21 March 2023

AI Kerfuffle

If you've been following the news lately, there has been a lot about artificial intelligence (AI). I think the terms AI and machine learning are quite misleading; computer software isn't intelligent and can't learn the way human beings do. Humans 'train' computer software using existing data to create a 'model' of the data. Then, humans can use this software model to predict new data. We had quite a discussion about AI-generated content at the production meeting. The result was a change in our submission policy and this portion of the recent Letter From the Editors:

We find ourselves contending with what was once a science fiction concept: AI-generated content.

Those of you who have seen the updated submission page or our blog will know that Electric Spec does not accept machine-generated or assisted content--meaning stories or artwork. We don't have space in this letter to review all the pros and cons of the various ways automated tools are impacting the creative landscape. Yet we can encapsulate our reasoning in two basic points:

1. As anyone who has read the recent news about Clarkesworld magazine knows, machine-generated stories can be produced in such quantity so quickly that they flood the submission process. We simply do not have the time to sift through so much material.

2. We believe the most critical function of creativity is about human connection. An artist reveals something of their inner self--their soul--with their creation and communicates their perspective, imagination, and uniqueness with each person they touch with their work. No matter how deftly it imitates human creativity, machine-generated content lacks that essential quality.

So as you read this issue's stories, think about how they allow you to touch the life of each author.

Hopefully, all this will end up being a minor kerfuffle...
Keep reading Electric Spec for human-centric stories written by humans!

14 March 2023

Celebrating super stories!

Huzzah! We're still celebrating the fabulous February 2023 Electric Spec issue!
So many super stories...
  • "What the Buck!" by ZoĆ« Blaylock--Discover what happens when the only thing worse than being abducted by aliens is not being abducted by aliens.
  • "Hecesiiteihii" by Jim Genia--A young warrior encounters a legend from the pre-colonial past of North America in the modern world.
  • "The Willingham Bay Witches" by Sarah Jackson--What's more dangerous than being a detective? Trying to solve mysteries in a town full of witches.
  • "Duet for a Soloist" by Jameyanne Fuller--Music and magic intertwine as the rivalry between two sisters reaches its crescendo.
  • "Galatea at the Circus" by Ana Gardner--When a virtual being enters a circus of the imagination, her freedom is on the line.
Which story is your favorite?

07 March 2023

From Author Jackson

We are excited to feature "The Willingham Bay Witches" by Author Sarah Jackson in the fabulous February 2023 issue of Electric Spec. Sarah was kind enough to send along some comments about the story.

My short story The Willingham Bay Witches grew out of three main ideas converging in a fairly haphazard fashion.


I've been a witch fan for a very long time, so while I wasn't at all surprised to find myself writing a story about a coven of witches, I was slightly dismayed that they turned out to be such assholes.

I've written other stories about good, kind witches who are excellent role models, but these three arrived, if not wicked, then definitely ruthless, selfish, and opportunistic.

While my protagonist, Sandy, has a magical gift, they don't particularly align themselves with witchcraft, but do feel envious at the feeling of belonging they believe they might find in a coven. (Though that isn't always the case, as poor Mona discovered to her cost.)

I didn't know it when I started writing the story, but I was exploring some ideas and feelings around femininity and feminine power, which as a feminist I have always championed, but as someone who now identifies as nonbinary, never strongly related to.

I wanted to write witches who were powerful and frightening, but not in the old misogynist mode that so many witches were cast in. They're not bad because they are powerful women, they are powerful women and they're bad. That's what I was aiming for, anyway.

Small town drama!

That all emerged as I was writing, but my starting point was the idea of a witch running a seaside tearoom and lording it over the locals. Evil, but in a kind of petty, mundane way.

The setting was influenced by the small town I grew up in, where there seemed to endless feuds about which pasty shop was the best, or where you got your haircut.

I thought it would be interesting to take these powerful supernatural beings and put them in this very normal place with limited horizons, where a new cafe opening seems like reasonable grounds for murder.

Seaside noir!

The third ingredient was a bit of film noir pastiche. Once I had the idea for the tearoom coven, I needed a protagonist to discover their schemes.

Initially I thought about making them a real private detective or supernatural investigator (I definitely didn't want to go down the witch hunter route because misogyny). Perhaps even an especially dogged health and safety inspector from the council.

But then I realised it would be much, much funnier to have a dreamer who had done an e-learning course in private investigation (they're real!) and felt equipped to take on the case.

I also thought it would be a fun subversion if they were a disaster bi (like myself) who was already in love with the femme fatale, who in fact goes looking for her rather than waiting for the dame in question to come waltzing into their office.

Once I had those details Sandy appeared more or less fully-formed. It was very enjoyable writing from their point of view because they think they're in Brighton Rock or The 39 Steps, but actually they're in a Point Horror book.

I do hope they ditch Debbie and get their thumbs back.

Thanks, Sarah Very interesting!
Check out "The Willingham Bay Witches" and all the rest of the stories now!

28 February 2023

Fabulous February Issue Live!

The fabulous February 28, 2023 issue of Electric Spec is live! Woo hoo!
Thank you so much to our artist and authors!
Thank you to the Electric Spec staff! You rock!

And, last but not least: thank you readers!

21 February 2023

From Author Fuller

We are excited to feature "Duet for a Soloist" by Author Jameyanne Fuller in the fabulous February 2023 issue of Electric Spec. Jameyanne was kind enough to send along some comments about the story.

