Wow, hi. Been awhile for me over here at this blog. I'm just emerging from what is fondly becoming known around my house as the "Busy Summer From Hell" replete with book releases and deadlines. But I haven't forgotten you, or Electric Spec!
I just read some slush recently and I noted a few things.
Quite a few present tense stories. One I even saved for voting. Wanna know why? I didn't realize it was present tense until about a third of the way in, cuz I was so into the story. Compelling character, writing, and plot. It had it all. I recently just had a review of my own present tense story that said the very same thing!
Another thing I've noticed lately about stories I've chosen to get a second reading; they leave a lot of room for me, the reader. Details are provided, but not every detail. Just enough for me to sketch a picture in my mind. I get to be the one to pick the paint colors. No paint-by-number stories pass by this editor for voting.
They also tend to rest at the intersection of Trope Avenue and Twist Road. Meaning, taking trope like known character types and putting them in a new situation or place. Or regular old Anytown, USA town council run by, I dunno, a Garuda who just immigrated from India. In other words, give me something I don't expect. But don't stray so far I can't figure it out without your spending 1000 words to explain it to me, either.
All the stories were, well, stories. There were characters doing stuff. Cool stuff, mostly, against big odds. With stakes and stuff.
Anyway, we're deciding this week and it's gonna be a tough one. Might require an extra beer or six to work it all out. :)