20 December 2016

girl cooties rock!

There's a new group on our planet called Girl Cooties. They are all about Science fiction for women by women. Their welcome page says If you’re interested character-based stories that examine who we are and how the big questions of science and society affect us in our daily lives, this is the meeting place for you. Yay!
And We have no interest in negativity or in tearing others down. Yay!

They formed to help address The Leaky Pipeline: Where are Women’s Voices in Science Fiction? question. The bottom line is fewer female SF authors are published and reviewed. Boo! Check out Dr. K. Kitts' article here.

Personally, I love SF--and,spoiler alert--I am female. If you love SF, Definitely check out the whole awesome Girl Cooties site here. Girl Cooties Rock!

And don't worry, here at Electric Spec we still love male (and agender, bigender, transgender, cisgender, basically all genders) authors and fantasy, and macabre horror, and all other kinds of speculative fiction.
Send us your stories!

13 December 2016

story endings

Yes, we are still revelling in the fabulous November 30, 2016 issue of Electric Spec! But we are also starting work on the fabulous Februrary 2017 (!) issue.

I've been working on the slush pile...

There seems to be two different schools of thought on story endings. I've read some stories in slush which seem to sort of peter out.
Some people might say this is a sophisticated ending, an artistic ending. I'm afraid I would say this is not an emotionally satisfying ending. If you survey the stories in our 'zine we tend not to publish the peter-out endings.

The alternative school of thought is a kapow-whiz-bang! ending. I prefer these. I want authors to engage my emotions. Make me laugh! Make me cry! Make me say, "Aw!" I want authors to take me on a journey. Let's go somewhere. Let's have an adventure!

Of course, not all editors agree with me.

No one ever said writing was easy...

06 December 2016


Here at Electric Spec we're still revelling in the stories in our November 31 2016 issue. They're all quite different, from Lenin's Nurse: Notes for a Dissertation by Chris Barnham to Gazer by Karen Osborne to The Yuru-chara of Hector, NY by Morgan Crooks to Childe Roland by Sidney Blaylock, Jr. to Mered's Lament by Chris Walker. (And yes, that may be the longest sentence I've ever written!)

What's your favorite? I must admit, I really enjoyed them all!

If you haven't read them all yet: do so!

It's also neat that we got so much behind-the-scenes info from authors, here on the blog.
Thanks, authors!

And soon we'll begin work on the 2017 issues...

30 November 2016

It's alive!

It's alive! The fabulous November 30 issue of Electric Spec is alive!

Thank you so much authors, artist, editors, and tech folks! You rock!

Most of all, thank you readers! You rock the most!


29 November 2016


The anticipation is growing as we approach publication of the Nov 30, 2016 Electric Spec issue!
You've already heard from authors Osborne, Barnham, and Crooks about their stories.
This issue also contains some entertaining fantasy.

In the realm of fantasy, Chris Walker brings us Mered's Lament, a traditional knight-hunts-dragon story that rapidly upends the genre. Hint: it's a rare day these days to find a damsel in distress.

If you can't wait for The Dark Tower movie, coming next summer, Childe Roland by Sidney Blaylock, Jr. might just tide you over with his creative take on the Robert Browning poem.

And to leave you wanting more, here's a sneak peek at our cover art:
nov 2016 cover

24 November 2016

from Author Osborne

Oooh! We're getting close now to the fabulous November 30, 2016 issue of Electric Spec! Continuing our series of author comments, today we are delighted to hear from Karen Osborne about her story "Gazer."

I find it incredible that addiction is still such a taboo subject in our society. We’ve sent human beings to the moon and mapped the human genome, but when it comes to the struggle with the bottom of the bottle, things are apparently not as easy.

In our mixed-up world, someone who struggles with headaches needs -- and gets -- some aspirin, while someone who struggles with pain of a deeper nature often reaches for the bottle of booze or pills in order to heal less obvious wounds. Our culture doesn’t understand that kind of pain. Our culture takes that pain and makes it a moral failing, keeping the addict from feeling like they can reach out for help without being shamed.

That means that addicts can go around and around a bruising Moebius strip full of shame and loneliness for years before something convinces them they need help: you’re afraid of the pain, so you numb the pain, but the high keeps slipping further and further from your fingers, and the pain never really goes away. An addict’s pain is like a snowball falling down a mountain: by rock bottom, it envelops everything around it -- friends, family members, and sometimes the addict’s own life.

Recovering addicts will often tell you that if haven’t been down that hill yourself, you just can’t understand what it means to want that high so completely that you are willing to hurt yourself for it -- or the feelings that come afterwards when you choose to face your problems head-on.

Writing and reading fantasy can be addicting, too, in its own special way. By cracking open a book or writing our own stories, engaging with a fandom or putting in a DVD, we can escape the world around us and our own very real physical and psychological pain. We can be heroes. We can win the battle. We can save the world. We can be the secret princess or the knight that saves the land or the very center of the narrative. A good story can be a heady, wonderful high, can’t it? Hasn’t everyone who spends their days on the factory floor or whipping spreadsheets into shape wondered, at least once, what it was like to be the Chosen One? "But, Karen," you might say, "that kind of escapism is mostly harmless."

What if it wasn't?

Be careful where you stand when you’re on the top of that hill...

Provocative and very thoughtful, Karen! Thanks!

22 November 2016

from Author Barnham

We're proud to announce another exciting story in the November 30, 2016 issue of Electric Spec "Lenin's Nurse: Notes for a Dissertation" by Chris Barnham. We're also excited to have comments from the author about the story...

One of the interesting things about making stuff up is the way the characters you invent can take on a life of their own. And a loose end of a story written years ago can spin itself into a bigger story.

Many years ago, I published a story in the late-lamented Pan Horror series. It was called, "On the Fishermen’s Path", and told the tale of a young man’s holiday romance with a mysterious young woman who turned out to have a chilling backstory. At the end we strongly suspect that she was responsible for a series of grisly murders, and the young man in the story escaped becoming the latest victim only by luck.

Something in the story wouldn’t let me go, and long afterwards I found myself wondering whether there was more to the young woman’s story than I had written. I found myself reimagining the woman who disappeared at the end of "Fishermen’s Path". Where had she come from? Why did she do the things she did? What if she had been around a very long time, changing her name and identity, repeatedly turning up to bring havoc to the lives of the men who crossed her path? Thus I found myself writing a novel, ‘Among the Living.’ In this story, a widowed father, desperate for love and stability, falls for a wealthy, attractive, enigmatic woman who turns out to be have a dark and lengthy past. He tries to break up their relationship, but the woman breaks in to his home, attacks him and abducts his son. Warned off from involving the police, he sets out to track her down to save his son. The search takes an increasingly bizarre turn as he discovers connections to a series of other women, stretching back over four centuries.

As evidence mounts of the troubling links to these women from the past, the guy has to face the possibility that they are in fact the same woman; from the Elizabeth Barlow he knows, through Eliza Batho, mistress of the British Prime Minister in World War One, and finally back to one of history’s genuine monsters, Countess Elizabeth Bathory. A woman reputed to have murdered hundreds of people for their blood, using witchcraft to prolong her life. A woman who has kidnapped his son.

