12 March 2019

Fiction Trends

We've been doing Electric Spec long enough to be cognizant of fiction trends. Today, I'm going to discuss two separate issues: format and content.

In terms of format, fiction is shorter. Flash fiction is becoming more and more popular. I think this is technology-driven as we read on our phones, etc. Some authors are even able to write a story within the confines of twitter! Impressive! Closely related to this, fiction starts in media res, in the middle of things, even more than ever. Fiction has shorter sentences and paragraphs, as well--all related to technology changes. Consequently, as editors, we do look for stories that start quickly.
Another huge format issue is audio. Audio is gaining more and more of the fiction market. (We don't have any plans at Electric Spec to get into audio.)
Something that hasn't happened much yet but has been promised is: multi-media and/or interactive fiction. I do believe in the future, we will absorb our fiction differently. :)

In terms of content, there have been four main trends I've noticed in recent years:

  • Genre mashups. I believe this is driven by the success of indie publishing. No longer are authors constrained by the rules of big publishers. So, readers have gotten more and more used to mashups, until they're requesting them. At Electric Spec we love genre mashups!
  • Dystopia/grimdark fiction. Of course, dystopian fiction has been around a long time, but starting about two years ago we really started seeing more of it. (I'll leave the cause(s) of this pessimism to your imagination.) This type of fiction is very pessimistic.
  • Solar punk/hope punk fiction. Solar punk is basically fiction that's climate-friendly with green technology. Often it has African and/or Asian aesthetics, as well. The African/Asian influences are a result of Black Panther's massive success, in my opinion. Yay! Usually solar punk is also positive and optimistic. Some people now refer to optimistic fiction as hope punk. I believe it is a direct reaction to all the negatives of dystopia/grimdark fiction. Of course, back in the 'golden age' of science fiction was almost always optimistic. We love solar punk and hope punk!
  • Kick-ass women protagonists. I think this is a direct reaction to the Me-Too movement. Writers and readers want to write/read stories of female empowerment rather than victimization. This will only increase with Captain Marvel's success. Electric Spec loves kick-ass women stories!
Whether you embrace the trends or buck them, good luck with your fiction!

05 March 2019

Huzzah!

We're still enjoying the fabulous February 28, 2019 issue ofElectric Spec! Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!
How about that nice cover art, huh?

What's your fave story? The Strongest Man in the Village? Guinevere? Riverbed? When He Stopped Crying? The Blessing of Song?

We enjoyed them all and hope you did, too!

28 February 2019

Fabulous February Issue Live!

We're Live! Check out the fabulous February 28, 2019 issue of Electric Spec!

Thank you authors! Thank you artists!

Thank you editors!

And, most of all, thank you readers!

27 February 2019

from Author Mueller

We're excited to feature the fantasy "Guinevere" by Amelia Dee Mueller. She tells us a little about her writing process.


Guinevere was the first short story I ever wrote. Before it, I’d already pumped out two pretty awful novels that I love to my deepest core but that will never see the light of day, but something about writing a short story was very intimidating to me. I’d wanted to tell Guinevere’s story for a long time, but I never thought a short story would give me the room to do it. She’s a legend, literally, and there’s no way I could cover all of her in only a couple thousand words. But I couldn’t come up with enough of a story to take up a novel’s worth. So her story sat on the back burner in my mind, waiting to be written.

Luckily something came a long that gave me the push I needed: a deadline and peer pressure. I was taking my first creative writing class at the University of North Texas and needed something to turn in. The only story I had ready was Guinevere's, and everyone in my workshop was turning in such wonderful works and I knew anything that I came up with last minute wouldn’t hold up against theirs. I get competitive in workshops, which is exactly what you’re not supposed to do, but I can’t help it. I wanted to write the best story of the course, and the best in me was the story I’d been sitting on for almost a year.

I forced myself to sit down and outline it as a short story, and then I stayed up all night pounding out a first draft that I hated, as we all do with our first drafts. I revised. I rewrote. I made it better. I turned in something I wasn’t proud of. I got good feedback from talented classmates. I revised. I rewrote. Rinse and repeat.

