29 December 2015

Editor Changes

We have some new Electric Spec Editors! I'm very excited to be working with these folks.

Nikki Baird has been promoted from Associate Editor. She writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror, both long and short form. Her short horror story, "Devastation Mine" was published as part of the anthology Broken Links, Mended Lives, which was nominated for a Colorado Book Award. She has been a finalist in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Colorado Gold contest for the two years in the Speculative Fiction category, and is a regular contributor to Littleton Writers Critique Group, an open critique group in southwest Denver. She is currently trying to place her second fantasy novel with a publisher.

Grayson Towler is a brand-new Electric Spec Editor. He has had a lifelong fascination with dragons, dinosaurs, magic, and the telling stories. His first book, a middle-grade fantasy titled The Dragon Waking, is due to be published in Spring 2016 by Albert Whitman & Company. The book was a finalist in the 2012 RMFW Gold contest.
         Grayson has worked as a copy writer since 2004 for Sounds True, a publishing company for books and audio programs concerning meditation, spirituality, and self-help. He is also an illustrator, and he has been writing and drawing an urban fantasy webcomic, Thunderstruck, since 2004. He also created "Tales from the Vault" --a popular collaborative fiction website active from 1996-2001.
         In addition to writing, Grayson has also been a web designer, substitute teacher, comic artist, and small business owner. He and his wife, Candi, live in a house owned by three relatively benevolent cats in Longmont, Colorado.

We also have two new Associate Editors. One is Candi Cooper-Towler. She was raised in the desert of Southern Nevada and now lives in the high desert of Colorado. She has been writing haiku seriously for about five years and finds the short form a perfect fit for her minimalist style. She is accompanied by her novelist husband as well as a horse, three cats, and a dog. She is a spectacularly fast reader.

Our second brand-new Associate Editor is Minta Monroe. She writes darker fantasy, particularly involving the occult or supernatural. She is the author of The Mound Dwellers and several collections of short stories. One of her stories will appear next year in Haunted, a Fiction River anthology. In addition to fantasy, she writes science fiction and mystery under other pen names.

And, thankfully, Chris Devlin agreed to stay on as Copy Editor. She's a writer, blogger and copy editor. She runs Devlin Author Services, a full-service writer support agency. She's the Contest Chair for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer's Colorado Gold contest and has years of experience as a copy editor and critique group moderator. Her Young Adult speculative fiction novel, St. Vitus Academy Book One: The Lazarus Rock, finaled in the Pikes Peak Contest 2012.

Welcome aboard, everyone!

22 December 2015

Peace on Earth

Today is the solstice, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. (Fun fact: today is the longest day of the year in the Southern Hemisphere.)

I thought it would be an appropriate occasion to pass along some wisdom from the late SF author Clifford D. Simak speaking of his work:

The series was written in a revulsion against mass killing and as a protest against war... It was filled with the gentleness and the kindess and the courage that I thought were needed in the world.

We wish you gentleness, kindess, and courage.

And in the new year: Peace on Earth.

15 December 2015

tips from slush

The excitement of the most recent issue of Electric Spec hasn't faded when we already have to start working on the next issue. We, The Editors, have been reading slush. As you may have guessed I have some tips...
  • MARKET. Know your market. If you are submitting to Electric Spec, we are your market. And you're in luck: you can read every story we've ever published for free! This will tell you some things about Electric Spec:
    • Your story must have a speculative element.
    • Your story must have a protagonist.
    • Something must happen in your story.
    • We prefer showing rather than telling. (If you don't know what this means, say something in the comments here and I'll do a blog post on it.)
  • We do accept flash fiction, but it still has to be complete story and not just the beginning of a story or the outline of a story.
  • Don't send us stories we've read a million (okay, a bunch of) times. These include:
    • The protagonist wakes up in the first scene.
    • A man killing his wife/girlfriend/mistress/all-of-the-above/etc.
    • Straight-up regular vampires or werewolves with regular problems. We like vamps and weres but show us something different.
    • Standard quest stories. Again, we like quests, but show us something original.
  • We'd love to see
    • Unique epic fantasy.
    • Steampunk.
    • Genre mashups.
    • Your original idea here. :)
Do send us your stories! We appreciate you, authors!

Thank you!

08 December 2015

good stuff

Wow! The new issue of Electric Spec has a lot of good stuff in it! Have you finished perusing it? If so, you must have gleaned many interesting facts...
  • How many stories have we published in the last decade?
  • What famous author is part of our tech support team?
  • Why did we start Electric Spec?
  • What gets a story sold?
  • Who or what is Itsumi in Levenson's story?
  • How does Jillian survive in Miller's story?
  • What cause's Taylor's change of heart in Boden's story?
  • What in the world happens to Bobby at the end of Grey's story?
  • What does Sheri do to Molly in DeHaan's story?
  • Who or what is Doyle in Smith's story?
  • What motivates the character Li-lin in Boroson's novel The Girl with Ghost Eyes?
Don't know the answers to all of these questions? Maybe you better check-out the issue again! :)

01 December 2015

New Issue!

As promised, we published a brand new exciting issue of Electric Spec yesterday! Huzzah!
Thank you very much Authors Levenson, Miller, Boden, Grey, DeHaan for the excellent stories! Thank you very much M.H. Boroson for the intriguing interview! Thank you very much Artist Sanders for the captivating cover art! Thank you very much Associate Editors Baird and Devlin for associate-editting! :) Thank you very much Hardlight Multimedia for tech support!

Thank you very much Editors Dornbusch and Hughes! For those of you who haven't read the Letter from the Editors yet, they have a huge announcement: they're stepping down as ElectricSpec Editors. It's been a great decade working with you! Best wishes on your new adventures! Check out their letter it's very interesting.
(And don't worry, ElectricSpec is continuing. More about that later in the year.)

Most of all: Thank you Readers! We wouldn't exist without you!


24 November 2015

More Coming Attractions

Today I'm going to brag on the final two outstanding stories of the November 30, 2016 issue of Electric Spec.

"Still the Champ" by John Grey is a very intriguing and unusual SF tale. Initially, it's not entirely clear it is a SF story (okay, if you ignore the alien). Let me just say, the ending will definitely surprise you here. I was extremely surprised. And considering I've read many thousands of SF stories that's not easy to do. Check it out on Nov 30!

We also have a lovely fantasy "A Walk Among the Ivy" by Devin Miller. Oops, I guess it made it sound sedate. It's not. It's very dramatic, with phenomenal plotting and empathetic characters. Check it out on Nov 30!
Fun fact: we've published Mr. Miller before. Check out his "Tom the Sheller" from 2009.

Also in the upcoming issue we have a very special Letter from the Editors from Betsy Dornbusch and David E. Hughes. A while back I blogged about Dave's writing: author Dave. I wanted to discuss Betsy's excellent writing as well. We have published quite a bit from her over the years, including short stories such as "Race to Redemption", and "Last of a Caste". Betsy is also a very talented and successful novelist. Check out the excerpt from Archive of Fire here. Check out the excerpt from Exile here. Check out the excerpt from Emissary here. So much yummy fiction!

Less than a week until the new issue! I can't wait!

17 November 2015

Preview of Coming Attractions

We are working hard on the upcoming November 30, 2015 issue of Electric Spec. You heard about one of our excellent upcoming stories last week. This week I'm going to preview two more stories. They are both excellent science fiction tales.

"Stealing a Starship" by Barton Paul Levenson has atypical characters and fully-fleshed out world-building. The characters are not stereotypical SF characters. It also involves stealing a starship--as you may have guessed. But the plot does not go the way you might expect.
Yes, I realize I'm being vague--but I don't want to spoil the story for you! Be sure to check it out on Nov 30!

Fun fact: this is not the first time we've published work by Mr. Levenson. If you're impatient, you can check out his "The Boogie-Woogie, Time-Traveling, Cyborg Blues", or his "Khuminay and the Axe-Wielding Psycho".

"Chasing Frisbees" by Derrick Boden has a particularly powerful and emotional character arc. It has fully-fleshed out world-building. It also has frisbee-chasing--as you may have guessed. But the plot does not go the way you might expect. And the unexpectedness is different from the unexpectedness mentioned above. Furthermore, the 'big picture' of this story is a great metaphor for some other stuff...
Again, sorry for the vagueness, but it's unavoidable. :) Check out the story Nov 30!