I was pleased with the book, but even then I found that my character would not leave me alone. "Among the Living" ended with her holed up in a cottage in the country, apparently safe from the authorities and free to reinvent herself again. But still she nagged at me. If she had lived a dozen lives, however careful she was she would leave traces. Surely someone would eventually stumble over those traces and maybe come looking for her. What would happen then?

This thought led to the story "Lenin’s Nurse". A diligent historian spots the similarities between Lenin’s nurse in the 1920s and Stalin’s assistant in the 1950s, and follows a thread that leads to a quiet cottage in the present-day English countryside. With results that he could perhaps have foreseen. Certainly if he’d read "Among the Living".

Maybe I’ve finished with this story now, and the character can rest easy. Only time will tell. After all, I wonder what she would do next...

Thanks, Chris!

15 November 2016

from Author Crooks

I know what you all have been waiting for... More info about the stories in our November 30, 2016 issue of Electric Spec. Well, wait no more! We will be presenting a unique science fiction story "The Yuru-chara of Hector, NY" by Morgan Crooks. And right now, we're presenting comments from Author Crooks...

I don't remember what exactly inspired this story. I know the basic idea of virtual pets getting bodies came to me while I was driving and that I was taken enough by the concept to pull over to write it down. I suspect there was a radio program behind it but who knows. While writing the first draft I came across the concept of yuru-charas: in Japan, some municipalities create mascots to promote civic pride. That gave me Tama’s basic personality and outlook and the rest fell into place quickly.

One basic theme of "The Yuru-chara of Hector, NY," is responsibility. To what do we owe responsibility? What qualifies as deserving our attention and care? We owe this to other human beings, certainly. To pets, of course. Property and nature should be respected. Even certain intangible things like ideas need to be cherished. But what about virtual pets, digital assistants or online companions? Should we feel guilty when we eventually abandon a tamaguchi or pokemon? Should we be cavalier in our treatment of Siri?

But, you protest, those things are ephemera. They are designed to be discarded, programmed for disregard. And maybe that's true but somehow the question I kept circling around was not whether Tama suffers from her experiences but how Sam seeks a way to give that part of her childhood the dignity it deserves. If something is important to us at one point in our life than maybe it warrants attention and respect.

The other theme is, of course, dealing with the various losses involved in growing up. Of all of the protagonists in my stories, she's one of my favorites. I'm sympathetic to her impatience for the future to start even as I understand the regret she experiences. What I don't think she's fully dealt with are the consequences of placing one of her friends (no matter how artificial) into a box and walking away. In gaining a solid form, Tama makes Sam confront that abandonment.

Fascinating! Thanks, Morgan!

08 November 2016

post Production Meeting

The Production Meeting tasks have been completed. Huzzah!
We selected 5 really neat speculative fiction stories. Huzzah!
I'll blog more about them later in the month. "Yeahs" should be hearing from us today or very soon. "Nays" should have heard from us already. It was extremely difficult to winnow down the list of excellent stories in hold-for-voting. You should feel good if your story was in hold-for-voting. If your story didn't quite make it into hold-for-voting, you should still feel good. You won't succeed if you don't try! Good luck next time!

We will have some really neat cover art!

We are tentatively going with the advertised November 30, 2016 publication date.

In Editor's Corner I'm going to include chapter one of my new novel The Quantum Cop. Exciting!
We're also going to interview Editor and Author Grayson Towler about his writing and his new novel The Dragon Waking. Exciting!

Stay tuned for more info about our upcoming stories! Hopefully we'll even have some author blogging!

01 November 2016

Ranking Stories

Behind the scenes at Electric Spec we finished slush. Hooray! (Thanks for sending in your stories!) Now we're in the phase where we have to rank stories in preparation for our Production Meeting. Each editor ranks the stories from #1, the best, and on down to however many stories we have.

I always find this step to be very difficult, because all the stories in Hold-For-Voting are good. I don't know how the other editors do it, but I rely mostly on my gut at this step . Do I like it? Is it fresh, original? Thus, for me, this step is very subjective. Is this fair? Unfair? I know not.

The previous step, putting the finalist stories into Hold-For-Voting is more objective ( for me, at least). I try to discern if the story is objectively good. If so, in it goes.

I will compile the stats for each story and the total rankings will assist us at our upcoming Production Meeting.

Next week I'll give a report on the Production Meeting. And then...I'll start blogging about the exciting new issue!

25 October 2016

slush tips: plot

The slush is up somewhere around our chins...
The most important thing (or second-most important thing) in a story is plot. Basically, you don't have a story if you don't have a plot. Plot is particularly important in speculative fiction because readers expect a plot. There are many definitions of plot, such as: the sequence of events and happenings that make up a story. I prefer to think of it as the actions the character(s) take to solve the story problem(s) and the resulting resolution.

A literary professional told me recently the number one "plot" they see in queries is the wandering protagonist. She said this is not, in fact, a plot and they never request these manuscripts. It's worth repeating: someone wandering around is not a plot. On the other hand, someone seeking something for some specified purpose is a plot. A quest, then, may resemble someone wandering around, but it is a very different animal.

Some people say there are only a few basic plots, such as

  • the quest
  • overcoming a monster
  • rags to riches
  • comedy
  • tragedy
  • voyage and return
  • rebirth
Obviously, there's some overlap here and many stories combine more than one of these ideas.

I don't care what you call it or how you classify it, just show us your plot.

Next week I hope to start updating you on our next Electric Spec issue, the notable November 2016 issue.

18 October 2016

slush tips: character and voice

As you probably can guess, we're hip deep in the slush. I've been glad to see a lot of stories that have their facts right and that use similes and metaphors. :) Thanks!

One of the most important things a story needs is character. We editors are in disagreement about if character is the most important thing or the second-most important thing, but it's definitely important. Your story must have a character that acts. It's also important that the character drives the story, rather than having the character serve the story. This is accomplished by creating a fully-fleshed out person, complete with loves, hates, desires, passions, goals, flaws, and every other quality a person has. Of course, readers will not see all these qualities on the page, but we should get the impression that they're there somewhere in the background.

I admit I cheat when creating characters. I often base my characters on people I know. Surprisingly, these templates never seem to recognize themselves. Personally, I think it's because we create imaginary 'characters' out of the real people in our lives--which may or may not agree with how the people see themselves.
Uh oh. I'm getting a little too philosophical? Cynical?

Which brings me to my second topic: voice. Voice can be a tricky concept to understand. Partly because there are two different meanings. Meaning one: each character should have a unique voice. Each character should show his voice via his/her/its unique combo of syntax, diction, vocab, personality, etc.

Meaning two: the author's voice. Author voice is the author's individual writing style, created by their unique combo of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc. Some authors showcase a different voice for different works. For example Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series is much different from her Lily Bard Shakespeare series. On the other hand, some authors have a distinctive voice in all their work, e.g. Connie Willis. Personally, I love a strong voice. For example, I love Connie Willis's voice, so I know in advance that I will enjoy any Connie Willis work.

Consider wowing us with your unique voice--be it of you or your character.

The submission deadline for the November 2016 issue has passed. But we are now taking subs for the Fenruary 2017 issue.