I could go into the grueling submission process I went through after that, but it would look pretty similar. Writing is about creativity and inspiration and character and all of that, but all of that is worthless without discipline. I needed outside forces to get me started on that path, but after I found it I was able to discipline myself.

Writing is hard work, but for us that commit to it, it’s work worth doing. Even the hard parts. Guinevere taught me that.


Thanks, Amelia! Very interesting!
Be sure to read "Guinevere" and the rest of our stories tomorrow, in the fabulous February 28, 2019 issue of Electric Spec!

26 February 2019

from Author DiMaggio

We're excited to feature the literary horror story "Riverbed" by Rachel DiMaggio in our next issue. Here's what she tells us about her process.

Dry Spells: Block or Boon?

I’ve often heard the advice to write every day. I’ve tried that many times, and it seems to result in very few worthwhile pages. When I’m in “writing as creative practice” mode rather than “first draft, go go go!” mode, I don’t force myself to write every single day. Instead, I try to write on a semi-regular basis for two reasons: to be ready for a story that is almost ready to bloom, and to explore concepts and ideas in search of stories that haven’t formed yet. I experience it as tending a wild and unpredictable garden. Sometimes the soil needs to rest. Sometimes it needs to be nourished with the writing, music-making, and art of others. Sometimes I just need to ignore it and let the briars and wild flowers take it over until there is so much life and color that I have to get back into the work.

Even so, there are a few tricks I use to get through writing blocks. Having a small space that you associated with writing is really helpful, whether that’s a desk, a library study carrel, or a home office. I’m very lucky to have a dedicated room for my writing, and when I go there I know that it’s creativity time. It’s also the space where I do yoga and meditate. I also primarily use this room for all the peripheral work associated with promoting and selling my writing. Having some writing rituals or objects, such as lighting a candle, using a writing-only notebook, or staking claim to a corner of the coffee shop has also worked for me!

I've recently been working on staying creative by doing art and craft projects that are completely outside of writing. Hand embroidery allows my mind to run down whatever paths present themselves, while providing a sense of satisfaction from producing something tangible. Plot points and character motivations tend to untangle themselves when I am not staring into a Word file, but at something else. The vigilante part of my mind that shoots down rogue ideas left and right tends to check out when I’m involved in a non-writing project. That’s when the cool stuff sneaks in.


Thanks, Rachel! Be sure to check out her story this week in the February 28, 2019 issue of Electric Spec!

25 February 2019

Author Davidson in BHotY

We heard some good news from Author Bill Davidson. His story "A Brief Moment of Rage" will be featured in the Best Horror of the Year Volume 11 later this year. Congratulations, Bill!

Be sure to check out his new SF story "The Blessing of Song" in Electric Spec on February 28, 2019!

21 February 2019

from Author Stone

In the upcoming fabulous February issue of Electric Spec we're excited to feature the fantasy "The Strongest Man in the Village" by Lucy Stone. She gives us some thoughts on writing...

Writing is very difficult, and I probably shouldn't be doing it. I have a job and a three-year-old. They're both very demanding, but have their lovely moments. The three-year-old has more lovely moments than the job, but he also has more excruciating moments than the job, so it kind of evens out.

I can't give up the job, because it pays my mortgage, and I can't give up the three-year-old, because he’s my little guy and I love him to the stars and back (which is a longer trip than to the moon). Writing would seem to be the expendable thing. Except it isn’t.

I used to write when my son was sleeping, but he doesn't nap in the daytime anymore, so I write in the evenings and on into the night, even when I know I have to get up early for work the next day, because I don’t love my job--or even my health--the way I love this.

So what is it? Why do I find it so easy to write about the negatives of writing, but not the positives?

I think it’s because the positives are as fundamental as breathing, so I don’t think about them much. My favourite is probably spending time with my characters in my head--listening to their various gripes and jokes and morose predictions--which I realize is something I did before I knew how to write, and still do now in the long moments when I don’t have a pen in my hand.