Both of these stories are what I like to consider new classic SF. They have great, fun classic ideas--such as starships--but they also have an additional modern power and sensibility.

10 November 2015

from Author DeHaan

We've started working on the Nov 30, 2015 fabulous issue of Electric Spec. One of our featured stories will be "Theater Amorpheus" by Author Laura DeHaan. Here's what she has to say about the story:

          Theater Amorpheus has always been a little slow.
          In the spring of 2011 I went to one of Toronto’s theaters to see a show that billed itself as a live-action ghost story.
          “Cool!” I thought. “I love ghost stories!”
          And it was pretty cool. Kind of hokey, but the sets were neat and I got startled a few times, so overall I was into it. At least I was until the Final Terrifying Plot Twist which At Last Reveals the Monster who has Stalked Our Narrator Throughout the Years… and it turns out this monster is just a dude with mental and physical disabilities.
          This bothered me so much that it took two years to write down exactly why I was upset in a way that people might listen to it and say, “This is what we need to guard against, this is where we are vulnerable.”
          Then it took another two and a half years (and seventeen rejections of varying encouragement) for Theater Amorpheus to sell.
          And understandably so. Even horror publishers tend to frown when you murder children, especially the hypervulnerable ones. It was never brought up in any of the rejections, but I can’t help but think it wasn’t the biggest selling point, either.
          The reviews for the show I went to are still up on the theater’s website. Reactions were mixed, tending on the extremely negative side, but out of the 80+ reviews only two mentioned they were disgusted and outraged at being expected to view, and tacitly accept, the disabled character as a hideous monster.
          Which suggests everyone else thought it was too uncomfortable a subject to bring up, or didn’t see anything wrong with it… or, worse yet, that they thought it was right.
          Can’t say I like any of those options.
          Some of my story ideas come from watching a bad movie and thinking, “I can do better than that.” When I write the story, I don’t want anyone thinking they can do better. Except for Theater Amorpheus. I hope it makes people upset. I hope it makes people do better.

Thanks, Laura!

03 November 2015

tales from the production meeting

Once upon a time, on a dark and non-stormy night, three intrepid editors met to select stories. It was crucial said stories not be bore-ies. (Sorry!) We considered tales of sci-fi and dead guys, of fantasy and things from the sea. We looked at tales of macabre and one of heartthrob. And though it was difficult, in the end we did exult, for we came up with five --which readers get to test-drive. As of November 30, 2015!

And now you know why we don't publish poetry. :)
But seriously, we are in the process of contacting authors in hold-for-voting with the good or bad news. Good news does get a contract with it. Watch your inbox.
By now, you should have received at least one email from us if you successfully submitted your story. If you haven't heard anything from us, something probably went awry. But, please do not query us about the status of your story. We get hundreds of submissions and don't have the resources to answer queries about stories.

As usual, it was tough selecting amongst the excellent stories. As usual, issue balance was a factor. (For some reason we got a lot of time-travel pieces this time. What's up with that?) As usual, if you made it into hold-for-voting, pat yourself on the back. You are publishable! You rock!

Actually, at the meeting, we were a bit nostalgic. It's the end of our tenth year of publication, and it's been an amazing ride. We sincerely appreciate all you readers! We sincerely appreciate all you writers! We wouldn't exist without you. Thank you very much for your support. You rock!

Hopefully, the next ten years will be as successful as the past ten years. :)

27 October 2015

more spookiness

We have such a lovely treasure trove of spooky stories I couldn't resist sharing more...
  • In "Frazee" by Patricia Russo, we see two extremes: how far people are willing to go in the name of magic power, and how far they are willing to go to save the ones they love.
  • For those of you are looking for more chill than the winter weather can provide, "Her Pale Smile" by Simon Kewin will leave you with just the right kind of tingles.
  • "Stiltskin" by Samantha Boyette is a tale that explores just how far a father will go to preserve his family in a bleak future.
  • Another thriller for sci-fi readers is Joe Ollinger's "10,000 Bones", an extraterrestrial noir tale that will shake you to your . . . er, bones.
  • Jennifer Crow's "Strange Notes from Underground" will send chills up your spine that probably originated from deep below your feet.
  • In "A Page of Skulls," Tony Peak tells a dark tale of a dark and magnificently strange world.
Happy Halloween!

20 October 2015

spooky stories

In honor of the spookiest month of the year, today I'm sharing some macabre tales from the Electric Spec archives:
  • "Tom the Sheller" by Devin Miller gives us a dark glimpse into a world where a man can rip thoughts from another's mind-at a devastating price.
  • "In The Land Of The Deaf" by Ferrett Steinmetz is a dark tale about a new kind of virus that makes H1N1 seem like a case of the sniffles.
  • Phil Emery's "Streetwise" is a dark and edgy SF story.
  • Miranda Suri's "The New Arrival" is a macabre story that will leave you satisfyingly chilled.
  • "The Untold Story of an Executioner" by Dawn Lloyd is a chilling tale about maybe the worst job ever.
  • "End User" by A.L. Sirois is a horrific story with a character that definitely does not follow Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics.

13 October 2015

yet more tips

We are going through our mountain of slush. Thanks for sending us your stories. :) Since we can't critique stories, here are some gleanings from the slush pile...
  • Length. If your story is 7,000-words, or almost 7,000 words, we are going to be less enthusiastic about it. It's more work to edit such a long story. If your story is less than 1,000-words it's tough to tell a whole story in that length. If you can write effective flash, however, we want to see it!
  • Sensory details. We do enjoy stories that make use of all the senses: sound, sight, touch, smell and taste. Life makes use of all these senses and good fiction makes us experience life in a new way.
  • Character. If you can make the reader think your protagonist is a real person: huzzah for you! Good characters seem real. They are multi-dimensional with good and bad qualities and unique perspectives. One way to create this is to be very specific, and to be very subjective. Your character should have unique thoughts, reactions and opinions on everything. Show us. You can never be too subjective in fiction.
  • Plot. The bare bones of plot are:
    1. problem
    2. effort
    3. resolution
    As an editor, I don't care what any of these are, but they should all be there. Usually, the effort is related to solving the problem. The resolution is just letting the reader know if the problem was solved or not.
Don't forget the submission deadline for the last issue of 2015 is this week: October 15, 2015!

06 October 2015

more slush pile tips

Sometimes it seems the slush pile is never-ending... We know it takes awhile for authors to hear from us. Sorry about that! Without further ado, here are more tips gleaned from the slush pile:
  • Regarding plot:
    • Please don't start your story with the protagonist waking up.
    • Please don't send us your story of a man killing his girlfriend and/or wife. You wouldn't believe how many of these we get and it's very hard to do something fresh.
    • In terms of horror plots, possession by demonic types is a close second. If you must write this, do something unusual with it.
    • Do consider sending us epic fantasy with some kind of unusual twist. We don't get enough epic fantasy.
    • Do consider sending us urban fantasy (without vamps or weres).
    • Do consider sending us some kind of genre mashup.
    • Do consider sending us steam punk.
  • Regarding point-of-view: Fiction does follow trends and omniscient narrators are off-trend. If you want to try this, more power to you, but make sure you do it right! Head-hopping within a paragraph and especially within a sentence is not good. The current trend is for very close third-person pov or first-person pov.
  • Regarding science: I have been known to say you don't have to know a lot of science to write science fiction. (Of course, knowing science is a plus!) I stand by this. However, including blatantly wrong science will get you automatically and very quickly rejected.
Please do continue sending us stories.

FYI the submission deadline for the November 2015 issue is approaching: October 15, 2015. Good luck!