11 October 2016


We, The Editors, are working hard on Electric Spec slush. I must admit I have a pet peeve: I get quite annoyed when a story contradicts facts. I try to stay objective if a story contradicts facts, but I don't know how successful I am. Probably, not very successful.

You're thinking But, wait a minute. Stories are fiction. They're supposed to be made-up. They're not supposed to be true. This is a good point. But...

Know facts! Use facts! If your story is set basically on our Earth in basically our society with basic humans, you need to get basic physics correct. You need to know what gravity and electromagnetism are and basically how they work. You need to know about the sun and the moon and other planets and stars. You need to know approximately where the continents and countries and basic landmarks are. If you get any of this wrong with no explanation or confirmation my peeve will be activated. By confirmation, I mean more than one character or situation is involved in this difference from our world; somehow indicate this difference is intentional.

An aside on explanations: Don't over-explain. A pitfall of alternate history can be a lot of exposition about what exactly is different in history and what the ramifications were, etc. etc. In this case, don't explain, show.

Of course, all bets are off if your story is set on another world with other creatures, or if there's magic or other extenuating circumstances (unreliable narrator?) involved.

The submission deadline for the November 2016 issue is October 15, 2016! Send those stories in!

04 October 2016

similes and metaphors

I've been taking particular notice of similes and metaphors lately. They can elevate a piece of writing from good to great. Recall, a simile is when two things are compared directly, often using words such as 'as' or 'like.' A metaphor is when two things are compared directly, but without using 'as' or 'like.'
Similes and metaphors should be unique to your characters and worlds and can be very effective in helping build both.

Similes and metaphors are extremely useful in descriptions.
Consider: The sky is blue. Kind of boring, right?

In comparison, let's look at a couple similes...
The sky is as blue as a mother's tears.
The sky is as blue as mermaids' scales.
Wow. Those bring to mind two totally different images and are much more descriptive than the declarative statement.

Consider using similes and metaphors in your writing!

FYI the next Electric Spec submission deadline is coming up: October 15, 2016. Get those stories in!

27 September 2016

stay positive

Here in the U.S. Rocky Mountains there's an awesome writer's group called Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and they just had their awesome annual conference filled with fun, information, networking and all kinds of neat stuff.

Some of the excitement may be wearing off... RMFW members and others may need a pick-me-up.

Writing is hard. Stringing one word after another is hard. Revising is hard. Proof-reading is hard. Finding markets is hard (An awesome resource is ralan.com). Submitting is hard. Getting rejected is hard.

I'm here to say: Keep the faith! Stay positive! One of my favorite Jesse Jackson quotes is "...it is not their aptitude but their attitude that will determine their altitude."

Some people say you can train your brain to be more positive. Tips include:

  • Express gratitude
  • Repeat positive affirmations
  • Challenge negative thoughts
Here, at Electric Spec we sincerely appreciate all your submissions.

Good luck!

20 September 2016

Why Manuscripts Stand Out

We have a special treat today. Our Associate Editor Minta Monroe has some advice for authors. For those of you who don't know her, she's the author of The Mound Dwellers and 2 collections of short stories, Home, Sweet...Death and Crossing Over.

Recently, I’ve been binge-reading a bunch of manuscripts by authors seeking publication (that’s all of us, right?) They’re all very well written, but some of them stand out, and others do not.

So I took the opportunity to study this—because we all want our manuscripts to stand out in a positive way when they reach the editor’s desk. The reasons why some of them *do* stand out didn’t become apparent to me until I noticed that certain elements of the exceptional manuscripts were missing from the rest.

Here are 5 things I’ve noticed so far. Manuscripts that stand out…

  • …use sensory detail. As a reader, I want to go on the journey with the characters. I want to see, feel, taste, hear, and smell all the things that they notice. Not only does this help to make the setting feel real, but also the characters.

  • …have characters who feel real. What the characters look like doesn’t matter nearly as much as what they are feeling, or how they act, or why they choose to act in the way they do. They’re active characters rather than passive. They actually do something—and it’s interesting—rather than talking about it.

  • …have lots of conflict. Once we readers care about a character, we *really* care when trouble comes knocking. We are rooting for the character, and we want him/her to solve whatever problem crops up. But will he/she solve it in time?

  • …have twists and turns and surprises. Readers want to be surprised. We don’t want the expected answer. We want new and marvelous adventures that we haven’t been able to predict.

  • …have a nice balance of pacing. Sometimes the action is fast, when exciting events are happening. And sometimes the action is slow, when the characters are introspective so that the reader gets to understand why they are doing the things they are doing. It’s not all of either one, but some of both, and they need to be balanced.
This is just the beginning, but here’s the bottom line: even the most brilliantly luminous story ideas will fall flat without these 5 elements.

Thanks, Minta!

13 September 2016

W00t! W00t!

W00t! W00t! We're still celebrating the latest release of Electric Spec! Thanks again, everyone who helped make it happen. We appreciate it.

What's your favorite story? The Dead Life? The Lightship? Song of the Brethren? The Quiet Death? The Inmates are Running the Asylum, and the Asylum is Running the Ship? I really like them all--but I guess that's not much of a surprise since I helped choose them.

I'm also tickled that we got to hear from so many of our authors this time here on the blog. Here are the links in case you missed any of them: T.A. Hernandez, Neil Davies, Dean Giles, David Cleden.

What's next? We're accepting submissions for the notable November 2016 issue! Please send us your stories! The deadline for this issue is coming up...October 15, 2016.
Next week we'll have a blog post from Associate Editor Minta Monroe with some tips for writers.

12 September 2016

from Author Cleden

We hope you're continuing to enjoy the new issue of Electric Spec. For your reading pleasure here are some words by Author David Cleden about his intriguing story "Song of the Brethren."

For most of us, a sense of place plays an important role in our lives. We may talk about being drawn back to the place where we grew up, to where friendships were made (or broken), to where our familial roots are. Sometimes the place where we feel we truly belong is not where we start out; we have to journey through life to discover it. And sometimes the journey of discovery leads us right back to our beginnings.

For a long time, I've wanted to explore the idea of what would happen if that bond to a place was as strong as it could conceivably be. Maybe even a matter or life and death. How would it feel to be physically tied to one particular place for an entire lifetime? What would be the penalties for breaking those ties--and the motivations of those who decided to ignore them?

Those ideas, without shape or form, were still tumbling around in the great void of my skull when I remembered something from a long-past family holiday. My eldest son was only a few months old and we'd gone for a family walk up a valley in the beautiful wilds of Dartmoor in the UK. As we stood under a twisted, wind-blown tree on the side of valley, my infant son (who was strapped to my chest in a baby-carrier) became absolutely entranced by the dappling of the sunlight through the leaves above him. He couldn't tear his gaze away. It was as though that tree was the most wondrous, magical thing he had ever seen. (It was). For one brief moment, he seemed to have a special bond with that tree and nothing else mattered to him.

Back home, and wrestling with a little patch of garden behind our house, it also struck me how easily the wrong things are determined to grow in the wrong places. Tufts of grass constantly thrust up through the gravel path, yet zilch in the little patch of lawn where we'd appreciate it more. And brambles! Oh don't get me started on brambles. If ever there was a plant destined survive a nuclear winter...

