the reader. For example, The day I died was not a good day. I want to know what happened. Don't you? Consider a little telling.
Good luck with your story beginnings.
12 September 2017
Thank you very much, Authors!
Thank you very much, cover artist Brian Malachy Quinn!
I'd like to thank our associate editors Chris Devlin, Minta Monroe, and Candi Cooper-Towler. Thank you!
I'd also like to thank the other editors Nikki Baird and Grayson Towler. Thank you!
Thank you to our tech support folks, too!
Thank you to all the aspiring authors who submitted to us for the issue.
We appreciate you!
And especially, thank you, to our readers! We wouldn't exist without you! You rock!
And now we turn to the final issue of 2017...
05 September 2017
Back in high school, I tried writing about 20’s gangsters. I did no research beyond what I’d seen in movies. I just wrote the story and turned it in to a writing workshop, ready to be showered with praises for my genius.
As you might have guessed, that wasn’t what happened.
After the group was done picking apart my inaccuracies, I sulked back home with my ego significantly deflated.
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. Maybe there’s a topic you’re passionate about but are warry of after being told to “write what you know,” too many times.
So how do you write convincingly about an unfamiliar subject? Well, the short answer is to become familiar with it through research.
When I first started writing, research was a dirty word to me, probably because of school. I was scarred by long research assignments, reading old books on subjects I didn’t care about.
Fortunately, I soon discovered that research wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. In fact, I’ve started to enjoy it. Unlike school assignments, when I research a short story, I’m learning a subject I actually care about.
With research you can:
- Add realism to your story through key details
- Avoid glaring inaccuracies that can distract a reader (or publisher) from your story
- Add a layer of subtlety that will draw your reader in
Here are some research strategies I use for my fiction.
Ask an expert
Obviously, this is the best tactic. Speaking to someone who knows your subject well can reveal intricacies that books or the Internet never could.
My short story Paper Walls is about a young woman with schizophrenia in a mental hospital, something outside my realm of experience.
While I didn’t know anyone with schizophrenia in particular, I did know someone with a mental illness who had spent time in a mental hospital. And when I explained my concept for the story, he got excited and wanted to talk to me about his experience. I learned a lot from him that I might not have otherwise.
Whatever your subject is, there’s a good chance you know someone who is an expert (or at least knows more about it than you do).
Don’t just read the technical material
While talking to someone is preferable, it’s not always an option. And for that we have the treasure-trove of knowledge that is the Internet.
Unfortunately, one common mistake people make is to simply read technical articles on their subject and ignore the emotional elements.
While the psychological/medical articles about schizophrenia were useful, they didn’t really tell me what it feels like to have schizophrenia. Fortunately, I found a treasure trove of essays and videos by people with the illness talking about their experiences.
Listening to other people’s emotions makes it easier for you to put yourself in their shoes and imagine how you would feel in their situation.
Relate to events in your real life
While I’ve not been to a mental hospital, I have been to therapy and I have had trouble opening up to people, so I decided to make these sources of conflict in Paper Walls.
Think about something you’ve experienced that might give you a window into your subject.
Maybe your story is about an son and his estranged father. You might be very close to your father, but surely at some point you’ve been mad at him. Take that emotion and extrapolate outwards. Put yourself into your research and consider how you might feel.
Write an unfamiliar subject by becoming familiar
With the internet, instant communication, and libraries on every corner, we have access to more information than any other authors in history.
Using research, you can write convincingly about even the most unfamiliar subject.
Read more at https://jmhollingsworthblog.wordpress.com/.
31 August 2017
29 August 2017
I'm a member of the Codex Writers Group, and as with most of my flash fiction, this story was written for one of our internal contests. We're given 54 hours to write a story based on at least one of five prompts. We're not allowed to do any writing on a contest story before the prompts are given, but we can contemplate what kind of story we'd like to write. In this case, I got myself in a whimsical "wizard's tower" mood.