29 September 2015

slush pile tips

We've started working on the notable November 2015 issue of Electric Spec, namely, going through the slush pile. Sadly, we can't critique all (or any) of the stories submitted to the 'zine. But, from time to time, I give some advice here on the blog. These tips are gleaned directly from reading our slush. I would tell the respective author this if he/she were standing in front of me.
  • Be careful not to use too many adjectives. A single sentence probably shouldn't have four or more adjectives. Every sentence probably should not have adjectives. Instead of adjectives, use specific nouns, use strong verbs, use distinctive similes and metaphors.
  • Something should happen in your story. There are markets which publish stories in which nothing happens. This is not one of those markets. How can you tell if something has happened? Something should be different at the end of the story. It can be subtle but it has to be discernible.
  • You must have speculative elements. Metaphorical gods, monsters, etc. likely are not sufficient. Literal gods, monsters, etc. likely would be sufficient. Of course, your literal gods/monsters/etc. could also be metaphorical gods/monsters/etc. :)
  • Proofread your piece. If I see a lot of grammar and spelling mistakes on the first page it's a turn off. I may stop reading. This may be unfair to the author. :( But, as an editor I don't want to deal with a piece that needs extra work.
That's it for tips for now.

Please do not query us asking about your story. We get hundreds of stories and extra queries just bogs down the whole process.

That being said, please do keep sending us your stories! We love authors!

22 September 2015

Le Guin interview

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the preeminent speculative fiction authors. Her novels include The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, A Wizard of Earthsea and many other award winners. Her work deals with themes such as gender and sexual identity, race, culture, environmentalism, anarchism and others.

About science fiction she says, "...science fiction ...contemplates possible futures."

Last week there was a very interesting interview of Le Guin over at salon.com: Ursula K. Le Guin on myths, Modernism and why "I'm a little bit suspicious of the MFA program". Highlights include:

  • Regarding publishing: the rules of the game are all changing, and the game itself is kind of a different game... no one knows where it'g going.
  • Regarding writing: ...there is a good way to write, and a not-so-good way to write. This hasn't changed.
  • Regarding critique groups: ...People who meet and read ... and critique...It's simply very nourishing and very useful.
She's a fascinating author. Check out the whole article!

15 September 2015


What a whirlwind weekend! We published the latest and greatest issue of Electric Spec on September 10. We hope you are still enjoying the issue. What's your favorite story? Ghostalker? The Metal of a Man? A Dose of Aconite? Tried and True? Peacekeeper? I really enjoyed them all. Please check them out if you haven't already and tell your friends!

Another milestone this weekend was the annual Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW) conference. All the Electric Spec editors and associate editors are members of RMFW and participate in conference. For example, Editor Betsy presented "Learning to Love the Step-Children of Writing" which was about taglines, queries and synopses. I presented "Scintillating Science for your Science Fiction." (Psst, here's the link to all the handouts: rmfw.org/conference/2015-handouts.)
If you're a writer, you should seriously consider attending the conference next year.

One of our most popular Electric Spec blog posts resulted from last year's conference when Editor Betsy and I taught a 'How to Write a Short Story' workshop. The post was called Short Story Cheat Sheet. Check it out.

We're accepting submissions for the November 2015 issue of Electric Spec. Get those stories in!

Phew! That's it for now. I think I need to go rest some more...

10 September 2015

Yay live!

Yay! We're live!
Check out the new issue of Electric Spec!

Thank you, authors!
Thank you, Ms. Carriger!
Thank you, associate editors Nikki and Devlin!
Thank you, tech support folks in Ireland!
Thank you, cover artist P. Emerson Williams!

Most of all: thank you, readers!

08 September 2015

new issue brag-athon

I've talked a bit here about the spectacular September 10 2015 issue of Electric Spec. Now I get to tell you about the rest of it!

As you might expect, we have some fabulous fantasy. We present to you "Ghostalker" by T.L. Huchu, in which the voice and world-building are excellent as the protagonist has to deal with ghost-related issues...
"A Dose of Aconite" by Lindsey Duncan shows us the emotional trials and tribulations of a werewolf hunter. Interestingly, both of these might be considered urban fantasy.

As you might also expect, we have some scintillating science fiction. In the SF arena we have a unique character, who used to work in well, an ...arena, and has a unique problem. This is Travis Heermann's story "The Metal of a Man."
"Tried and True" by Daniel Brock is a harrowing tale also involving technology and personal evolution.

Be sure to check out the entire issue on September 10! You'll be glad you did. :)

01 September 2015

author Dave

Last time I talked about the exciting Carriger interview coming up in the spectacular September 10, 2015 issue of Electric Spec. And before that we heard from author Jamie Killen about her neat story "Peacekeeper."

Another treat we have coming up is an Editor's Corner story by author and editor David E. Hughes, "Rex's Last Ride." This is an unusual one featuring demonic creatures and a motorcycle gang... I won't spoil it for you. I will recommend you check it out.

We've featured several stories from author Dave over the years. Many of them have been humorous. We had "The Dog that Broke the Camel's Back" which was a very humorous ghost story (no thanks to me!). In "My Kingdom for a Gislestorchen" a humorous SF tale puts a new spin on organ donation.

Many of them have been less humorous. Recently, we featured the haunting fantasy "Forgetting".There was also The First Priest of Maat an unusual fantasy inspired by Egyptian mythology (okay, this did have some humorous elements). Another unusual one was "The Devotion Egg" featuring religion and an egg (as you might have guessed). Dave also contributed the fantasy "Give ... Grieve." -- definitely not humorous.

Readers may know in real life Dave is actually a lawyer and much of his longer fiction features lawyers. In the fantasy "The Art of Persuasion" we see what really could go wrong with lawyering. Hmm. Dave has had a lot of successes in the courtroom...

Be sure to check out the new issue September 10!

25 August 2015

Carriger interview

Last week we told you about one of the exciting stories we're featuring in the spectacular September 10, 2015 issue of Electric Spec. Another exciting element of the next issue is an interview with the Queen of Steampunk, Gail Carriger!

Carriger says Steampunk is a re–imagining of either the past or the future where steam technology never died, and electricity never dominated, and a Victorian aesthetic overshadows all. Think Jules Verne and hot air balloons flying to the moon.

Her next release, in November 2015, will be Manners & Mutiny of the Finishing School series. If you haven't read Sophronia's exploits yet, I highly recommend you do so posthaste!
Be sure to check out our interview where Carriger talks of hedonism, aether currents, canoodling and more!

18 August 2015

from author Killen

The super September 10, 2015 issue of Electric Spec is in the works! We're proud to share several excellent stories with you. One of these stories is "Peacekeeper" by Jamie Killen. It's a SF story set in a very intriguing culture where 'nats' and 'synths' are pitted against each other...

About the story, Killen says:

This story started out as my way of playing around with noir/crime drama tropes: the hardboiled detective, the hooker with the heart of gold, the corrupt public official. Of course, being me, I had to end up with a story in which these tropes took the form of cyborgs in outer space.

The second major piece of this story was my realization that very few stories about conflict between humans and robots/cyborgs/cylons/etc stop short of full-blown apocalypse. Instead of the conflict escalating to victory for one side or the other or ongoing total war a la The Matrix or Terminator, I wanted to explore a world in which a human-cyborg conflict resulted in a fragile but workable peace.

The end result is a story in which the main conflict stems from the tricky details and competing interests that come with that peace.

Very interesting! Thanks, Jamie!

11 August 2015

September 10 2015

We, The Editors, had our production meeting recently. The most important result of which is we are pushing the publication of the next issue from August 31 to September 10, 2015. A confluence of events made the earlier date impossible. (If I could just get my damn time machine to work properly...) Apologies, if this causes any inconveniences.

If you submitted a story by the July 15 deadline, you should have already received an email. If you furthermore had a story in hold-for-voting, you should be getting another email very soon.

As usual, it was very difficult to get the attention of the wait-person. Ha! Kidding! (No, I'm not.) No, as usual, it was very difficult to decide amongst the many excellent stories. All the stories in hold-for-voting were publishable. If you had a story there, pat yourself on the back. Nice job!
If you've submitted a story to us: Thank you very much! We appreciate it!

One deciding factor this time seemed to be length. We accept flash fiction, but it's tough to write a complete story in a flash length. We had a couple flash pieces as finalists but in the end, they weren't emotionally satisfying enough. At the other extreme, we had a loooong story that we enjoyed but it was ~7000 words and no one was willing to edit it. We may revisit our word length limits in the future.
Bottom line for writers: avoid the shortest and longest lengths.