Anyway, the story ingredients seemed to jell in my head during one intensive weeding session in the garden. With a little care and attention and application of various seasonings, it matured into the dish that I'm delighted the fine editors at Electric Spec have chosen to serve up amongst a whole host of gourmet treats. I hope it sits well on your palate. (But always remember, not all poisons taste bitter. Some disguise their true nature with an unnatural sweetness. Bon appetit!)

Very interesting! Thanks, David!

10 September 2016

We're alive!

We're alive! Huzzah!
Check out the new issue of Electric Spec

Thank you very much to everyone that worked hard to make this issue happen. Thank you Authors Hernandez, Davies, Cleden, Giles and Nichols! Thank you Artist Errigo! Thank you Associate Editors Cooper-Towler, Monroe, and Devlin!

Most of all, thank you readers!

09 September 2016

from Author Giles

And the hits continue... It's so fun hearing from our authors. Author Dean Giles tells us about his story "The Quiet Death."

To give you some insight into the story, I worked on a 4 year European collaborative R&D project back in 2011 looking at advanced Telecom networks (http://modegap.eu). Our existing fibre optic networks will reach gridlock in around 15 years, so a drastically new approach is required to update the technology. The project was looking at novel fibres and components. The hope is that the new technology will increase 100-fold the capacity in our backbone networks. This will eventually filter through to home networks. It made me think, what will happen once bandwidth demand increases to the point that this new technology is saturated? I've read a lot of science fiction, especially authors like Arthur C. Clarke. One that really stuck in my mind was Light of Other Days by Arthur C. Clarke and Steve Baxter, where they develop a wormhole technology that allows you to spy on anyone at anytime, and the affect this has on human society. Fascinating idea. Any way, it gave me the idea that possibly in the future we might use a similar technology to overcome data gridlock.

I also love the idea that the universe is tied to consciousness. So in the same way time and space are part of the same fabric, consciousness is just another facet of that. My thinking was that the disruption the technology made to space-time, also affected consciousness on a local level, and this is how the "loop" effect came into play.

The character is based loosely on my Granddad. An old school British man who can fend for himself. Knows how to build stuff and tie knots, he is adaptable. He doesn't think much beyond what is necessary for the job in hand. He's not a dreamer, he is a doer. But underneath, at his soul, he is very human. I wanted to highlight the importance of human emotion, which is easy when compared against the Quiet. Harry is a man who has lived his life, stuck by his principals, and is prepared to accept death with dignity. He is my version of a decent human being, and, in this story, one that represents the human race.

Thanks Dean! Very interesting!

08 September 2016

from Author Davies

At Electric Spec we enjoy hearing from authors about their writing processes and what inspires them. Author Neil Davies told us the following about his upcoming story "The Lightship".

Image of the North Carr Lightship:

What is a lightship?

In our present day reality, lightships combine two of my lifelong fascinations, lighthouses and boats. A lightship is, basically, a lighthouse on a boat, able to move around to where it’s needed. Advancing technology has largely replaced them, but they do still exist, and I was lucky enough to get to look around one when it was docked as part of what has now become the U-Boat story attraction in Birkenhead. Back in the early days they only had the rusted hull of the U-Boat (which you couldn’t go on), a Royal Navy submarine (which you could), a Royal Navy warship and the little lightship. And back then I was fit enough (and light enough) to get round all of them!

In the setting of my story, the lightship is a spaceship that acts as a beacon (or lighthouse) to mark any area as it is required. Just like our present day lightships, it’s being overtaken by technology and is due to be decommissioned, which is where the story begins. With the lightship as the setting, the story combines combatants in a long-running war between Humanity and the alien Fris, and an unwelcome, and undetected, visitor on the lightship itself. The rest I will leave for you to find out by reading the story.

Have fun.

Fascinating! Thanks Neil!

06 September 2016

fiction firsts

Huzzah! We'll be releasing a bunch of free fiction in only 4 days, count 'em 4! We told you about this fabulous fiction in our spectacular September issue of Electric Spec last week: here.
Today, we're going to try something fun. We're going to post the first lines of the fiction to entice you to read...
Can you tell which first lines go with which stories? :)
  • The knife hovered over the flesh of the baby's plump little arm.
  • The oscillator in the west wing has stopped working.
  • For a moment, Rose couldn't move.
  • Commander Aldo Kinnear sprawled on the Rec Room bench, bruised, exhausted and scared.
  • Harry’s chair rocked noisily against the wooden slats of his porch-balcony.
  • A flash of too-bright light illuminated the dead girl's face for an instant as the crime scene photographer snapped a picture.
Wow! Quite a variety! Check them all out in only 4 days! (Did I mention a new issue's coming out in 4 days?)

30 August 2016

spectacular September issue

We're getting down to the wire. The spectacular September issue of Electric Spec (formerly the awesome August issue) is coming in only ten days. We saw a sneak peek of Michael Errigo's cover. We bragged about the excerpt from The Dragon Waking by Grayson Towler. We heard from author T.A. Hernandez about her story "The Dead Life." What else is coming?

We have a fresh take on military SF in "The Light Ship" by Neil Davies. We have a unique fantasy "Song of the Brethren" by David Cleden--which will make you rethink the term 'tree-hugger.' We have the haunting post-apocalypse SF tale "The Quiet Death" by Dean Giles. And, last, but not least, we have the terrifying SF tale "The Inmates are Running the Asylum, and the Asylum is Running the Ship" by Matthew Nichols.

If this seems like a lot of death and destruction, you'd be right! It's all very dramatic! Be sure to check it out on September 10, 2016!

23 August 2016

from Author Hernandez

One of the upcoming stories in our spectacular September 2016 issue of Electric Spec will be "The Dead Life" by T.A. Hernandez. The author says,

One of my favorite things about writing speculative fiction is that it allows me to explore so many variations of the question, "what if?" What if robots could feel emotions just like humans? What if dragons were tame, cuddly house pets instead of huge, fire-breathing monster? What if magic was real? What if ghosts lived among us and everyone could see them? That last question is what eventually led to me writing "The Dead Life."

Some of my best story ideas have come from the hardest times in my life, and that's true for "The Dead Life" as well. I first wrote it back in early 2010. The title is a reflection of what I was feeling at the time, that I was just walking through life a bit aimlessly, much like the main character of the story. I'd had some tough experiences that previous year and hadn't written anything for months, so I was a little surprised when I got this idea and had an overwhelming urge to write it immediately. I finished the first draft in a day, got some feedback, made revisions, and then put it away. It sat in a file on my computer collecting dust and cobwebs while I moved on to other projects. Years later, after hitting a wall with the novel I'd been working on, I dragged it out and decided to clean it up. It needed a lot of work and I ended up rewriting most of it, but in the end, I liked it enough to start submitting it. After several form rejection letters and a few more personal ones, I was was fortunate enough to have the story accepted here. It is my first published story and a lifelong dream come true, so I have to give a huge 'thank you' to the Electric Spec team for making it happen.

Thank you, T.A.!

