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!