As usual, genre was an issue. We had one story we decided was not, in fact, speculative fiction, so it had to go. The upcoming issue has to have a variety of genres, so the stories we ended up with reflect that. I will blog more about the upcoming stories in the coming weeks. We may even hear directly from some authors...

Some genres we don't get much and would like to see more of:

  • Steampunk. Make sure there's a complete story to go with your neat world. Also, the steampunk aesthetic should be integral to the story.
  • Macabre horror. Basically, non-gory horror.
  • Epic or high fantasy. Yes, this is swords and sorcery, and possibly creatures such as elves, fairies, etc. Essentially, this is good versus evil in an imaginary (or "secondary") world.
Stay tuned for more info about the scintillating September issue!

04 August 2015


Long time blog readers are expecting to read a production meeting post right now.
Due to a scheduling issue we're meeting a little later than usual this time, so I'll post something about it next week. In the meantime...

The New Yorker had a very interesting article last week: Samuel Delany and the Past and Future of Science Fiction. Peter Bebergal says From the beginning, Delany, in his fiction, has pushed across the traditional boundaries of science fiction, embraced the other, and questioned received ideas about sex and intimacy. Hurray for him! I think SF is the perfect place to push and explore boundaries of all kinds. Check out the article.

In recent years (with the exception of a few pathetic baby canines) I think our society has caught up with the ideas and ideals Delany brought forth for our consideration. Authors like Delany contributed significantly to this change. Literature, even genre literature, has the ability to change the world.
As for troublesome puppy-types, Delany says, "It has nothing to do with science fiction. It has to do with the rest of society where science fiction exists."

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree?

As Grand Master James E. Gunn said in our January 2007 issue of Electric Spec, "Let's save the world through SF!"

28 July 2015

the value of editing

We, The Editors, are busy working behind the scenes on the next issue of Electric Spec.

With all the recent brouhaha surrounding Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee I can't help thinking about the value of editing. Of course, Ms. Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic. Until recently, I didn't know Lee's editor Therese "Tay" von Hohoff Torrey played such an important part in its development. You can read about several places including The New York Times: "The Invisible Hand Behind Harper Lee's 'To Kill a Mockingbird'".

Editors clearly can play a very important role.

Here, at Electric Spec, we do edit our fiction--although we're not in Hohoff's league. Usually, this editing consists of cutting words that aren't needed. Sometimes, we suggest or ask for alternate titles. We have even occasionally polished a diamond in the rough into a beautiful gem.

Once in a while an author refuses to make any changes. When this happens we agree to go our separate ways.

Hurray for all those unrecognized, unlauded editors throughout history! We salute you!

21 July 2015

write your passion

We've closed submissions for the August 2015 issue of Electric Spec. Of course, you can continue to submit for the next issue (November 2015). Thus, we are very hard at work behind the scenes getting the August issue ready to go.

So, in the meantime a few words... Writers are told to write what they know. I don't totally agree with this advice. I think it's better to write what you love. Write what you're passionate about. One of the things I'm passionate about is: the universe!
This week we saw some amazing new images of pluto. I can't help sharing one of them with you. Here's Pluto with it's moon Charon:
What are you passionate about? Send us a story!

14 July 2015

effective protagonist

The story submission deadline for the awesome August 31,2015 issue of Electric Spec is July 15, 2015! Tomorrow!

I've been reading a lot of fiction this summer. In my opinion the protagonist is the most important thing in any story. Yes, that includes speculative fiction stories. There are some different ways to achieve an effective protagonist...

Probably my favorite type of protagonist is a flawed but heroic protagonist. This is someone who tries to do the right thing but has some significant personal issue(s) that will make this difficult. This type of protagonist is very common in YA fiction and is very easy to empathize with. Often they also have a unique characteristic, like a supernatural ability, or extra gumption or brains or something similar. In modern fiction, there's a sliding scale of flawed heroism that goes all the way to the anti-hero. An anti-hero would be mostly (all?) flaws--but still opposing the villain.
Please note there's an important point here. In most cases, an empathetic protagonist should have at least one good quality. (Yes, fighting evil could be that quality.) An effective author tool to make readers empathize with a protag is to show other characters caring about said protag. Or, you could have said protag experience something bad, like bullying. Or, you could have said protag caring for babies or puppies. :)

In the olden days all protagonists were straight-up heroes. They are basically perfect and always fight evil and win. You shouldn't use this type of protagonist because it's too old-fashioned. Modern folks can't identify with perfection.
I read a novel recently in which the protagonist basically had no flaws or problems. I did not enjoy that novel!

Of course, the polar opposite of a hero is the villain. They work to oppose the hero. Again, there's a sliding scale here. He/she could be an old-fashioned all-bad villain all the way to a partially good-villain. What makes a villain? That can be hard to decipher in this day and age. I'm going to say villains pursue evil while heroes pursue good.

There is an interesting modern phenomena in which stories and novels are written in which the actor has no, or very few, redeeming qualities. Basically, the author has made the villain into the protagonist. The fiction of Gillian Flynn might be an example of this. And you can't argue with success! Therefore, one way to create an effective protagonist is to actually create a villain. Who knew? :)

Good luck with your protagonists!

07 July 2015


Don't forget the deadline for the awesome August issue is July 15, 2015!

I've been reading a lot of stories from our slush pile lately. I've also been reading entries for a certain unspecified writing contest. I'm pretty sick of some things...

  • Please do not start with a dream.
  • Please, please do not have your story start with the protagonist waking up.
  • Please do not start with someone driving somewhere in a car.
  • Please, please do not tell me about your protagonist's hair style--especially not multiple times in the first 5 pages. I don't care how messy it is. I don't care if it's long or in a pony-tail or whatever. Hair style does not elucidate character.
  • Please, please, please do not tell what color hair your protagonist has--especially by running his/her fingers through it! No real person thinks about hair color while they run their fingers through it. Go ahead, try it: run your fingers through your hair. Did you think "my red hair" or "my brown hair" or "my blond hair"? I bet you didn't.
  • Please do not have your protagonist look at him/herself in a mirror as a mechanism to describe him/her for the reader.
  • Try not to use common idioms. "Avoid it like the plague" if possible. Because if not, your story may be "dead as a doornail" "at the end of the day." Creating unique idioms is actually a great way to create character and build your world.
Yes, I'm a little grumpy. Sorry. But avoiding cliches can only help make your writing as awesome as it should be.
(You probably shouldn't use "awesome.")
Good luck!

30 June 2015


Wow! Time flies. The deadline for the awesome August 2015 issue of Electric Spec is coming right up: July 15, 2015. Get those stories in!
I do apologize, we've been pretty behind on slush this time.

In terms tips, from last week, slush pile tips, still seem pretty relevant. I also recommend you proofread your piece in terms of spelling and grammar. We generally don't toss a story for bad spelling or grammar unless it's really bad. But if we're on the fence about a story, better to be safe than sorry.

Did you know there's a very famous magazine about speculative fiction? For many years the p-zine Locus was the industry standard. In recent years the e-zine Locus has been gaining in prestige. This past weekend they announced their annual speculative fiction award winners:

  • Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie, for best science fiction novel
  • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, for best fantasy novel
  • "Yesterday's Kin" by Nancy Kress, for best novella
  • "Tough Times All Over" by Joe Abercrombie, for best novelette
  • "The Truth About Owls" by Amal El-Mohtar, for best short story.
The full list of winners is here.

Congratulations to all the winners!

23 June 2015

slush pile tips

Here at Electric Spec we do something a little different. We never close to submissions. For a particular issue we just look at submissions from within a certain time frame. Thus, our next issue is out August 31, 2015, so we'll be accepting submissions for that issue through July 15, 2015. A quirk of this process is we don't look at the new slush pile for about six weeks while we work on the upcoming issue.
Bottom line: we have a backlog of slush right now and we know it. We're addressing it.
I've been doing my part to wade through the slush pile and consequently I have some tips...
  • Do submit your story in *rtf format as requested.
  • Do remember to attach the file.
  • Don't use any weird formatting such as unusual colors, symbols, strike-outs, etc.
  • Regarding your cover letter:
    • Don't tell us you have no sales.
    • If you did sell to Electric Spec, mention it!
    • Don't ask for critique.
    • Don't send a follow-up email asking if we got your story. We get hundreds of stories and having to answer queries about your query just bogs down the process.
  • In your story, do show us stuff--rather than just telling.
  • If your story is super-long it's going to be less desirable (we have to edit it!)
  • Do write a story with speculative elements.
  • Your story shouldn't be about "business as usual." Something unusual should happen.
I'll have more tips in the coming weeks.
Thank you for submitting!