16 August 2016

Sneak Peek Sept 2016 Issue

We are hard at work on the spectacular 2016 September issue of Electric Spec (formerly the awesome 2016 August issue)!
We got the cover art finalized. Huzzah!
Our cover artist is Michael Errigo (m.errigo@yahoo.com).
Here's a sneak peek:

Scary, huh?
It fits great with the issue. For some reason we got a bunch of scary stories. Maybe Halloween is already in the air?
Stay tuned the rest of the month to hear more about our upcoming stories!

09 August 2016

Aug 2016 Production Meeting

We recently had the production meeting for the awesome August 2016 issue of Electric Spec. Yes, it was slightly delayed. The most important takeaway is we're pushing the publication of the issue until September 10, 2016. Apologies for any inconveniences this may cause.

Authors who submitted a story for the awesome August issue should have heard back from us or will very shortly. We're in the process of sending out congrats and contracts to 'yes' authors. I emailed all the folks who had stories in hold-for-voting that we did not go with. If you were in hold-for-voting, your story is publishable, so take heart! Sadly, we can only pick five stories out of the many excellent stories we receive. :( Of course, we are accepting submissions for the neat November 2016 issue.

We had a spirited discussion of what makes a good story. At Electric Spec we do like original stories. Thus, if you're going to send us a vampire story, for example, it better be a fresh take on vampire stories. Some stories, including vampires, werewolves, ghosts, aliens, robots have been done a lot. Make sure you know what the common stories are and do something different.
We like endings in stories. This means there should be some kind of emotional resolution for the reader.
Formatting gimmick stories are tough to pull off in a fresh way. By this, I mean a story told in a way not using regular prose, for example, using only emojis, limericks, tweets or emails. Keep in mind the author's main job is evoking a response in the reader. You don't want the reader to respond to the formatting.
Don't explain your story in the end. If the reader can't understand what happened with an explanation the author didn't do his/her job. If we did understand what happened an explanation is tedious and repetitious.
We're not big fans of fictionalizing horrific dictators/despots like Hitler or similar and making them heroes. Tough sell.

We are excited about the fun stories coming up in the stupendous September issue! I'll tell you more about them here this month. :)

One thing we can now reveal is we will be featuring an excerpt from Grayson Towler's middle grade fantasy The Dragon Waking. Huzzah!

02 August 2016

The Dragon Waking

One of Electric Spec's Editors, Grayson Towler, has a new book out: The Dragon Waking.

It's a middle grade fantasy. I've read it and it's fantastic! I highly recommend it! We'll be featuring it in the awesome August 2016 issue of Electric Spec.

19 July 2016

abaft the scenes

The deadline for the awesome August 2016 issue of Electric Spec has passed. But, don't fear, we're accepting submissions for our November 2016 issue.

'What's going on abaft the scenes' you ask? Well, I'll tell you. We are going through our mountain of slush. (Thank you for sending us your stories!) We have 3 editors and 2 associate editors and we need every one of them. Please don't query us on the status of your story; we don't have the manpower to answer queries. We make every effort to get back to you as soon as possible. We got an email last week that a particular rejection seemed pretty nice, and they were wondering if we were sincere. If we send you a nice rejection we're being sincere. We have sent out our share of not-nice rejections, don't worry!
In other miscellany, our email autoreponders were kind of problematic so I got rid of them. So, if you sent us something and didn't get an autoreponse--that's why. Apologies, if that leaves you wondering if we got your story... Most do get to us!

Authors should hear back by ~July 31 with a "no thanks" or a "hold-for-voting." We will email all hold-for-voting authors back before ~August 9 with a final decision.

And then the editting begins! :)

Please note, we do tend to keep art submissions hanging around for a while. So if you don't hear from us, we're probably still considering your piece.

Finally, there is a chance the awesome August issue may get pushed a week or two and become the spectacular September issue. Stay tuned for that info.

I better get back to slush!

12 July 2016

do what works

Once in a while I get together with other writers to talk writing. (I recommend it.) I did this recently and was struck by how different everyone's writing process is. One writer plans and plots and outlines everything out before writing a word. I'm at the opposite extreme. I just start writing. Neither of these approaches is right or wrong.

I've learned the hard way to do what works for me as a writer. Don't get me wrong, you should try new things. You should be willing to put these new things into your writer's arsenal. But if you try something and it doesn't work, if it prevents you from putting down words, stop. Don't do that thing.

This advice is relevant to all aspects of writing. One writer friend has a huuuuge list of tasks and projects--that she likes to tell everyone about. Telling everyone makes her feel accountable. Multiple tasks gets her writing juices and optimism flowing. If I made a list like hers my head would explode. It's difficult to write with an exploded head. So, I do not do that. It would not work for me.

Bottom line: do what works for you

The submission deadline for the awesome August 31, 2016 issue of Electric Spec is on July 15, 2016! Yes, that is in a couple days. Get those stories in!

05 July 2016

slush tip: hook me

THe next submission deadline is coming up: July 15, 2016! Get those stories in to be considered for the awesome August 2015 issue. :)

We, the Editors, are deep in the throes of the slush pile. It is a deep and dangerous beast, threatening to swallow us up. If you've submitted to us before, you know our reponse times can vary. A lot. This continues to be the case. (Sorry.)

In my forays into the pile, I realized I can be a bit impatient when reading a story. Thus I say to you: hook me!
Maybe this is an obvious tip but some writers seem to get lost in setting the scene. Or giving us the backstory of the characters. Or other looong setup details. Or extensive descriptions.
Don't do this!

Our culture has changed and it's faster-paced now than it was even a few years ago. Hook me immediately. This means your story has to start on the first page. This is particularly relevant for on-line 'zines. Readers want to be hooked immediately, so editors need to be hooked, as well.

Good luck!

28 June 2016

good enough is good enough

I knew a lot of writers. Do you? (If not, find some! Check your local library...) Some writers are perfectionists. Some writers edit and edit and polish and polish and don't submit stuff. As writer Aaron Ritchey says on the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers blog Halfway and Unfinished Good enough is generally good enough. and If you don't finish the book, no one will ever be able to read it.

I'm not a perfectionist but I have this problem with both novels and short stories. I keep thinking one more revision will make them better than ever. I work on some pieces for years.
Don't be like me. Be smarter than me. Finish your stuff.
Submit your stuff!

Speaking of which, the submission deadline for the awesome August 2016 issue is coming up soon!
July 15, 2016! Send your good stories in!

In the meantime, I'm going to go try to take my own advice and submit something...

21 June 2016

writing for joy

Recently, one of my writer friends shared a project. It wasn't what I think of as his usual genre or topic--which I said. He agreed and said he'd combined a bunch of things he loved. As I watched him talk about it, I could tell he'd been writing for the pure joy of writing. His whole face lit up. And the joy, the passion was very evident in the piece. Wow.

I highly recommend this. Try writing something for the joy of writing. Don't think about market. Think about what you love, what you're passionate about. It can really rejuvenate your writing juices.
I bet the result will be beautiful!

Good luck!

Think about sending us your joyful writing. :)
The submission deadline for the next issue is July 15, 2016.

14 June 2016

Summer vacation -- not!