But there's also:

1) Day-tripping in other perspectives and other worlds, which you can wrap around you like a shawl when it’s cold and horrible outside.

2) Building up worlds in which you have the intoxicating power of control, and then realizing that you don’t.

3) Thinking, when you manage to pin down the slimmest, clumsiest shadow of a thought, that somebody else might recognize it, and say "Yes, that’s it--I’ve thought that too!"

4) Challenging yourself to think: what would this feel like? What would this look like? as though every scene is an intricate puzzle with no right or wrong answer.

5) Telling stories to please yourself, when the books you buy seem to miss the mark.

6) Re-writing other people’s stories the way you think they should have gone.

It's all the fun of reading, with the added bonus that you can congratulate yourself on having come up with it all.

That's probably where I should stop, because that’s the contradiction about writing I can never quite resolve: it’s losing yourself while at the same time pandering to yourself. Some people call it escapism, but everything about it is inescapably you.

That's quite a nice break for a mother, of course, because when you’re looking after a little one, you’re expected to be a Mother and not a person. I've written for most of my life, but never so feverishly as in the months after my son was born.

Anyway. I'll keep at it. I used to think I was doing it for the praise, but that has tailed off, and I’m still scribbling, so I guess I am doing it for love.


Interesting, Lucy! Thanks!

Check out all the stories on February 28, 2019!

19 February 2019

from Author Lowd

We're excited to feature the fantasy "When He Stopped Crying" by Mary E. Lowd in our fabulous February issue of Electric Spec.

Some days, there just don't seem to be any words. The blank document sits in front of you, inviolable. An empty snowfield that you can't imagine trekking across, because the bright sun and bitter cold would wear you down before your trail of footprints made it halfway across. Every word seems wrong; before you get halfway through a sentence, you delete it.

What does this have to do with my story, "When He Stopped Crying"? I wrote it on one of those days, when the blinding whiteness of the page seemed an insurmountable obstacle. A feeling that returned to me, only a little bit ago, when I was trying to think about what I have to say about this particular story. Because at some level, "When He Stopped Crying" says everything I wanted to say about itself, right there on the page: it's about being so tired that you're not sure what's real anymore, and it's also about how strange it is that a tiny creature like a baby can rule every aspect of your life, like some kind of mystical goblin emperor. There's nothing else to it.

However, I remember staring at the blank page that day, and feeling like I had no words inside of me. And yet, I had to find some, because I was at a writing date with a bunch of other writers. I could hear their keyboards tip-tapping, and I knew there was another forty minutes until we would take a break and check in. It would have been weird to simply pack up and leave early, but I couldn't take the pressure of listening to those keys tappity-tapping away for forty minutes without finding a way to join in. So, I succumbed to the peer pressure, and I put some words down on the page, even though I was sure they were somehow the wrong words and would lead nowhere. Eventually though, as I kept typing, they started to make sense, and now that story's in Electric Spec.

Sometimes, it's better to run into that snowfield without a plan, and leave footprints everywhere, than to simply stare at it until you get too cold, and it's time to go home. At least, one way you get to spend some time playing in the snow.


Thanks, Mary! Be sure to check out her story on February 28, 2019!

12 February 2019

from Author Davidson

We're excited to feature the SF tale "The Blessing Song" by Bill Davidson in our fabulous February issue of Electric Spec.

One of the most striking features of short stories is that they offer the reader incredible value, with so much packed into a few thousand words. I like to think that The Blessing of Song is a good example of that- there’s a lot in there!

The Blessing of Song is a space opera, one with actual arias. It came out of a simple idea that didn’t stay simple- an exploration ship dispatched on a hundred-year voyage to a distant planet, eventually all but forgotten as life goes on back on Earth .

Thrown back on their own ingenuity and hiding in orbit for generations, the crew of the Columbus change both physically and mentally, developing their own moral code and bizarre version of sanity. Probably no crazier than anything we accept as normal.