When the prompts were posted, "Who is the satellite?" jumped out at me. The question implies two characters (at least in flash fiction). Who else is in a wizard's tower? A familiar. What kind of relationship could a wizard and familiar have such that it's unclear who is the satellite? Oh, yes, this could get whimsical.
Usually we're well into day two of a contest before I have enough of a story in my head to start writing, but this one gelled quickly, and I was typing words within a few hours.
Another prompt was the delicious "How dark can you go?" While I didn't embrace that one, it did inspire me to add a hint of sinister to Maggie. She obviously loves her wizard, but by the end we know there's more to her than cuddles and sunbeam naps. If only we knew what that more was...
Thanks, Jeff! Very interesting!
24 August 2017
I speculate on the nature of gratuitous evil, and also on the loneliness--for elf and man--of being lost in one way or another in the often harsh urban landscape. The story takes place almost entirely in darkness, shot through with emotions colored the pensive blue of reflection and the electric blue of pain and ferocity.
Thanks, Roderick! Very interesting!
Be sure to check out this story and the rest of the Electric Spec issue on August 31, 2017!
22 August 2017
As everybody knows, Ada Byron (later Lovelace) designed software for Charles Babbage's Analytic Engine, or at any rate wrote about it. But, as just about everybody knows, the Engine never got built. How frustrating! Her life went downhill, with uncooperative racehorses reputedly making things worse. She died of cancer in her thirties.
One of my goals in writing "Ada: Or, The Limits of Logic" was to imagine her as a romantic heroine - that didn't take a great deal of imagination. Another was to imagine a world big enough to allow her to do the great things that she probably dreamed of - swashbuckling, and with plenty of opportunities for women. And a third was to root it in reality as well as I could.
Ada's own family background needed little work. Her father, Lord Byron, really did flee the country after a series of scandals - and probably was the father of his half-sister's child. She had an affair with a tutor at seventeen, and tried to elope with him.
It's easy to imagine the man she did marry a couple years later -- William, Baron King -- as some "tenth transmitter of a foolish face" and intellectually far below her. Au contraire: I was fascinated to learn that, later in life, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society, an honor that was not given out lightly even to the nobility. A few years after their marriage, he was created "Earl of Lovelace and Viscount Ockham." "Lovelace" was after an extinct title that had been in Ada's family, but why the insignificant village of Ockham in Surrey? The apparent tip of the hat (or coronet) to the philosopher and logician William of Ockham (1287–1347), the inventor of the principle known as "Occam's Razor", seems too good to be a coincidence, and does suggest some interest in logic. William, in my story, is a combination of the anonymous tutor and Ada's eventual husband.
As for Martha, Mr. Rumbolt, and the redoubtable Mrs. King - I couldn't find them, so I had to make them up myself. I hope you like all of them.
Thanks, Robert! Very interesting!
15 August 2017
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
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
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
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
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
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.
04 July 2017
27 June 2017
Summer can be filled with opportunities for writers. Yay! Summer can also be filled with distractions for writers. Boo! One writer friend of mine recently completed some pages while on vacation. Kudos, to you, writer! Another of my writer friends has to deal with her kids out of school in the summer. She has to be very organized to get her pages done. Kudos, to you, writer!
Whatever your personal situation, good luck producing pages!
The submission deadline for the next issue is fast approaching: July 15, 2017. Send us those summer pages.
20 June 2017
I made a list of books I'd like to read and consulted my local library. Lo and behold, they had most of them. I picked many of them up and have been happily reading ever since. (And, yes, libraries are awesome--but that's a post for another time.)
If you are frugal like me, there's another excellent source of free fiction. Yes, you guessed it:
Electric Spec. We have twelve years of super stories posted! They are all still there. For example, one of our first stories, ever, was "Stanley Kubric Channels Cheech and Chong" by Bruce Golden.
Check out the archives! (And let me know of any bad links.)
Send us your story, and who knows? Maybe someone will read it online in summer 2029!