I know many writers from around the world. (Writers rock!) And I've been noticing a tendency now that summer is upon us (in the Northern hemisphere)... Some writers have stopped writing. Oh, no! Say it isn't so! I'm not the only one who's noticed this. Writer Dean Wesley Smith has been blogging about it for a while. An example is, Either/Or Thinking. Dean says some writers think they have to choose between family time and writing time, especially in summer.

Don't do it! Writers need to keep their writing muscles primed and ready, in shape. Writers need to write.
That's not to say you shouldn't take a break on a fun vacation. But in your everyday life: keep writing! Do not take the whole summer off.

Send us the fun new speculative fiction stories that result from your continuing hard work. We're starting to think about the awesome August 2016 issue...

Good luck!

07 June 2016

Tips from Grayson

We hope you're still enjoying the marvelous May Electric Spec stories. While we rest up a bit, Editor Grayson Towler has something to tell our prospective authors.

Here are a few tips you may never have heard that can help you stand out in the slush pile:

  1. Don’t start the story with your character waking up. It seems an obvious place to begin—your hero gets out of bed and heads out into to a day of adventure. In fact, it’s so obvious we see it all the time! See if you can figure out a different starting spot for your tale.
  2. Don’t have your character look in the mirror. It’s tricky to get that all-important character description in, especially for first person stories, but having your hero admire her flowing chestnut locks in the mirror is pretty cliché. And speaking of chestnut locks…
  3. Don’t just rely on hair style and color for descriptions. It’s amazing how much we run into this trend. For some reason, in many stories we read hair style and color are not just the first details we hear about a character, but they end up being the only traits we see!
Even if your favorite bestselling story starts with a character waking up, looking in the mirror, and describing their hair, remember these are trends we’ve seen so often they make our eyes glaze over. Keep a lookout to see if you’re leaning too hard on these well-used writing tropes, and we’ll all be grateful.

Thanks Grayson!

31 May 2016

We're live!

The latest issue of Electric Spec is available! W00t! Huzzah!

Thank you Artist Andrew Muff!
Thank you authors Graham Brand, Frances Gow, Irene Punti, D.A. D'Amico and Dean D'Amico, and Dale W. Glaser!
Thank you Associate Editors Minta Monroe, Candi Cooper-Towler and Chris Devlin!

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

26 May 2016

from Author Glaser

We're pleased to post comments by Dale Glaser on his upcoming scintillating story "Red Screamy."

My father was my gateway to genre fiction in a lot of ways. I read the Tom Swift novels he had collected in his childhood, listened to his vinyl double album copy of the Star Wars soundtrack on the family turntable (back before cable TV and VCRs made watching the movie itself at home a possibility), and generally followed him down various rabbit holes from a young age. Eventually I went my own way and discovered my own particular fandoms. My father was never the horror fan I grew up to become, nor was he ever taken in by the mythological or dystopian overtones of heavy metal. Still, there's no denying that he got me started on the path, from way back when to where I am now.

Somewhere in the middle, though, there was the point in time where I was outgrowing child-friendly versions of science fiction and fantasy and moving into more mature material, still about aliens and magic and so forth but with explorations of moral gray areas and other existential ambiguities, as well. I was a precocious kid and a voracious reader, so this transition came young enough to be somewhat problematic. My father never forbade me to follow my own interests, but I do remember him having conversations with me about whether or not I really understood what an anti-hero was and that they were not exemplary role models. I promised him that I knew the difference, which may have been motivated as much by wanting to tell him what he wanted to hear as objective truth, and I like to think that time bore out the promise, but I leave it to others to judge how well-adjusted (or not) I truly turned out to be.

Over the years I often found myself returning to these ideas, the things we learn from our parents and the interests we share in common with them, and how many of those things are or aren't considered acceptable and appropriate. Once I finally had children of my own, I gained more insight into how it all looked from the other side. A staggering amount of insight, really, as anyone who has undergone the fundamental life shift of having children knows. Picking and choosing which parental interests to investigate further as a child is a luxury; determining what to offer and what to withhold from a child as a parent is a responsibility, wrapped up in the ongoing efforts of trying to mold and shape a halfway decent human being.

Somewhere in the never-ending process of sorting through all of the above, my story "Red Screamy" started to take shape. As with many story seeds, it grew from taking something I believe in and extending it far beyond the usual rational limits. I encourage my children to be unique and independent and free-thinking, and if that means outsiders might perceive them as a little strange, so be it. But what if that strangeness became its own kind of gateway to forces beyond a child's understanding, or even beyond my own? That struck me as a tale worth telling.

Another compelling wrinkle occurred to me as the story played out in my head: what if two parents fundamentally disagreed on where to draw the line between fair game and out of bounds? I'm very lucky, and eternally grateful, to have a partner in real life who shares both a good proportion of my interests and my philosophical outlook, and we've never experienced major conflict and strife over what our children are exposed to or encouraged toward. But in the world I was inventing, I could see how it would be easy for opposites to attract and then clash over the young, impressionable spirit they are both responsible for.

Ultimately I invented a portrait of a family to reflect that notion, and "Red Screamy" was the end result. So it's a little bit autobiographical, but also pure fiction. It's a little bit realism, but also fantasy. It's a little bit thought experiment, but also a cautionary tale. And what exactly is being cautioned against may certainly be open to interpretation.

Thanks, Dale!

Be sure to check it out May 31!

24 May 2016

from Author Gow

We're coming down to the wire now. The marvelous May 31, 2016 issue of Electric Spec is only one week away! We've been working feverishly behind the scenes to get your free speculative fiction out to you. As promised, here are some more previews of coming attractions. We will be featuring two more spectacular stories:
"One Slow Trigger Day" by D.A. D'Amico and Dean D'Amico is an unusual tale of old-West gun slingers and their challenges. Or it is? :)
"Red Screamy" by Dale W. Glaser is a disquieting horrific fantasy which isn't afraid to take some risks.
We'll also feature some amazing art and possibly some other surprises.

And now without further ado, some words from Frances Gow author of "The Watchers."

I wrote The Watchers when I starting researching steampunk fiction as part of my MA Creative Writing. The aim was to write a piece of fiction using the city as a backdrop, evoking a strong sense of place. Victorian London has always been a classic backdrop for steampunk and because I know the city well, I felt able to feed on its nostalgia. I chose Paris because it fascinates me and the similarities and differences between the two cities was interesting to explore.

So with the background suitably steampunk, I managed to get in a bit of steam-powered tech alongside the retro-futuristic inventions. The protagonist’s story itself attempts to subvert the norms of the historical times, simply by the fact she is female attempting to enter a male dominated profession. And of course, there have to be aliens involved somewhere. The story itself might not live up to the classic steampunk definition, but it is my version and I think what emerged was something quite unique.

Thanks Frances!

Check it all out on May 31, 2016!

17 May 2016

from Author Brand

As promised, here are some comments from Graham Brand, author of a story we are very proud to present: "Cutting It Fine."

When I checked my notes for "Cutting It Fine" I was surprised to find that it was the first science fiction story that I wrote, where by 'wrote’ I mean that I completed a first draft. However, it had such a long revision period that other stories came and went before this one reached the final version that you can read here.