16 June 2015

novel openings

I've been thinking a lot about novel openings lately. It shouldn't surprise you that a good novel opening is a lot like a good short story opening. One of our most popular blog posts ever was our short story cheat sheet, and it has a lot of great tips for short stories. I was inspired to write this after Editor Betsy and I taught a workshop on writing short stories.

Focusing more specifically on speculative fiction novels, however...

  • You really need to have a character within the first couple of pages, ideally on the first page. This is because the reader identifies with the characters. If there's no character, who do they identify with? Keep in mind fiction is unique in that the reader gets to become another person via this identification. This initial character should be the protagonist, but it doesn't have to be.
  • In chapter one your character needs to have a problem or some other unique situation. This is the first appearance of 'plot' and it needs to at least hint at the major conflict of the novel. Also this should be related to the protagonist's character arc.
  • On page one you should give the reader some idea of setting in terms of time and space. I do not recommend a long description or a big info dump--just give us a sentence here and there. As an aside, paragraphs of info dump are old-fashioned; don't do it.
  • Your novel opening should be consistent with your genre. You read a lot in your genre, right? If you don't know what your genre is: figure it out ASAP.
  • You should know your novel's theme or big idea and chapter one should be consistent with it. Your theme is the take-away from your novel. Similar plots can have very different themes. For example, if your novel's plot is the zombie apocalypse ... What's the theme? The theme basically guides you in how you tell the story. Perhaps your protagonist moves heaven and earth to save his daughter, in which case the theme is 'family is everything.' Or, perhaps, the protagonist cures the zombies via medical expertise, in which case the theme is 'science can save us.' You get the idea.
Good luck with your novel openings!

09 June 2015

Editorial tricks

As we put together the last issue of Electric Spec I couldn't help noticing I've picked up some editorial tricks, to make a story pop, over the last decade. I thought I'd pass some of them along to you...

Tricks to make your story stand out from the crowd:

  • Have minimal spelling and grammar mistakes. (Okay, I admit this isn't strictly a trick.) No one will read your story if they're distracted by errors. Use your software's spelling and grammar checker. Use your significant other. Use your persnickety retired-school-teacher aunt.
  • Create a unique title for your story. Your title is essentially the commercial for your story. When readers see it in a table of contents they should think "I need to read that!" After you finish your story, stop, pause, think. What is the essence of your story? Your title should reflect that. You might even have a great phrase already in your story you could use.
  • Put your power words at the end of your sentences. This gives the sentence more oomph! Related to this, put your dialogue tags in the middle of the sentences. Here's an example:
    • "I can't believe he's dead," the angel said.
    • versus "It can't believe it," the angel said. "He's dead."
    The second version is more dramatic, isn't it?
  • Make use of white space on the page. Putting more white space around a sentence makes it stand out more. In other words, start a new paragraph--even if you don't have to--to emphasize something. This can be especially effective at the end of the story.
Good luck!

02 June 2015


As you know, the marvelous May 2015 issue of Electric Spec is out. Huzzah!

Thank you potential authors for submitting your stories. We appreciate you! Thank you authors K.C. Griffin, Jessica Kelly, Malcolm Laughton, Jim Breyfogle and George Schaade. We appreciate you!

Thank you to our associate editors Chris Devlin and Nikki Baird. You rock! Thank you to our columnist Marty Mapes. You rock! Thanks, also, to our cover artist Ron Sanders for his piece "Ache." Nice job!

Thank you tech guys at Hardlight Multimedia in Ireland. Huzzah for you!

Most of all, thank you readers! We wouldn't exist without you. :)

01 June 2015

It's alive!

Check out the brand new issue of Electric Spec!

26 May 2015

new issue in 5 days!

We have a new issue of Electric Spec coming out in 5 days! You already heard from Author K.C. Griffin about her story "Mass Exodus" and know we'll be featuring chapter one of Emissary by Author Betsy Dornbusch. I believe we also bragged about Editor Betsy's Interview with Roberto Calas. We have a bunch of other neat stuff...

Author Jim Breyfogle tells us about "Sowing Peace" in his epic fantasy; you'll never think about a graveyard in the same way after reading this. Author Jessica Kelly explains how to take advantage of people's lack of attention to "Details" in her macabre tale.

We also have some science fiction. Author Malcolm Laughton makes us realize being an "Ageless Rock Star" is not as wonderful as it sounds. In "Cruising in an Event" Author George Schaade shows us the adventures of a father-daughter team in a chaotic world.

Be sure to check it all out on May 31, 2015!

19 May 2015

from our author

Here are some comments by Author K.C. Grifant about her story "Mass Exodus" which is upcoming in our marvelous May 31, 2015 issue of Electric Spec:

I have always been obsessed with flying. I wanted to soar since I was a kid, jumping from the third step of our front porch hoping that sheer willpower would launch me upwards. Dreams of unencumbered flying were the sweetest gift: for a few infinite dream-moments I experienced a buoyancy and freedom that could not be replicated in the waking world.

The germination for the story “Mass Exodus” was a single thought: what if we all had this ability to fly without explanation?

This strange occurrence would be met the way all news today is met: as a collective mass of reactions online. Social media has an unprecedented effect on how we process the world, especially unusual or upsetting events. The near-instant access to everyone’s responses moves us closer to a hive mind than ever before.

As an idea quickly propagates throughout a system like an aggressive virus, the hive mind could, conceivably, be hijacked to perpetuate a mass delusion or used to propel a jump in the evolution of our brains and psyches. As the main character tries to figure out what’s what and resist a powerful collective belief, she risks becoming humanity’s sole outcast.

Ultimately, the question that came out of this story was: if everyone believes in something, how do you know if it’s a mass delusion or a new reality? I invite you to read and decide for yourself.

12 May 2015

Author Betsy

I bet you were expecting preview of coming attractions for the marvelous May 31, 2015 issue of Electric Spec. This is a preview of coming attractions! In Editor's Corner this time, we are lucky enough to get chapter one of Author (and Electric Spec Editor) Betsy Dornbusch's new hardback novel Emissary. W00t! I've starting reading it and "ooh la la!" it's good. And I am totally objective. I objectively recommend it.

For those of you who only know of Betsy's editing expertise, she has several books out. There's Exile in hardback and trade paperback. I was even blurbed: "From the first line ("Cut her throat. His own wife."), readers of Betsy Dornbusch's Exile know they are in for a dramatic and exciting tale.... Any reader who joins her for the ride will be glad they did. Lesley Smith".
There's Archive of Fire, of which Author Aaron Michael Ritchey said "Archive of Fire is Supernatural on steroids." She also has a secret (oops!) identity as Ainsley, author of speculative erotica including Lost Prince, Quenched with E.C. Stacy, and Quencher with E. Cameron Stacy.
Anyway, my point is, Author Betsy knows what she's doing. Check her stuff out.

Here at Electric Spec we support authors. That's the whole reason we started the 'zine a decade ago. So, also coming up in the next issue will be Editor Betsy's fun interview of Author Roberto Calas! I can't wait!

05 May 2015

May 2015 prod meeting

We, the Electric Spec Editors, are hard at work on the marvelous May 31, 2015 issue! Recently, we had the production meeting. We met at a new establishment which did serve adult beverages. We all got carded--which was hilarious. :) I, personally, imbibed 5 different types of beer, but Editors Betsy and Dave went all fancy with the bourbon. The food was yummy. We did pat ourselves on the back a little for making Electric Spec a success for almost a decade. (Yeah!)

But, I know those aren't the types of details you're interested in. We had a vigorous discussion of the stories. One major consideration ended up being issue balance. We picked 2 SF stories, 2 fantasies, and 1 horror story. It was difficult because there were so many good ones, but we couldn't pick 5 fantasies, for example. Another major consideration was the story ending. Did the protagonist(s) do anything to cause the ending? Was something different at the end?

