08 January 2009


I am finished with my slush for this issue and in the spirit of Lesley's previous post, I'm writing a round-up as well.

People. PEOPLE! Stop writing so many great stories. It makes my job so difficult.

I had to write several rejections for good stories that really just weren't right for me or Electric Spec. These are stories that will sell to some magazine, somewhere; we're just not the right market.

That's a line you hear editors spout all the time. Not right for me. That might beg the question: what is right for this editor?

Climbing over unusual odds to save important people.

Dark hatred expressed with good reason. (Hatred can drive a character, but shouldn't define them. Give me a way to identify with them, too--just a tidge of humanity. I see a lot of flat characters defined by one past event.)

Noir atmosphere in an unusual world.

Tragic or thoughtful hilarity. (Ok, that one takes some explaining. Make me laugh, but also make me think. The world only needs one Chevy Chase.)

Science fiction with well-executed contextual jargon and culture, and characters natural to that culture.

Happy endings. (Ok, that one take some explaining, too. I don't need wine and roses and self-congratulatory pats on the back, but I want a change. Let me see the characters grow. A bad ending is fine if at least one of the characters is better for it.)

Seeing a story from someone I know! That's a particular joy.

Not right for me:

Angst--especially the teen-aged variety.

Voice over content. Make something happen.

Unreasonable, unexplained violence. (I like me some violence. Not so much the psychopaths.)

Doing bad stuff to kids.

Weird mother-daughter relationships.

Humorous takes on horror.

Tired tropes and devices like Someone Who Knows Things But Doesn't Tell, POV Characters Keeping Secrets, People Waking Up At The Start of the Story, Magical Items Ruling The Day, to name a few.

Stories that start too late. That's a biggie. Some stories have too much set-up, rather than introducing the characters and the problem in the first 250 words. I find myself getting quite rigid on that as the years go by. Voice and atmosphere and cool backstory only pulls me along so far when I'm in the midst of a fifty-story slush pile. But it's not just me. Many folks read a ton of short fiction, and there are a lot of great options out there. Choosing to not finish a story is only a click away. Let's keep their hands off their mouses, eh?

Thanks for all the great stories! I think we set a new record with our "hold for voting" file, so my reading ain't done yet. I'm going to get real busy with the upcoming issue (and hopefully a few surprises) so after the next First Page, I have to suspend the first page game for awhile.


lesleylsmith said...

Thanks for the insights, Editor Betsy. :) I must admit your comment "Stories that start too late." is a bit confusing. Are you saying they start the story well after the inciting incident/propelling event has occurred? Or are you saying the plot starts too late in the story? (The whole document is "the story", right?) If so, I would call this starting the story too early. :)

ssas said...

I guess I mean late in the pages... but I see the confusion. :)