They survive, naked and filthy, on the decaying ruin of Columbus, but have a devious plan to live on the arc planet of Alifee, accepted by the Alifeeans.

When Earth finally shows up in the form of the Trek, a powerful warship, set for invasion of the world they have come to think of as theirs and the destruction of the Alifeeans, they are horrified. A moral dilemma is presented, one upon which the future of mankind may rest, but the reader is not asked to view Earthlings as the heroes of the story. The crew of the Trek plan to repeat the same barbaric acts that have seen indigenous peoples destroyed on Earth and (in the story) brought the planet to ruin.

Any loyalty the Columbus crew felt towards Earth evaporated generations ago. Earth is seen as alien, warlike and hostile. Both crews are strikingly ignorant of Earth, unsure, for instance, whether birds are venomous.

It might not be obvious at first read, but the story also offers a possible view of visitors to our own planet. Fallible and even incompetent, some of the efforts of the Columbus crew come to disaster and they are spotted and even captured, stories multiplying about them. But, they have quietly infiltrated themselves into Alifee’s systems, seeding it with technology that they control.

A final feature of the story is the dialogue of the crew of the Columbus, which I hope the reader will enjoy- I had fun writing it. I wanted rich and colorful speech patterns, musical and amusing but with martial overtones, and based it on the British naval language of the Napoleonic era. The wonderful Patrick O’Brian, who wrote the ‘Master and Commander’ series, does that so much better than me.


Thanks, Bill! Be sure to check out his story on February 28, 2019!

05 February 2019

production meeting notes

We, the Electric Spec Editors, recently had the Production Meeting for our fabulous February 28, 2019 issue!
Final stories were chosen with difficulty--because there were so many good options. Final art was chosen with difficulty (ditto many good options). Most authors in hold-for-voting heard back from us Sunday Feb 3. A few have yet to hear, but will soon.
For the first time, more than one editor had the same number-one story and really wanted to edit it. I had to step in to avert violence, or at least, very strong words and spilled food. :)

The hold-for-voting zeitgeist for this issue appeared to be some kind of London Fog. We had more than one spooky, London-based, and/or fog-filled story. I find this whole zeitgeist thing to be fascinating! Don't you?

In surreal news, we had to navigate through hundreds of golden retrievers to get to our meeting. I kid you not!

Next time: more specifics about the upcoming issue!

29 January 2019

subjectivity

We, the Electric Spec Editors, are working hard on the fabulous February 2019 issue. I believe slush reading is completed. This means everyone that submitted before the Jan 15, 2019 deadline should have received an initial email by now. This initial email would be essentially 'No, Thanks,' or, 'Stay tuned.' If you submitted before the deadline, and haven't heard back from us, your story might be lost in cyberspace (sorry!).
The editors are busy ranking the finalists in anticipation of our Production Meeting this weekend. At the Production Meeting we'll make all the final decisions. Which stories will we publish? Which art will we use for the cover? What will we put in Editors Corner? Thus, next week, I'll blog about the new issue! Yay!

In the meantime...
I've been struck recently by how subjective art--including short stories--appreciation is. I received a couple reviews of a piece that were polar opposites. One reviewer thought it was wonderful. One reviewer thought it was horrible.
I think it comes down to if the reader can empathize with the protagonists. Does the reader see him/herself in the characters? Sometimes, an author and a reader are very different and it doesn't happen. That's okay.

I guess my point is, if we don't publish your story, that doesn't mean other editors won't love it. It doesn't mean many readers won't love it. Good luck placing it elsewhere!

22 January 2019

the lens of personality

We, the editors, are working hard on the fabulous February issue of Electric Spec. The submission deadline for stories has passed. That means we are hip deep in slush. We have about one more week for the associate editors and editors to get through their slush piles, so if you've submitted, keep an eye out for an email. Then, we have about a week for the editors to peruse the finalists in the hold-for-voting pile. Our production meeting is scheduled for the first weekend of February. Thus, all authors should hear back from us soon after that.
(We are currently accepting submissions for the marvelous May 2019 issue.)