I emailed all the hold-for-voting folks who didn't get into the issue. If you're one of those, you should feel good about getting into hold-for-voting. We're sorry we can't published all the stories in h-f-v! We are in the process of emailing all the "yes" authors. Please send back your contracts promptly so we can start editing. We'd love to have more authors blog about their stories here, too. Please consider it if we're publishing your story.

Fun fact: we are nearing the half-million mark (500,000) for page views of the blog. Tell your friends. Come on, let's push it over the edge. :)

I'd like to give a special shout-out to our Associate Editor Nikki Baird who helps us read the slushy stories. Yeah, Nikki!

I'd also like to give a special shout-out to prospective authors. We wouldn't even have a 'zine if you didn't send us your works of art. Yeah, you!

28 April 2015

the whole package

We, the Electric Spec Editors, are finishing reading slush this week and moving on to choosing stories for the May 31, 2015 Electric Spec issue. I find this step (choosing) difficult because all the stories in hold-for-voting are good. This step is probably the most subjective. What do I look for? Well, I'll tell you: the whole package. In terms of stories this means:
  1. The story has a unique voice. This can be rendered via the protagonist's point-of-view or the prose or a beautifully-rendered world or something else. Basically, I want to get lost in the story.
  2. The story has a unique plot. I choose stories with plots I haven't read before. However, if the voice is lovely enough, this can be superseded.
  3. The story has a unique protagonist. IMHO every protagonist should be flawed in some way and be gifted in some way. The protagonist's unique qualities then should drive the plot problem and solution. I want to believe the protagonist is, or could be, a real person.
  4. The story is in a genre I prefer. Subjective-me really likes urban fantasy and hard SF and especially stories with time-travel and/or quantum physics. I like other types of fantasy and soft SF and macabre horror. In general, I prefer man-against-nature stories over man-against-man stories. I enjoy humorous stories (but humor itself is very subjective). I don't like stories with a cruel tone. I have been known to black-ball stories with rape, especially kid rape. Caveat Scriptor.
  5. Finally, there are editorial concerns: The story is mostly free of grammar and spelling errors. (Error-filled stories are more difficult to edit.) The story isn't super long (These are more work to edit). The story can't be similar to one we published before.
And then, of course, at the production meeting we have to worry about things like issue balance, meaning, for example, we can't publish 5 zombie stories.
But the production meeting is a post for another time...(like next week!)

21 April 2015

advice from reading slush

We are working hard behind the scenes on the May 31, 2015 issue of Electric Spec. Right now, we are still getting through the slush pile. Thus, you should expect to hear back from us by the end of April/beginning of May if we got your story.
Here's some advice for potential Electric Spec authors based on reading slush:
  • Focus on the first page. If the first page has a lot of spelling or grammar issues editors are less inclined to keep reading. If the first page is confusing editors are less inclined to keep reading. I should know who the protagonist is, where he/she/it is, when he/she/it is. Refer to each character consistently via one name. Don't put a lot of specialized terms or jargon that I can't figure out from the context on page one. I shouldn't be asking 'What's going on here?'
  • Do have a unique protagonist. Every real person is different, so every fictional person should certainly be different. The more unique they are, the better. How do you create a unique protagonist? Virtually everything in the story should be colored or interpreted through the protagonist's perceptions. Specific details also help here. For example, a new Lamborghini Veneno Roadster is different from a dented 2007 Nissan Versa and tells us something different about the character(s) that own them. And FYI: telling the reader the characters' hair color will not create unique characters.
  • Do have a unique twist on plot. Notice I didn't say a unique plot; I'm not sure those exist. For example, a story about zombies taking over is not unique. A story about zombies getting better was unique--the first time. A tip: if your plot has been made into a TV/cable show or a movie is it not unique/twisty enough. In particular, human men killing other humans or aliens is hard to make unique. A surprise reveal at the end that the protagonist is really an alien is hard to make unique.
  • Do have nice smooth prose. I recommend reading aloud to catch awkward sections. Generally, you don't want to repeat the same word within a sentence. If your prose is not smooth it takes me out of the story. Don't make me stop and ask 'What is the author trying to say here?' Any time I'm taken out of the story it gives me an opportunity to think 'I should reject this.'
  • For Electric Spec we like stories with a plot. This means something needs to be different at the end of the story than it is at the beginning of the story.
  • Do show. You can tell, you just need to do some showing as well. Telling is summarizing and puts a layer of author between the reader and the characters. Dialogue is a good way to show. :)
I guess that's it for now.

We sincerely thank you for sending your stories in!

14 April 2015

Morrell's Advice

Recently I had an opportunity to hear author David Morrell speak. He summarized many points contained in his writing craft book Lessons From a Lifetime of Writing: a novelist looks at his craft. I strongly agreed with much of his advice. In no particular order, here are some highlights:
  • Writing is a kind of self psychoanalysis. Use your one-of-a-kind psyche to guide you to original unique stories, subjects, themes and approaches. Don't try to imitate other authors. Don't chase the market.
  • Don't be ignorant about other authors. Read!
  • When you get stuck in your writing, consider having a conversation with yourself. What happens next? Why? So what? and the like.
  • Plot should equal conflict plus motivation.
  • Plot and character should be intimately related.
  • Write what you're passionate about! If you don't know about something, research it. Have adventures; live your life. A well-lived life has a lot material for fiction.
  • A writing career will have many peaks and valleys; keep your perspective.

How about you? What good writing advice have you gotten?

The submission deadline for the May 2015 issue is midnight U.S. MDT, April 15, 2015!
Get those stories in!

07 April 2015

bare your soul?

Have you ever participated in a writing workshop? Do you have any critique partners? There can be a phenomena associated with reading multiple (in progress) pieces from an author, namely, you may come to feel like you know personal things about said author. You may feel you know the author's values, mores, paradigm, family history, and/or sexual/romantic experiences or other aspects of his/her soul.

I've personally noticed this phenomena with first novels. First novels often seem to be wish-fulfillment adventures. Have you ever seen this?

Is this phenomena a drawback to writing? No. We want to know your soul. Come on, show us. :)

The deadline for the May 2015 issue of Electric Spec is coming up: April 15, 2015!
Get those stories in!

31 March 2015

personal proclivities

I read several novels in March 2015 and I realized some (most? all?) authors have certain proclivities. Since we're all writers and readers, here, we all know proclivity means natural or habitual inclination or tendency; propensity; predisposition.

Currently, I'm reading the third novel, a huge blockbuster, of an author. I also read her first book this month. These unrelated books have some similarities. First of all, the prose is really lovely; this author is quite talented. That's a good proclivity! Both novels take place in small towns in Missouri. Both novels feature failed/failing journalists. Both novels have a violent undertone. Both novels are super dramatic.

I recently reread 2 novels of my favorite author and she also has certain proclivities. Her characters tend to be relatively powerless, operating in the background. She seems to enjoy using the framework of another work of fiction (possibly fictional fiction, i.e. not real), quoting from it or actually stealing its story or structure. She uses a lot of gerunds. She loves to have characters get interrupted. I could go on. :)

To be fair, I should analyze my work and see if I have any personal proclivities... Upon reflection, I have many. My main characters are often female scientists. My novels often take place in Colorado on the campus of a certain university. My novels often include quantum mechanics in some form. My novels often include a romantic subplot. Okay, here's a weird one: my novels often include copies of the protagonist! These copies occur via cloning, time-travel, quantum mechanics, and/or other mechanisms!
Hhm. I may be in a writing rut. I'll have to work on this.

How about you? Do you have any personal writing proclivities?

