29 April 2014


We, The Editors of Electric Spec are getting ready to make the final selections for the marvelous May 31, 2014 issue. This is always a very difficult task. All the stories in hold-for-voting are publishable, so if we don't pick your story it's because of things like issue balance and the like.

All the editors (and tech folks for that matter) here are writers so we know what it's like to have a story rejected. It's rough. Personally, I got two rejections today and one of Friday. Ugh. Even after decades of writing I still get a quick sword-to-the-heart feeling when I read "Thanks, but no thanks." We've all been there.

Thus, if we have to reject you or if you didn't make into hold-for-voting: take heart. Writing is a noble pursuit; it's worth all the heartache. Try to remember the joy of creating new characters and worlds and the fun of sharing stories with family and friends. Writing is one of mankind's greatest endeavours.

And there's always the next issue...

22 April 2014


We, the editors of Electric Spec, are hard at work behind-the-scenes getting ready for the Marvelous May 31, 2014 issue! Stay tuned for exciting tidbits about the upcoming issue throughout the month of May.

In the meantime, did you know science fiction is an area of scholarly study? Did you know there's an esteemed open access online forum in science fiction studies called "deletion"? Well, there is! You can find it here: www.deletionscifi.org.
And Episode 4 just came out: The New! The Now! The Fantastic!: Artistic and Scholarly Innovation helmed by Marleen S. Barr, noted for her foundational work in feminist science fiction criticism. This episode has a thematic focus on women’s creative practice intersecting with the science fictional, the authorial and the scholarly.

Check it out!

15 April 2014

pet peeves

Today is the submission deadline for the May 31, 2014 issue of Electric Spec! Of course, after said deadline we're still accepting stories for the August 31, 2014 issue.
We've been trying to get through the mounds of fiction in the slush pile. (Thank you for submitting, by the way!) We're in much better shape than we were a month ago. Hopefully, we're doing a better job getting back to aspiring authors quickly.

Here are some thoughts motivated by the slush pile. Please note these are my personal pet peeves; they tend to engender strong negative reactions. Other editors may have others…

  • Don't be racist/sexist/homophobic. In fact, don't be any kind of "-ist" in your story. This is a huge turn-off and may (probably will!) result in an automatic rejection.
  • Don't proselytize. If I, as a reader, think you're trying to convert me…it may result in a knee-jerk rejection.
  • Don't campaign. This is why we recommend you stay away from politics in stories you submit to us. I have a strong negative response to stories with political agendas of any kind.
  • Don't bad-mouth groups of people, e.g. all lawyers are scum-sucking vermin. If a reader happens to disagree with the author's opinion ==> automatic rejection. One of my pet-peeves is scientist characters as one-dimensional losers and/or villains. Actually, you can easily avoid this by not creating one-dimensional characters. :)
Of course, I understand the most important component of a story is conflict and an author may intentionally chose to create a character that behaves in a negative manner of this sort. There is a little more leeway in character actions and dialogue, etc. than there is in the author's message. Am I contradicting myself? A little bit.

No one ever said writing was easy. Good luck!

08 April 2014

Fantasy sub-genres

I got into a bit of an argument lately with an industry professional about the difference between contemporary fantasy and urban fantasy. The professional said urban fantasy had to occur in a city. That was not my understanding. For example, I thought Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire (Sookie Stackhouse) series was considered urban fantasy and it definitely doesn't occur in a city. What I learned in grad school was urban fantasy is fantasy that occurs on contemporary Earth. The pro in question would say urban fantasy is a sub-genre of contemporary fantasy. I would say the sub-genres in fantasy are not well-defined.

To my mind there are two major types of fantasy: fantasy that takes place on some version of Earth OR fantasy that takes place on a so-called "secondary", i.e. made-up imaginary, world. This second type of fantasy is often called high or epic, sometimes it's called heroic or medieval fantasy or sword and sorcery fantasy. The quintessential author here is J.R.R.Tolkien, with George R.R. Martin also hugely successful. Epic or high fantasies often involve a quest, so sometimes are called quest fantasy.

Bridging the gap between these two types of fantasy are fantasies involving a portal. Often the portal goes from Earth to the secondary world. C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia are a great example of this.

Back on Earth (also called the primary world), we can have superhero fiction or historical fantasy or weird fiction or science fantasy or insert_your_favorite_here.

What about fairytale fiction? It could occur on the primary world or a secondary world, so this one depends on the story.

Have I confused you? Sorry. The bottom line here at Electric Spec is we don't care what sub-genre your story is. Just send it in!

01 April 2014

tips from the slush pile

Happy Spring! Around here it finally feels spring-y. I hope it's the same where you are, or will be very soon.
We've been working hard to catch up on slush here at Electric Spec. Something that struck me recently is: authors need to be aware of market. Over the last nine (!) years we have created a specific 'zine. Consequently, as a potential author you should read at least a couple stories to know what we like. Every market is unique and if you submit a story incompatible with it your story won't get accepted no matter how good it is.

So, here are some tips about what we like with the caveat that this is not an exhaustive list:

  • Science fiction, fantasy, and/or the macabre! This is a requirement. We don't take non-speculative fiction.
  • You must have one or more specific characters. Requirement. He/she/it can be anything from a giant space butterfly to an ogre to insert-imaginative-idea-here. The character is who the reader identifies with. The character must have something to lose. We should probably know who/what the character is by the end of the first paragraph, definitely by the end of the first page.
  • Something should happen. I going to say this is also a requirement. There must be an external plot. Again, this should be evident by the end of the first page. Ideally, your character(s) should also have an internal plot/arc but this is not required.
  • You should show us what happens, not summarize or tell it. This generally means there should be dialogue. Put the reader in the scene. If you have no dialogue your story probably isn't for us.
  • Your story should have an original unique idea, concept, character, world, technology or something else. This means you need to read speculative fiction. You need to know that a man killing his wife/girlfriend has been done. The witch with a heart of gold has been done. The robot prostitute has been done. Vampires have been done.
  • Related to the above, your story needs to have a non-cliche opening. Do not open your story with the main character waking up. Do not open your story with a dream. Do not open your story with the protagonist riding in a car. Do not open with your character looking in the mirror (for that matter: never have your character look in a mirror or other reflective surface).
  • We enjoy genre mash-ups. We enjoy humor. We enjoy irreverent stuff (but nothing political).
  • We'd like to see more:
    • fresh epic/high fantasy--this would be epic/high fantasy with some kind of twist
    • macabre fiction--spooky rather than bloody
    • fresh urban fantasy--note this is probably not vampires, werewolves. Give us some other kind of creature.
    • hard science fiction--SF based on extrapolation of actual science
    • a unique voice--this is a huge hook when we get it
I guess that's it for tips for now.
Good luck with your writing!