13 June 2017
We've had a few different hosters so I don't have stats for our entire run of the ezine. But, so far this year, we've had approximately 29,183 visits and 95,989 hits. W00t! This is neat because it means authors and artists get eyes--and we're all about getting recognition for our authors and artists. And sharing awesome creative content, of course! We love our readers.
As an indicator of the ezine's popularity, I do have the stats for the blog's entire run. And they're pretty nice:
Pageviews all time history: 586,531.
I also love that we're international. Check out the graphic below:
Send us your stories!
06 June 2017
Even after twelve years, it's a little remarkable to me that each issue seems to achieve its own unique zeitgeist. I'd say the zeitgeist of this new issue is competition. We have two stories "Northwest Regional" and "Corporate Robo Renegade Piston" which are explicitly about competition. The other three stories also have competitive elements of the 'good versus evil' variety. Even Nikki's review has a 'love versus hate' dichotomy.
Of course, art isn't created in a vacuum... Is competition in the air in our human zeitgeist? I think it is. I'm happy that authors can capture that zeitgeist and use it in constructive ways.
And I'm grateful that we at Electric Spec can share the results of that creativity with the world at large.
We're accepting submissions for our awesome August 2017 issue. Send us your stories!
31 May 2017
Thanks to the authors, our artist, all the editors and behind-the-scenes folks! Huzzah for you! You rock!
Thanks also to the readers! You rock! We wouldn't exist without you.
What's your favorite story?
I'm still pondering...
30 May 2017
23 May 2017
Nicholas Sugarman will be sharing "Corporate Robo Renegade Piston" which puts a totally new spin on corporate competition! We'll also feature "Justice Enough" by Eric Lewis, a fascinating look at justice in a fantastic world. Finally, there's "Northwest Regional" by John Sunseri, another fantastic competition, like none you've seen before...
Hmm, I may be sensing a trend here. :)
As usual, we'll showcase some fabulous original art. There will also be a fun entry in Editor's Corner from Nikki Baird.
Be sure to check it all out May 31, 2017!
16 May 2017
Hello, Electric Spec readers,
My story, "The Dratt is Coming", is a product of my love of history and mythology. The protagonist, Gwenllian, the orphaned child of Prince Llywelyn ap Griffith and Eleanor de Montfort, was dumped in a monastery by Edward I. I decided to rescue her, transport her seven hundred and thirty years to the present day, and give her a life. The Dratt can be interpreted, if you wish, as a metaphor for any one of the many scourges that threaten us in the precarious twenty-first century. I've also drawn a comparison between the murkier aspects of the Internet and the Trojan Horse. I hope you enjoy my story and I hope it makes you laugh. That’s my main purpose in writing.
Thanks a lot, Maureen! We appreciate your contribution.
You can read "The Dratt is Coming" starting May 31, 2017 at Electric Spec.
09 May 2017
"The Axe" is one of my rarer attempts to write humorous speculative fiction. There was an illustration on the Hit Record site asking for people to write about an axe-wielding character. I used that as a prompt and wondered what it would be like to receive a magic axe that had been passed down for generations in secret.
I have been fascinated with time-travel for quite a while now. I have been playing around with a variety of theories I've read about. They have me teetering between the multiverse option and the conservation of matter and memory/immersion considerations. In "The Axe," I opted for memory retention but immersion. Let me explain the possibilities:
One of the enduring problems of time travel theory we often refer to as The Grandfather Paradox. If you go back in time and kill your grandfather, would you poof out of existence? Would you go on existing without a grandfather in your past, either in this universe or another you created when you modified history?
The multiverse explains quite a few of the paradoxes. When you go back in time, you don't go back into your history. You go back into a history in which you popped out of existence in your pre-travel present and appeared as an older man to the you native to that time. If you go back prior to your birth and kill your grandfather, it doesn't matter because the one who provided the DNA for your parent still lived long enough to bear children in the timeline you left. Important to note: you will have created a timeline in which you really ruined your grandmother's life.