From reading slush I have a few tips...
It's probably not a good idea to open your story with a page of descriptions. It's probably not a good idea for said descriptions to read like a laundry list, e.g. She had brown hair, brown eyes, tan skin, purple pants, etc.
Every description needs to be expressed through the lens of your character's personality. I don't care what the description is. I don't care who the character is. I do care if the description is unrelated to the character.
Here's a description from a master's page one: I'm blond and blue-eyed and twenty-five, and my legs are strong and my bosom is substantial, and I have a waspy waistline. This is a bit laundry-listy but it has so much personality, it works.

Incidentally, the first line of this book is: I'd been waiting for the vampire for years when he walked into the bar. Wow!
This is an excellent telling first line. Among other things, it's chock-full of personality.
And, yes, this is from Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris.

Stay tuned for more info on the fabulous February issue!

15 January 2019

Telling

Today is the submission deadline for the fabulous February 28, 2019 issue of Electric Spec! Get those stories in by midnight U.S. Mountain Standard Time!

I had an epiphany recently, related to the fiction in our slush pile...
As you probably know, the Electric Spec editors are also authors. This week I've been working on a story for a contest. In the contest rules, the editors give examples of the types of dramatic first lines they desired. I gradually realized they were all 'telling.' The editors didn't use the word 'telling' but that's what they were.
Something about this seemed familiar...

Sure enough, in 2006, I wrote a blog entry Short Story First Lines with a bunch of first lines from award-winning short stories. (Not all the links therein still work. Try American Book Review's Best Novel First Lines, for example, instead.)
A lot of these first lines are 'telling,' as well. Eureka!

Therefore, I can say with confidence: consider telling in your first line!
Of course, here at Electric Spec, we think you should have some showing in your story, as well--but that's another blog post.

Good luck with your submissions!

08 January 2019

epistolary slush

The deadline for the first 2019 issue of Electric Spec is fast approaching: January 15! Get those stories in.

We are working on the slush pile for the issue. Surprisingly, I've read more than one epistolary story this year. An epistolary story is a narrative told via a series of documents. In the old days, these would be letters. Later, newspaper or magazine clippings, book excerpts and/or some combination of all of these, became popular.
Horror has a lovely epistolary tradition including Carrie by Stephen King and Dracula by Bram Stoker.

Nowadays, anything goes. The story could be told via blog posts, texts, tweets, (descriptions of) streaming videos, or whatever else you can imagine. I love the creativity behind these ideas. And many of the high-tech versions lend themselves well to science fiction.

However, I do think it's difficult to evoke an emotional response in a reader via documents. It's particularly difficult with experienced speculative fiction readers (like editors!). Furthermore, many of these epistolary stories utilize surprise endings. Sadly, it's difficult to surprise editors.

So, bottom line: please do send us your epistolary stories.
But make sure they're excellent!

01 January 2019

Beginnings

Welcome to the fourteenth year of Electric Spec! Wow, time flies! As the new year begins many of my writer friends are working on their New Years Resolutions including writing more, submitting more, or creating an effective writing schedule. If you are doing the same: good luck!

A deadline is looming. January 15, 2019 is the submission deadline for the fabulous February 28, 2019 issue of Electric Spec.

We've been working on the slush for the new issue and I'm struck by how crucial story beginnings are. We get hundreds of submissions for each issue, so sometimes editors only read the first page of a story. As a writer I know this isn't fair, but it's pretty common.
Authors need to capture the editor's attention quickly. This can be via a great author voice, snappy dialogue, personable characters, an intriguing plot setup, a unique world, or a host of other methods.
Market does play a part here. Our editors like and dislike certain things. The easiest way to see what we like is to read back issues of the ezine--and lucky for you, they're free!

Resolve to get those stories in! :)

And, oh yeah, Happy New Year!