We have lined up the next issue and notified authors. I continue to be impressed by the quality of our submissions and the stories held for voting. It makes the job of settling on stories so difficult! So, aside from blatant bribes of brownies and beer, how do we choose? Bottom line, if the story gets into our voting file, it's good enough to be in the zine. However, our selection process has taught me just how subjective and particular this business is.
We had 17 stories, all of them with merit. Why did we choose the six we did? Sometimes quirky things come into play, like we have an abundance of sci-fi stories and we really can't overload the issue, even though choosing just one or two takes much debate. But aside from that, it often comes down to the nitty gritty of story mechanics.
I'd say, first and foremost, does the story hold our interest all the way through? Are there any spots that sag? We prefer not to do heavy cutting, and we only will if the story is excellent. Along those same lines, does the story stick to its topic? That's not to say the plot must be absolutely linear, but every digression must lead back to the conclusion. Does every scene hold up that three-legged stool of plot, character, and setting?
Does it manage the theme well, without beating us over the heads with it? Is there even a theme? All great stories make some sort of statement about our world, even if it just makes fun of it. But is it an overdone theme? We see those sometimes in our voting box, but usually because the story has taken a new tack around an old lake.
How much editing will be required? This is when grammar and punctuation really do count for something. We've taken stories that needed help with the basics, but they were excellent in every other way.
Does the voice match the power of the story? Sometimes a voice is intriguing when the plot is not. Sometimes the voice exceeds the limits of point of view. This is most often seen from a child's point of view, but we've seen consistency issues, like a close third POV edging on knowing things they shouldn't or inconsistency with a character who is omniscient or psychic. I believe POV rules have some fluidity within speculative fiction, depending on the character. Violations can be difficult to spot, but such rules must make sense within the confines of the story, not at the author's convenience.
Who will it offend? We're not over-worried about it, but it comes up occassionally. Our stories are often dark, sometimes violent. Sometimes they make controvercial statements about the real world. Sometimes it's a fluke of timing. I recently had a story of my own turned down because of violent imagery. The editor was complimentary--the writing was powerful enough to evoke such a reaction. But it wasn't a coincidence that my rejection arrived just days after the W.V. Tech shooting. Sometimes the world isn't quite ready for a particular story.
Anyway, we've got an inbox full of new stories to read, though we might be a bit pokey since we've got to sort Issue 2 by the end of the month! Congratulations if you were selected, and if not, please try us again.