Other theorists have suggested that on returning to the past, you would simply enter the awareness of yourself at that earlier time. It's sort of a memory transplant. The earlier you suddenly is aware of his or her future life. Instead of creating a new universe, you go back in time like a do-over. This is called immersion, because you enter the past as yourself at that time, not as a new visitor. Some theorize that going into the past leaves you gradually or instantaneously with no memory of your future. In that case, traveling to the past is useless, because you are unlikely to do anything differently.
I'm working on a non-sequential novel called "Time Bump." In that universe, time travel paradoxes are common, and you create a new timeline every time you enter the fourth dimension. It defies another time travel paradox, which is often called "first cause." In the story, the main character starts time traveling because a much later version of himself time traveled, making him so invaluable in the future that he was rescued from the shorter-term future when he was about to get killed. In rescuing him, his future saviors create a "time bump," or a paradox that causes him to start time traveling in the past.
Very interesting, Mark. Thanks!
You can read "The Axe" at Electric Spec starting on May 31, 2017.
02 May 2017
First of all, the meeting got postponed because of a blizzard in metro-Denver! Yikes! When we finally got together the snow had already started melting, the sun was shining, and we were all glad to get out of the house. All the editors had finished reading slush and had ranked their stories from top to bottom. I compiled a list of story totals and sent it out. A few stories we all really liked. We started at the top of the ranked totals and discussed. It took very little time to pick out five stories and some art work for the issue. Editors end up editting stories that were at or near the top of their individual ranked lists. We discussed some other Electric Spec business and that was about it for business. Easy-peasey.
We also had a discussion about rejection. All the editors are creative people and understand what's involved in submitting creative work. As creators we well know the disappointment of rejection. That's part of the gig. As editors we're sad we can't accept everything. So, if your story was rejected, you can take a little solace in knowing your story was publishable. It just wasn't a good fit for this particular issue. We empathize. Rejection sucks! But good luck in the future.
Folks who had stories in hold-for-voting (and you know who you are because you received an email already) should receive an email today or very soon with the decisions. If we selected your story, you will also receive a contract. Please look over the contract and other info in the email and get back to us soon. Once we receive the signed contract back, we'll start editting.
And we do edit. Authors need to be able to take some feedback. We do not rewrite your story. We make suggestions. In our twelve years of existence I think one time the editor and the author couldn't agree on story edits and we went our separate ways.
We also ask for bios, webpage links, etc. which we post on the Electric Spec website under Links. We've been asking creative folks for comments for this blog (Right here!) as well. Please consider telling us about your creative process!
So, stay tuned right here. I'll start blogging about the upcoming marvelous May 31, 2017 issue next week!
28 April 2017
We have started to work hard on the marvelous May 31, 2017 issue of Electric Spec! We're busy finishing up the slush pile right now. Folks should get an email by today or tomorrow if they are rejected (bummer!) or move on to the next level (hold-for-voting). Please note if you submitted and don't hear from us by tomorrow...something may have gone awry.
All the editors have to rank the stories in hold-for-voting from top (#1) to bottom. After I get the rankings I compile the total points for each story. Stories with the smallest number of points will probably get into the issue.
This weekend we have our production meeting scheduled. We discuss the stories, starting with the ones with the smallest number of points. Different editors advocate for different stories and have to agree to edit them. We also have to consider things like issue balance. This is primarily genre. For example, we don't want to have 5 horror stories--despite my post from last week. We also try to pick the cover art at the production meeting.
After the production meeting I email all the stories we don't accept (bummer!) and each individual editor emails the authors they will work with on editing. We send out contracts and after they're signed, we get to work!
Next week, here, I'll tell you what happened at the production meeting.
Of course, we're currently accepting submissions for the August 2017 issue.
18 April 2017
Quite a bit of research has been done on the appeals of horror. For example, Dr. Deirdre Johnston's 1995 research into the motivations for viewing graphic horror said
- gore watching low empathy, high sensation seeking, identification with the killer
- thrill watching high empathy and sensation seeking, identifies with victims, likes suspense
- independent watching high victim empathy, high positive effect for overcoming fear
- problem watching high empathy for victim, but negative effect, sense of helplessness
13 April 2017
Get those stories in!