24 March 2015

Pinker's Style

I recently read The Sense of Style: the Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century! by Steven Pinker. Pinker covers everything that confuses and confounds writers. :) For example, we all know a pronoun is a word that take the place of a noun. In fact, there are different kinds of pronouns:
  • A nominative generally is the subject, or actor, of the verb. Nominative pronouns are I, he, she, we, they, and who.
  • An accusative generally is the object, or receiver, of the verb. Accusative pronouns are me, him, her, us, them, and whom.
  • Genitive is primarily a way to indicate possession; it's a noun that modifies another noun. Genitive case is marked on pronouns: my, your, his, her, our, their, whose, its and on noun phrases with 's.
I sometimes have trouble with I verusus me. Using this information, a writer should write: I was down by the schoolyard. Or, even: Julio and I were down by the schoolyard. But a writer can write: Me and Julio were down by the schoolyard. One of Pinker's messages is language evolves and writers should use their knowledge and experience to write what works for a particular piece.

Another tricky one for me is who versus whom. But the nominative/accusative difference should pin it down. Who kissed the bride? Whom did Henry kiss?

What grammar issues do you find tricky?

17 March 2015

reddit takeaways

As I mentioned last week, we did a reddit AMA. Here's the link. I thought I'd give a recap here of the AMA and our accompanying offline discussion for folks who want to know more about Electric Spec.

We started the ezine about a decade ago because we love writing and wanted to support writers. All the editors are speculative fiction writers and avid readers (and members of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers). We also enjoy speculative TV and movies. Although we don't have any formal training as editors, there are some English degrees among the editors.

It should be pretty clear from the AMA that we all enjoy humor. If Editor Betsy and Editor Dave had to pick a favorite genre I believe they would pick epic fantasy. Editor Betsy in particular enjoys dark stories. My favorite genre is SF, although I really enjoy urban fantasy as well. Horror/macabre is tricky; we tend to get a lot of men murdering women stories. This gets tiresome. Give us something original.

In terms of length, flash is hard to do well, particularly stories of less than 1000 words. This is because it's difficult to make the reader care about the character in such a short amount of time. If your story is over 5,000 words, conversely, it's likely it needs slashing. You don't believe me? Well, if you have multiple point-of-view characters, more than one subplot, or multiple timelines you probably need at least 5,000 words. But if not, cut it.

We had differing opinions on cover letters. Editor Dave liked it if an author mention Electric Spec in his cover letter. I admitted I don't read them. (!) Editor Betsy said her opinions on cover letters have evolved over the years. We agreed it's annoying when authors don't submit an *rtf as requested. Or if they don't put "SUBMISSION" in the subject line of their email.

Probably the number one takeaway of the experience was: it was a blast! We had a lot of fun. I highly recommend reddit for readers and writers.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

10 March 2015

truth in fiction

Definitions of fiction abound. One could say fiction is "literature created from the imagination, not presented as fact, though it may be based on a true story or situation." Or, "In broader, everyday usage, fiction refers to any appearance, impression, or understanding that is imaginary or otherwise not strictly true." Thus, it may be odd to consider truth in fiction. But I've been pondering what makes fiction great and I'm deciding it's truth. Perhaps this shouldn't be a big revelation considering our true literature blog entry from last year.

I'm taking a class right now and, among other things, we're supposed to read some novels and basically judge them. All the novels are well-written. All of them are entertaining. But some of them are not great and I think it's because they didn't appear to contain any truth or authenticity. After reading I thought: this plot could never happen, or these characters are too over-the-top to be real.

This idea is relevant for short fiction. A short story should embody some truth. I admit this can be challenging with speculative fiction when you aren't necessarily writing about this Earth or about human beings. But it's worth trying. Good luck!

In other news the Electric Spec Editors are doing an 'Ask-Me-Anything' over at reddit.com this Thursday evening March 12. Come on over and ask us anything! For example, you could ask Editor Betsy how hanging out at a bar, drinking beer, led to her first publication in hardcover. You could ask Editor Dave how he's making the world safer for love and marriage. Considering my recent attempt to write a horror romance, you could ask me: "How do ghosts have sex?" But please don't. :)
See you over there!

03 March 2015

so many favorites

We are extraordinarily lucky to get so many lovely stories submitted to Electric Spec. Thank you; we appreciate it! Our fabulous February 28, 2015 issue is chock full of fun spec fic stories. There are so many good ones, I can't even decide which is my favorite. How about you?

I didn't blog much earlier about our discussion with author Rebecca S. W. Bates. Check out her interview to find out how to differentiate characters and other writing tips as well as why Rebecca makes use of diverse cultures in her work.

Betsy Dornbusch's story "The Last of a Caste" also hasn't been blogged about yet. Ezine readers may not know, but in addition to being an editor, Betsy is a very accomplished author with several novels out. Her fantasy story is very dark. What would do if you were an assassin and ordered to kill a pregnant woman? Wow! Dramatic!

If you haven't yet, check out the new issue!

28 February 2015

Check it out!

Check it out! We're live with a brand-new issue of Electric Spec! Huzzah! Thanks for joining us as we start our tenth year!

Thank you very much to our authors. Thank you very much to our associate editors, Nikki Baird and Chris Devlin. Thank you very much to our tech support folks at Hardlight Multimedia. Thank you author Rebecca S.W. Bates for the interview. And special thanks to our cover artist Joel Bisaillon. Check out his awesome picture:

And most of all: Thank you readers!

24 February 2015

more free fiction

Savvy readers know at the end of this week we'll be giving you more free fiction in the Fabulous February 28, 2015 issue of Electric Spec! Here at Electric Spec we love speculative fiction, all kinds.

Rounding out our quintet of excellent stories will be Peri Fletcher's fantasy "When Next the Rains Come" and George Walker's science fiction story "Museum Man."
Among other things, both of these stories do a marvelous job with plot and character arc. Things are definitely different at the end than they were in the beginning. Coincidentally, the protagonists in both stories rebel against their fate, creating new paths for themselves. Aren't active protagonists great?

We'll have a couple other fun items in the issue including a fascinating interview with author Rebecca S. W. Bates and a dramatic bonus story in Editor's Corner.

Be sure to check everything out on February 28!

17 February 2015

macabre horror fantasy coming

Only eleven days until the fabulous February 28, 2015 issue of Electric Spec!

Last week you heard a little about one of the upcoming stories. We also have some exciting macabre horror fantasy coming in the issue. Yes, that's a mouthful. The horror genre is the most difficult to define. The Horror Writers Association says horror can deal with the mundane or the supernatural, with the fantastic or the normal. It doesn't have to be full of ghosts, ghouls, and things to go bump in the night. Its only true requirement is that it elicit an emotional reaction that includes some aspect of fear or dread. FYI if you're a horror writer you should know about the Horror Writers Association (HWA).

In eleven days you'll get to read for yourself Jason Sturner's "Potawatomi Island" in which a man travels to a spooky island searching for answers to a long-standing mystery.
You'll also get to read Charles Payseur's "Capital Coffee" in which coffee's role in the apocalypse is illustrated.

Check them both out in the new issue!

10 February 2015

from our author

In case you haven't heard, we have another fabulous issue of Electric Spec coming at the end of the month. It will contain several excellent stories. One of them, "Once Lost, Gone Forever," is by author Gwendolyn Kiste. We asked her to tell us about her story:

At its core, “Once Lost, Gone Forever” is a coming of age story. As a huge fan of novels like The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird, I set out to create a supernatural tale that transforms the chaotic nature of teenagers into an overt “gift” that the two lead characters use to express themselves, albeit with dangerous results. For so many reasons, Inali and Melissa are unlike anyone I’ve ever met, yet they both share similarities with virtually every friend I had growing up—in particular their desire for belonging as well as their craving for a life that’s just over the horizon but always somehow out of reach.

Just before I wrote “Once Lost, Gone Forever,” my own best friend from high school moved across the country to start fresh with a new partner. While I was (and am) so happy for her, it got me thinking about how much our bonds forged when we’re children impact us for the rest of our lives. We don’t require friends in the same practical way we need family. Friends fill a different type of need, one that helps us understand who we are and how we fit into the world. With these themes in mind, I wanted to craft something dedicated to that profound feeling of young friendship. An ephemeral, even ethereal experience, I hope I’ve done it justice.

Be sure to check it out on February 28, 2015.

