Cover image by Brian Malachy Quinn
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!