Of course, immediately after that we'll be accepting submissions for our next issue (August 2017).
11 April 2017
|A Jack By Any Other Name
When interstellar singer spy Jack Jones has to solve his own murder on The Shakespeare things do not go smoothly.
It's available in all the usual places in all the usual formats--including audio!
04 April 2017
- Multiple points of view are fun, but they need to make sense. Each pov character needs to contribute something unique. Ideally, a pov character has a lot on the line.
- Create well-rounded characters. Consider giving all your characters both good and bad qualities. Even bad guys shouldn't be all bad. Remember, you want the reader to empathize with your characters.
- Watch out for non-said dialogue tags--especially in a short story. Non-said dialogue tags take the reader's attention away from the story. Said dialogue tags fade away. Incidentally, with the increase of stories on various audio platforms, consider having fewer dialogue tags. Also do not include adverbs with your dialogue tags.
- Do have a story resolution. This is a bit market dependent, but at Electric Spec we want something significant to be different at the end of the story.
- Resolve all your McGuffins. A McGuffin/MacGuffin is an object or device that acts as a trigger for the plot. I don't recommend them, but if you use one resolve it! For example, if your story has a monster chasing the characters the monster needs to eventually catch up to them.
- Obey the principle of Checkhov's gun. Every element in the story needs to be necessary. For example, if there's a loaded gun in scene one it needs to go off. (And, yes, this is similar to the above point.)
Thanks for sending in your stories! Keep it up. :)
28 March 2017
I say if you give up, it is impossible to succeed. The only way to succeed is to keep trying, keep striving, keep trying to fulfill your dreams. Don't give up. Don't lose heart.
Consider adjusting your definition of success. If you can find joy in creating new characters and new adventures, isn't that success? Perhaps interacting with other writers and sharing knowledge and ideas is success. Showing your stories to your friends and family could be success.
As writers/creative people we're lucky to live in this time. There are more opportunities than ever to share our work with other people. What new amazing new idea can you come up with?
I look forward to finding out. :)
21 March 2017
- You need an emotional punch. Your ending needs to harken back to the problem in the beginning. For example, if your protagonist's problem is he lost his job and is depressed, by the end of the story you need to address both the external and the internal problem. Did he find a new job? Is he still depressed? Thus, the conclusion of the story should specifically show the protag's emotional state, e.g. He smiled. You want to take the reader along on the entire emotional journey from start to finish. Don't assume the reader will get to where you, as the author, are. Bring the reader along via showing.
- Sentence order in the paragraph is important. Word order in the sentence is important. Studies show people pay the most attention to things at the beginning and at the end. And they tend to remember things at the end the most. Thus, if you can rearrange your paragraphs to have the most emotionally punchy sentence last it will have more effect. If you can rearrange your sentences to have the most emotionally punchy word last it will have more effect (still obeying grammatical rules, of course!).
- An overlooked writerly tool is: spacing on the page. A line has more emotional punch for the reader when it is isolated, i.e. surrounded by white space. Therefore, it can be very effective to give important lines their own paragraphs. Consider rearranging your final page. In particular, as an editor I often reccomend the last line of a story stand on its own:
See how the line alone is more emotionally punchy than when it was buried in a big paragraph?
It can take a story from good to great!
14 March 2017
- Obey the submisison rules of the market. Each market has slightly different submission rules. Look them up. ( Electric Spec Submissions) Follow them. For example, we want *rtf files not *doc or *docx files. If you don't follow our rules it causes us trouble and that is one strike against the author.
- Proofread for spelling and grammar mistakes. A lot of mistakes is a strike.
- Length Check your market's stories for common accepted lengths. We accept longer length stories but we publish them less often. (Modern readers don't seem to want looong stories.) Similarly, we publish flash less often. No matter what your story length, it does need to tell an entire story and not contain filler.