I’ve always had a fascination for the people in the background of space-faring tales: the janitors, the barmen, the clean-up crews. One of my favourite episodes of Babylon 5 was "A View from the Gallery," which focusses on two maintenance workers, and let’s us see the space opera action of an attack on the station through their eyes.

I decided to get serious about writing back in 2011, and "Cutting It Fine" started life as a warm-up exercise. I plucked a topic from the air (a barber on a space station) and sat down and wrote without any preparation. That file—called 'Barber Musings’—became the first scene of the story.

My barber character then languished in his orbital salon for over a year, until I fleshed out the story to its first draft of 6,900 words in October 2012, with a revision trimming it down to 5,900 words in February 2013.

My day job as an IT project manager intervened again. Throughout all this I’d been running projects first in Seoul and then in Sydney, and I didn’t get back to the story for another year. In the spring of 2014 five of us from the MobileRead forums decided to put an anthology together, and "Cutting It Fine" was one of my contributions. We acted as beta readers for each other, and their helpful criticism saw the story revised, and cut still further to 5,350 words.

We didn’t get enough material for the anthology, sadly, and the process eventually stalled. A year later, I ran the story past the eyes of a good friend—the editor of a science journal—who found yet more fat to cut, and I arrived at the final version of about 5,000 words that appears here.

One more thing.
Although I’ve had other full-length science fiction stories accepted in the meantime, they’ve yet to appear. So my first science fiction short story has also turned out to be the first that I’ve had published. So, it’s a big thank you from me to the team at Electric Spec.

I hope you enjoy the story.

Thanks Graham!

Everyone check it out May 31, 2016!

12 May 2016

fabulous fiction

This is our official first preview of coming attractions for the marvelous May 31, 2016 issue of Electric Spec. As I said before we had some really lovely stories to chose from. Thus, not surprisingly, we ended up with some truly fabulous fiction.
  • "The Watchers" by Frances Gow is an amazing, rich steampunk tale complete with aliens and biblical references.
  • "Mother" by Irene Punti is a unique, lyrical far-future science fiction tale with some horrific overtones.
  • "Cutting It Fine" by Graham Brand is a beautifully-written science fiction tale about an unusual family legacy and possible implications/ramifications in its demise.
We have two more author stories I hope to tell you about soon.

In addition, in Editor's Corner Nikki Baird will share a wonderful science fiction tale, "Runaway," in which a young girl isn't who she seems and an old man comes to terms with his past.

Be sure to check it all out May 31!

And, in the meantime, check back here for more previews!

10 May 2016

from Author Punti

We're putting together a great new issue of Electric Spec for May 31, 2016. One of our featured stories will be the fascinating SF tale "Mother" by Irene Punti. We asked Irene to say a few words about her story:

As the granddaughter of a twin sister, I have always been fascinated by the ways in which two people with the same genetic makeup and upbringing will seem almost identical in their character and then suddenly reveal themselves to be extremely different. This got me thinking about how it would feel to be treated like a copy rather than as an individual, and that’s how I started writing my short story “Mother”.

While I was writing the story I would walk home from work and I would see nests of processionary caterpillar on the pine trees (a very common pest in the south of Europe). They seemed to be the perfect example of losing your individuality: moving in a single file of caterpillars that look exactly like you, following the exact same path as the caterpillar before you. So I decided to incorporate them into the story. Plus I have always been slightly terrified of processionary caterpillars and it seemed only right that for once they would do something good for me.

Thanks, Irene!

Check out "Mother" on May 31, 2016 at Electric Spec!

03 May 2016

pulling back the curtain

The Electric Spec Editors recently had the production meeting for the marvelous May 2016 issue. Choosing amongst the lovely stories in hold-for-voting is always difficult. As I think I mentioned, we had an unusually large number of good stories in hold-for-voting. Thus, it was especially tough this time. :( Many of the stories we passed on were strongly liked by one or more editors. Take heart if you were in hold-for-voting: your story was publishable.
If you're interested in more subjective specifics regarding the meeting: the weather strongly resembled a blizzard when we met. (Yikes!)

We're in the process of emailing folks with our decisions. Yays also get a contract. Please send it back ASAP so we can start editing. Once the editor and the author agree on the story version, files still have to go to our copy-editor. Then, after we get files back from her we have to create the webpages. Yes, it's kind of an elaborate process. We also post author bios--so send those along, if relevant.

Other behind the scenes tasks include picking cover art, writing the Letter from the Editor, putting together the Editor's Corner entry. And, of course, we have to pay everyone! Please send along your paypal info. :)

We've also been encouraging authors to send along a blog entry for right here. Please consider this if you are one of our authors. I believe blog hits are around 520,000 at this point. Keep in mind that's hits accumulated over a decade. :)

Next week I'll post more specifics about delicious upcoming stories!

26 April 2016


In my neck of the woods, spring has finally sprung. The sun is shining, the scents of flowers ride gentle breezes. Yes, I would rather be outside in the sun, rather than inside on my computer! A very experienced full-time writer I know says the productivity of part-time writers plummets in spring and summer. He says: don't succumb to temptation! Keep your butt in the chair, your fingers on the keyboard.

What's a poor writer to do? Every writer needs to answer that question for him/herself. Personally, I'm going to give myself permission to yield to temptation, to shorten (not eliminate!) some of my writing sessions--with the caveat that I try to make them up another time.
Good luck with your own battles with temptation. :)

Behind the scenes we are hard at work on the marvelous May 2016 issue of Electric Spec. We are almost through the slush pile. We've got the production meeting scheduled for the beginning of May. We do seem to have an unusually high number of good stories already in hold-for-voting. Next week I'll start blogging about coming attractions in the new issue. I can already say we'll have some beautiful cover art and five excellent short stories!

19 April 2016

explain or not?

Preparations for the marvelous May 2016 issue of Electric Spec are in high gear! The submission deadline is passed. (But don't fear: we're accepting stories for the August issue.) Once again, we got a huge number of stories submitted. Thank you very much if you submitted! It will take some time, however, for us to get back to you... (See approx schedule in last week's blog post.)

In the meantime, I had an interesting discussion with some writer friends about explanations in novels. One writer recently finished a unique horror novel. Should she explain the whole monster mythology and origins and rules within said novel? Hhm... We thought: maybe not. It was scarier not knowing what was really going on. It was scarier thinking the monsters might come to our town!

I do think this is related to genre. At some point explaining your horror turns it into a science fiction. For example, if scientist John Smith's virus escapes ABC lab and sickens folks with the result that they get super hairy, their teeth grow, and they crave live food, the story seems like SF--especially if Dr. Smith is seeking a cure. If suddenly people howl at the moon, on the other hand, it seems like horror.
Fantasy can also be turned into SF with too much explanation. For example, if folks in your story can float by waving a magic wand it seems like fantasy. If folks levitate by manipulating dark energy it seems like SF.

Please note when I say explain I'm not talking about info-dumping. The age of the info-dump is over. Don't do that in any genre. Info-dumping involves the author directly explaining things to the reader. Often this is done via narrative without characters. A rule of thumb I use is: no more than 250 words of exposition at a time. Info-dumping can also be attempted via characters using the dreaded "As you know, Bob..." Don't do this. Characters should not discuss things they already know.