I wrote “Duet for a Soloist” as part of a series of short stories set in the same fantasy world, a world where everyone has a magical bond with an instrument they call their Harmony, and they use their Harmonies to create Resonance, which gives strength to the Phoenix who carries the world. “Duet for a Soloist” is the fourth of these stories to be.

I wrote my first story set in this world, “Dissonance,” more than ten years ago for a creative writing class in college. In 2016, “Dissonance” was published by Abyss and Apex. By that time, I written a second story, “Harmonies for Cadence,” which was published by the Voyage YA Journal in 2021, and I was working on an epic poem about the mythology of the world, “A World in Seven Flames,” which appeared in the 2020 anthology Twilight Worlds, the Best of New Myths Volume II.

I’ve always loved the concept of interconnected standalone novels set in the same world, along with the idea of writing short stories in the same world as longer works. Back in college, and to this day, I approach many of my writing projects with this in mind. But when I wrote this first story, and even the second story, I didn’t intend for them to become a broader series of connected stories. I thought of “Dissonance” as a single story, a story and a world I loved, yes, but I didn’t have ideas for more. When I wrote a second story, “Harmonies for Cadence,” I viewed it only as a companion to “Dissonance”: “Dissonance” was about a girl who seemingly had no Harmony, while “Harmonies for Cadence” was about a girl who seemingly had too many Harmonies. But once I wrote that second story, the gears in my head started turning, and the project suddenly seemed much bigger. I had a whole world to explore, and I had so much freedom to do it.

The benefit to writing connected but standalone short stories, I discovered, is that there is always more to explore. Because each story is so short and focused, there is always more to the world, tucked around the edges of stories and waiting to be uncovered, or not even present in earlier stories. Over the years, my world building has shifted, and if I look back at “Dissonance,” I find elements of the world building that I might recognize as inconsistent with what I’m writing now, but are in fact simply a different way of looking at the same aspect of world building. It is so fun to just be able to play around in this world, creating it more fully with each story. In addition to the four pieces that I’ve had published now, I have seven other stories in various stages of revision and submission, and ideas for many more stories. My goal is that all of these stories stand alone, showcasing different pieces of the world and different moments in these characters lives, but I also eventually hope to put these stories together into a collection that will reveal a larger story of this world at this point in time. I’ve even been working on a novel, though that’s set five hundred years after the short stories, when the world is very different. This means that while much more of the world building is nailed down in the novel, I still have so much to explore in the time of the short stories.

“Duet for a Soloist” specifically came about as part of a mini-arc of stories about kids in this world who don’t fit in, but unlike the characters in “Dissonance” and “Harmonies for Cadence,” they don’t find a way to fit in and instead decide to build an orchestra of their own. I’m also revising a story about Po, the deaf boy Nina meets in this story who inspires her to take action. I’m also working on stories in this mini-arc about other characters who feel disenfranchised from the world, because of disability, sexuality, class, and so on, who will come together and bring their own unique experiences and come together to try to build a better world for everyone.

I hope you enjoy reading “Duet for a Soloist” as much as I enjoyed writing it. You can find links to my other Phoenix world stories and more background on the world and the other stories on my website, www.jameyannefuller.com, and I hope I will have more of these stories to share with you soon.

Thanks, Jameyanne Very interesting!
Be sure to check out "Duet for a Soloist" and all the rest of the stories on February 28, 2023!

16 February 2023

From Author Genia

We are excited to feature "Hecesiiteihii" by Author Jim Genia in the fabulous February 2023 issue of Electric Spec. Jim was kind enough to send along some comments about the story.

The differences between the various Plains tribes can be great, but one common denominator is a shared mythology around the menace of "the little people." From tiny tricksters to predators that would eat both wayward children and unwary warriors alike, these dwarf-like creatures are believed to have once been a grave threat to mankind's survival--so much so that the various tribes were forced to unite against them in a Great War. By the end of this costly conflict (which predated the arrival of the White Man to North America), the tribes of men were victorious, and the little people were more or less wiped out.

But what if there were survivors?

The near-genocide of an entire race is a heavy burden to bear for anyone. What if that burden were to rest upon the shoulders of an Indigenous culture that would eventually suffer a similar fate at the hands of the White Man?

Speculative fiction is full of tales of vampires and werewolves roaming about the modern world. It's time Native American myths and legends had their day in the literary sun.

Thanks, Jim. Very interesting!
Be sure to check out "Hecesiiteihii" and the rest of the stories on February 28, 2023!

14 February 2023

From Artist Candiotti

We are excited to feature "Synth" by Artist Barbara Candiotti in the fabulous February 2023 issue of Electric Spec. Barbara was kind enough to send along some comments about the piece.

The artwork “Synth” depicts an artificially created Synthetic Person staring intently at the viewer with one eye fixed and focused and the other eye taking measurements, data, and scientific readings. A wavey blue marble background of liquid or gel intersects with the Synthetic, as do light-infused wires and small cables.

As Bio-Engineering, AI, CRISPR, and Cloning technology become increasingly advanced and sophisticated, will the definition of “human” change? That is for the viewer to decide.

Without further ado, here's a sneak peek:

Thanks, Barbara Very interesting!
Be sure to check out the new Electric Spec issue on February 28, 2023!