- Don't use story cliches. As an editor, you would not believe how often we see certain scenarios. This week I've seen a lot of stories that begin with the character waking up. Thus, I am less inclined to take one of those. I understand it can be difficult for authors to know what's common but that's why you read a lot of stories, right?
- Create unique characters. I am much more inclined to take a story if the main character is unique. They should be special with a special way of talking, thinking, feeling and/or acting. Maybe they even have special and/or supernatural/superhuman skills... (We are a speculative fiction ezine, after all.)
- Try to evoke reader's emotions. A successful story makes the reader feel something.
07 March 2017
We've been getting tons of nice feedback (including from staff members)...
The best story I've read in at least a year!
What do you think?
Consider sharing with your friends and family.
Did you know we have bios of all the authors and artists off the Links page? Well, we do. :)
We want to encourage author success, so, consider checking out the authors' works elsewhere...
28 February 2017
- In "The 'aiei of Snow" D.A. D'Amico shares a beautiful fantasy about family and everything that comes with it.
- David Bowles creates an amazing mash-up of high energy physics and native mythology in "Quintessence".
- Kathryn Yelinek's "The Improbable Library" lets us visit the fantastic library we all wish we could go to again and again.
- Jay Barnson makes our skin crawl with "Crawlers." Let's just say, natural disasters could be even more terrifying than we might have thought.
- In "General Notice to Off-World Visitors" Dana Martin puts troublesome tourists on notice.
- Bonus: In Editor's Corner Nikki Baird presents "Author Interview: Laurence MacNaughton." Laurence has a lot of helpful advice and even some freebies...
Thank you readers!
23 February 2017
21 February 2017
Growing up in a Mexican-American family, I was fascinated from an early age by the legends and myths of the borderlands and Mexico. At college, that fascination grew into scholarly interest in the culture and language of Mesoamerican peoples that rivaled my deep love of speculative fiction.
One of the most prevalent mythic cycles in pre-Colombian lore is The Five Suns, an epic description of the repeated creation, destruction, and rebirth of our world as the gods refined their skill and overcame their rivalries. Prophecies from before the Conquest promise that this fifth age of earth will also come to an end via violent earthquakes, and a new era--more perfect, peopled with folk of greater wisdom and goodness--will emerge under a new and brighter sun.
For the longest time, a need to tell the tale of that next transition has tickled the back of my mind, a creative itch I knew I’d eventually scratch. Then came the day that, on vacation in Mexico, I happened to be in a small Afro-Mexican town in Oaxaca when a group of men and women performed the traditional Dance of the Devils. Also watching the subversive celebration--which preserved the native gods of freed blacks right under the noses of their Catholic priests--were two women, holding hands, enrapt as I was.
The wheels of my mind turned. The story clicked into place, a blend of myth and science and cosmic horror that echoed the syncretic religious ecstasy I beheld that day.
We all of us wish for a better world. What sort of anguish would push us to risk this one to usher in the next? I hope that with "Quintessence" I give an answer that rings true and human in your minds and hearts.
Thanks, David! Fascinating!
Check it out on February 28, 2017!
14 February 2017
They will be:
- The 'aiei of Snow by D.A. D'Amico
- Quintessence by David Bowles
- The Improbable Library by Kathryn Yelinek
- Crawlers by Jay Barnson
- General Notice to Off-World Visitors by Dana Martin
Congratulations to all of these authors!
Thank you to everyone who submitted.
We'll have more preview info in the next two weeks.
07 February 2017
We've started emailing authors in the hold-for-voting list with the good or bad news. If you sent us a story between October 15, 2016 and Jan 15, 2017 and you haven't heard from us by the end of this week...bad news: your story likely got lost in cyberspace.
To reiterate: authors in hold-for-voting will hear from us this week.
As usual, it was a very tough time picking stories. Some behind the scenes discussion included:
- Humor is tricky because it is very situational. We have authors and readers from all over the world--which is a good thing--but it means humor doesn't always translate.
- Flash fiction (roughly speaking, fiction less than ~1000 words) is tricky because it's difficult to tell a complete story in that kind of page real estate. But we do have a flash story for the next issue.