03 February 2015

About the production meeting

We, the Editors of Electric Spec are working hard behind the scenes on the February 28, 2015 issue. Recently, we had our production meeting for this issue. Thus we are in the process of emailing all the authors with stories in hold-for-voting with a yea or nay. Yea authors also get a nifty contract which they need to email back so we can start editing their stories. Let me reiterate something I've said before: if your story was in hold-for-voting it was publishable. Writing is a tough business so you have to appreciate small victories. You should pat yourself on the back.

Some totally unbusinesslike impressions of the meeting... We met for the first time at an Asian restaurant which seemed to have only one waiter working. Thus, we had less liquor than usual. :( Editor Dave also said the scotch and soda he ordered was the oddest he'd ever tasted. I do wish I had a picture of his expression when he tasted it. However, my beers were good and my sushi was good, so I'm not complaining.
We invented a new game. When the fortune cookies come, instead of adding 'in bed' at the end, add 'in my novel.' Thus, here are our novel fortunes:

  • The axe soon forgets, but the tree always remembers in my novel.
  • Take time to relax especially when you don't have time for it in my novel.
  • Only by acceptance of the past, can you alter it in my novel.

Here are some more interesting/relevant impressions from our story discussion:

  • Length was an issue. Very short, flash, pieces are tough; it's hard to write an entire plot in less than a thousand words. Longer pieces (over 5,0000 words) were not popular. None of us seemed to want to edit those.
  • Don't worry about political correctness. We had a story with a Muslim protagonist doing some unusual things and we discussed if we should worry about offending people. Bottom line: No worries. Send us your politically incorrect stories.
  • Telling is not a hit with us. If a story has a lot of telling, i.e. summarizing of the story, rather than showing the story, it was less likely to be chosen. To be clear, none of the stories were all telling--such a story wouldn't have made it into hold-for-voting.
  • Story epilogues weren't popular. One editor said why would a short story need an epilogue? Put the whole story in the story.
That's about it for the behind-the-scenes. I won't tell you about seeing Editor Betsy and Editor Dave 'talking' in the dark and deserted parking lot. Under the full moon. I won't tell you how their ears seemed much larger and hairier, or their hands looked much claw-ier, or their teeth much bigger and sharper. I will tell you I got out of there quick!

27 January 2015

genre versus literary

I've been thinking a lot lately about the dichotomy between genre and literary fiction. This is probably because I'm in the process of reading The Best American Short Stories 2014. Of course, BASS is the collection for literary fiction. While all these stories are beautifully written, I wouldn't have chosen any of them for Electric Spec.

The series editor Heidi Pitlor had some telling words in her intro: ...many stories tended to wander--sometimes intriguingly, often into unsettling territory--rather than accelerate toward some definitive endpoint. While some stories that I read this year were built around or upon some narrative roadway...plenty were not.
To me this epitomizes the divide between genre and literary fiction. I would say genre fiction needs to have a narrative roadway, i.e. a plot. This means something needs to be changed at the end of the story. It could be subtle, e.g. a change within the protagonist, but something needs to be different.

When I choose fiction for Electric Spec I agree with the 2014 BASS editor Jennifer Egan: The best fun, for me, comes from reading something that feels different from anything else. ...Let's say that I'm biased toward writers who take an obvious risk, formally, structurally, or in terms of subject matter, over those who do a familiar thing exquisitely.
We do strive to publish original stories.

Egan is also a bit provocative considering her job as BASS editor: ...I don't care very much about genre, either as a reader or as a writer. To me, fiction writing at any length, in any form, is a feat of radical compression: take the sprawling chaos of human experience, run it through the sieve of perception, and distill it into something comparatively miniscule that somehow, miraculously, illuminates the vast complexity around it.
This is definitely something to aspire to.

Maybe the genre/literary divide isn't so big. What do you think?

Next week I'll tell you about the Production Meeting for the Feb 28, 2015 issue.

20 January 2015

write a lot

We editors tend to get asked "How do I write a story you'll buy?" This question is really "How do I become a better writer?" There are several things we recommend including joining a critique group, reading a lot of fiction and reading writing craft books. However, the number one thing you can do to improve your writing is write a lot.

A while ago Neil Gaiman said on his journal:Chuck Jones told would be artists to draw, explaining that "you've got a million bad drawings inside you and the sooner you get them out, the better". Raymond Chandler is reputed to have told would be authors that they have a million words of crap to get out of their system. And in both cases there's a lot of truth there -- if only because it allows you to keep going despite your technical limitations and inability to get the words or the pen to do what you want, and eventually find yourself, well, competent. And some of the words and pictures you turn out on the way can be pretty good too.

There's really no substitute for this. You have to put in the time and energy and put the words on the page/screen. You have to get used to putting one word after the other. I think it also helps you get over the preciousness of your writing. Authors need to be able to kill their darlings. :)

Behind the scenes, we are very busy at Electric Spec getting through the slush for the Feb 28, 2015 issue. If you submitted a story by the Jan 15 deadline you should hear from us by the beginning of Feb with a 'No thanks' or a 'Hold-for-voting' email. I better get back to it!

13 January 2015

What happens to your story?

The submission deadline for the Feb 28 2015 issue of Electric Spec is this week: Jan 15, 2015! Get those stories in. I highly recommend you peruse some of our "Tips from the slush pile" that I listed last week here on the blog. If you have sent in a story, you might be wondering what happens to it. Well, I'll tell you...

Hopefully, you followed our submission rules, which are given here. Notice it says, "Use the following subject line: SUBMISSION:Story Title by Author's Name". If you do not put "SUBMISSION" in your subject line you may get caught in our spam filter and then who knows what the heck will happen? We do not guarantee we read stories caught in the spam filter. :(
Technically, we aren't supposed to read stories with no cover letter, or which aren't in *rtf format--but we may let these last 2 rules slide.

Anyway, assuming your story makes it into our Inbox, I randomly assign your story to one of our editors: Nikki, Betsy, Dave, or me. Thus, it doesn't do you any good trying to address your story to a particular one of us. I don't have time to read each cover letter before I assign the stories.

We editors are supposed to read the stories in a timely manner and get back to you with a 'No Thanks' or a 'We'll hold this one for voting.' I'm sorry to say "timely manner" can vary. A lot. Apologies, if you've been waiting to hear back for a while.
Sometimes, an editor is on the fence about a story and then we'll email it to another editor and ask: What do you think? I do this with genres I know the particular editor really enjoys.
I've blogged a lot about opening a story with a bang, e.g. see set the hook. After a decade of doing this, I don't read your whole story if it hasn't caught my attention by the end of the first page or so. Sorry.

Once a decision is made, your story either goes into the hold-for-voting folder or ...the trash. :( We don't keep any kind of records of rejected stories.

Then, we have the production meeting. I've blogged quite a bit about the production meetings in the past. Our next production meeting will take place in about 2 weeks. To prepare, we summarize and rank each story in hold-for-voting. Based on the individual editor rankings, I compile a numerical ranking of the stories. Interesting fact: usually each editor gets their favorite story published and usually they get to edit said story and interact with the author.

The editors email the lucky authors with the good news. I email the unfortunates with the bad news and then delete the stories. On the bright side, if you made it into hold-for-voting your story is publishable.

Presumably it will start its adventure all over again at another market...

06 January 2015

give me characters

We, the Editors, have been going through the story submissions in preparation for the Feb 28, 2015 issue of Electric Spec. Thanks for sending your stories in!

We've given "Tips from the slush pile" several times: Sept 2014, July 2014, July 2014, April 2014, Dec 2013 and so on. I hate to say it, but these comments are still pretty relevant. Check them out if you're interested.

Today, I'm going to focus on something we don't get enough of, and frankly, something I don't read enough of in general: unique characters. I would love to see more stories with unique well-characterized protagonists. I would love to see more protagonists with unique voices. Give your characters unusual personalities, i.e. a rare perspective on the world with their own thoughts, feelings, interests and/or vocabularies. Show me that quirky person only you could write.

Why am I emphasizing this? It's difficult to create a unusual plot because they all consist of a person has a problem and acts to solve it. What could the problem be that we haven't seen before? Certainly not a murder or broken heart.
On the other hand, there are over 7 billion people on Earth. That's a lot of possibilities for protagonists. :)

So, with apologies to Patrick Henry: Give me characters!

Don't forget the submission deadline is Jan 15, 2015. Good luck!