- If the protagonist is not sympathetic, readers (and hence editors) are less likely to like a story. Ideally, your characters have both good and bad qualities.
- Stories over ~5500 words were not popular with editors because it's more work to edit them.
I better get back to work putting the issue together.
31 January 2017
We are starting to put together the fabulous February issue of Electric Spec. Right now we're in the process of choosing stories and art for the issue. This is, frankly, the most difficult part of the whole process. We get so many great stories submitted it's disappointing we can't publish all of them.
My hat's off to all authors and artists who have the gumption, the imagination, the will to create something amazing out of ...nothing. Think about it. Before you created your story, your world, your characters, your images there was literally nothing there. Possibly this feat--creating something out of nothing--is one of humanity's greatest abilities. It is amazing.
Bottom line: even if we don't pick your story or image you should still be proud of your creativity. You rock!
I want to send a shout out to the person who came up for the idea of Electric Spec twelve years ago: David E. Hughes. Because of your vision an ezine has existed for twelve years where before there was nothing. Of course we couldn't continue to do it without our awesome editors Grayson Towler, Nikki Baird, Minta Monroe, Cani Cooper-Towler, Chris Devlin. You are also creating something out of nothing. Kudos!
Next week: behind the scenes at the production meeting.
24 January 2017
- Carefully choose pov (point-of-view). Generally, you want your main character to be the most interesting character in the story, with the most relevant skills/abilities and the most to lose.
- Watch out for a lot of set-up in the beginning of the story. Probably the most common edits we make in stories is to suggest they start later. Do you really need that page of description in the opening?
- Watch out for lectures. I admit there is a long SF tradition of explaining the science to the supporting cast but I say: do this very sparingly. I think the era of long scientific monologues is over.
- Watch out for telling. If your story consists of one character telling the reader what happened--with no showing, it's not appropriate for our market. IMHO, save your telling for sitting around a campfire under the stars.
- Please don't send us stories with super-common plots. One we see a lot: the protagonist--who seems like a human--is really something else, like an alien, a zombie, etc, etc. Surprise! (Not.) We also see a lot of men murdering women, girl friends, wives, neighbors, etc. (Should I be concerned about the welfare of writers' significant others?) Murder in and of itself isn't really enough of a story. I had one grumpy creative writing teacher who always said you had to earn your murders.
- Consider an unusual story element such as a nonlinear chronology, unreliable narrator, or a multiple-first-person (we) pov. Sophistication catches our notice.
17 January 2017
What are your favorite Butler stories?
I must admit Parable of the Sower really speaks to me. The dystopian aspects are chilling. The environmental collapse seems prescient.
What do you think Butler's influence has been on our culture?
IMHO: huge! Furthermore, her work, her life and her courage speak to readers more and mroe every year.
In other news we've closed for subs for the fabulous February 2017 issue. We're deep in the slush pile...
10 January 2017
Of course, after that we'll consider your story for our marvelous May 31, 2017 issue.
Over the holidays I actually went to a couple movies, in actual movie-theaters! It made me think about the eternal dichotomy artists--including authors--must face: art versus entertainment. Art is difficult to define. It includes a diverse range of activities which are intended to evoke some response in the viewer. Entertainment might be defined as an activity that holds the interest and attention of the viewer, often giving pleasure. Hhm. If you think these seem very similar I agree with you. (Maybe my definitions could be better?)
In my subjective opinion, a movie in which everyone dies in the end might be considered more art-y. Thus possibly the divide between art and entertainment is pleasure. If something is more pleasurable it's more entertaining? If something is less pleasurable it's more artistic? I need to ponder this some more.
At any rate different fiction markets have a different balance of art vs. entertainment. Before you submit a story you should peruse previous issue of a 'zine. Luckily, we have all the issues of Electric Spec still available! And they're free! Wow!
Here at Electric Spec we're probably a little bit more on the entertainment side of the divide...
Send us your stories!
And stay tuned for an exciting new issue at the end of February!