Bottom line: each author has to decide for him/herself. To explain or not to explain?
Good luck!

12 April 2016

reaction to slush

We are in the thick of it now! We're furiously trying to get through the slush pile in preparation for our next production meeting at the end of the month.

I read a story recently that started off great. It had a great voice, a great protagonist, a great opening. The protagonist had a good problem and started acting to solve it. I was totally reading along, thinking 'this is going to make it into the issue' when it ended. And not in a good way! It just petered out. There was no story resolution. I was super disappointed. In fact, I almost emailed the author that we'd buy it if he/she added a more satisfying ending. But I resisted. (Why? Because it's against our editorial policy. Why? Because it's caused troubles in the past.)

I'm sure everyone read Nikki's excellent article "Story Endings, How They Torture Me" in the last issue. You read it, right? If not, go check it out.
The gist is: "Change is probably the biggest and most important part of an ending." Make sure something is changed in your story. Also, make sure to show the reader the change. It doesn't count if it doesn't make it onto the page.

Thanks for submitting! We appreciate it!

Some schedule notes:

  • The submission deadline for this issue is midnight April 15, 2016, U.S. Mountain time.
  • Our production meeting is at the end of April.
  • This means all authors should hear back from editors by May 7, 2016 at the latest.
    If your story is accepted, this email should include a contract. Please write us back as soon as possible.
    If you don't hear back by then, something went awry and you should probably resubmit your story for the next issue. (Sorry!)
  • Regarding art: we do tend to hang on to art submissions for possible use in future issues. Thus, it's possible artists will not hear back by May 7. If you need us to release your art for another project, please let us know.
  • We're still encouraging accepted authors to blog about their stories here. It's helpful if you get back to us with your blog entry ASAP. (Thanks!)
  • The issue goes live May 31, 2016. Yay!

05 April 2016

write to market?

I recently had the opportunity to interact with several different editors from around the country. I was frankly shocked at how diverse our opinions of stories were. A single publishable story could have opinions ranging from 'loved it' all the way to 'hated it.' I did notice editors had certain preferences. One editor wouldn't consider a story unless the first page had a lot of setting description. One editor only considered G-rated stories. One editor only seemed to like stories with male protagonists. And on and on...

These editors edit for different markets. If you study the publications they've edited you can get some reasonable ideas for what they like. There are a lot of different elements in a story including point-of-view, tone, vocabulary, telling vs. showing, and internal and/or external plot. My point is: different markets are different. Does it make sense to submit a story to an inconsistent market? Maybe not. Does that mean you should write to market, i.e. try to write a story that's consistent with a particular market to sell it to them? Every author should probably answer that question for his/herself.

Electric Spec does have some conventions. Here's a short list. To appear in our market your story must:

  • have a speculative element
  • have some kind of protagonist
  • have some kind of external plot
  • be good.
In addition, our stories almost always have some kind of showing. Often, the ratio of showing to telling is over fifty percent. We do look for unique stories, something we haven't read before. Our stories very rarely involved graphic violence such as brutal murder and/or rape of a child.

We're starting to gear up for our marvelous May 2016 issue. Stay tuned here for more info!
The submission deadline for this issue is April 15, 2016.

29 March 2016

story throughline

We are starting to work through our slush pile for the marvelous May 2016 issue of Electric Spec. Sometimes a story starts of strong but then sort of falls apart. :( I hate it when that happens.

Authors should consider: what is your story's throughline? There are several different definitions of 'throughline.' Don't get bogged down in definitions. The point is: what is the central idea of your story? It needs to be evident in the first scene and in the last scene.
A story that peters out often starts with one central idea and then, somewhere in the middle, switches to another idea. This rarely works.

Personally, I tend to use the protagonist's main problem with its emotional component. Remember, one of your jobs as an author is to affect readers' emotions. Thus, scene one at least alludes to the protagonist's main problem and shows his/her/its accompanying emotions. The middle of the story is essentially the protagonist acting to solve the problem. The last scene is the solution to the problem with the accompanying emotions.

You don't have to do what I do, but you should have a throughline--some kind of consistency from the beginning to the end of your story.
Your central idea can be anything!

I look forward to reading what it is. Send us your story.

25 March 2016

please don't query

We've been getting an uptick in the number of queries we get about submitted stories. Please don't do this. We get hundreds of stories. We don't have the manpower, er, personpower to answer queries about stories. Thanks!

Happy weekend!

22 March 2016


I've heard it said that readers of fantastic fiction must suspend disbelief. Some sources attribute this to Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1817:
...procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith...
I do think readers need poetic faith to enjoy any fiction. Authors should also play their part, however, by creating an internally consistent world.

When it comes to science fiction, it is additionally important for readers to suspend confusion. If can be hard to get into a SF story when new worlds, new technologies, new jargon are being thrown at you. But, SF readers, never fear! It's worth it, if you persevere. :)

These different approaches are due to the inherent and deep-seated differences between fantasy and SF. Fantastic fiction is the earliest type of fiction. To some extent, all fiction is fantastic.
Modern SF, on the other hand, originated in the 17th and 18th centuries' Age of Reason with its scientific discoveries. Thus, at its core, SF is rational. All phenomena should be explained, or at least be able to be explained.

Here at Electric Spec we love both fantastic fiction and SF!
Send us your stories!

15 March 2016

writing rules

There are a lot of writing rules, tips and suggestions out there. (I give them all the time. mea culpa) Probably the most famous for Electric Spec readers and writers are Robert A. Heinlein's rules for writing:
  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you write.
  3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
  4. You must put the work on the market.
  5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.
SF Author Robert J. Sawyer adds
        6. Start working on something else.

Personally, I agree with all these rules.

But...absolutely, positively, the only rule of writing you need to follow is:
There are no rules of writing.
Writers can get bogged down reading writer's blogs or chasing down the best methods or rules. Don't fall in this trap.

Just do whatever works for you!

08 March 2016

Write it! Submit it!

Phew! We're all still basking in the glow of the fabulous February 29, 2016 issue of Electric Spec.


Check it out if you haven't already!

I went to a very interesting short story workshop recently in which we were forced to write and submit a bunch of short stories in a relatively short time period. I gleaned some things which I want to share with you all.

  1. Write the (first draft of the) story! There's no magic potion or circumstance you need to write a short story. Just do it!
    I've blogged here many times about how to write a short story, for example, see Short Story Cheat Sheet. In a nutshell, you need a protagonist, a problem, and the protagonist needs to do something to try to solve the problem.

  2. Revise the story. I am a strong believer is following your muse. Part of that is figuring out what writing method works for you. Some people can dash off one draft of a story and have it be perfect. I am not one of those people. I need at least one reader to set eyes on it and tell me things like, "This character is too stupid to live." And then I can say, "Now that you mention it, oh, yeah..."
    So, figure out what writing method works for you. FYI-every writer has their own method.

    Be warned, however, don't get trapped in revision. Don't let this step stop you from the next step.

  3. Submit the story! Again, there's no magic potion needed here. Find a market and send it out! A helpful place to find markets is ralan.com.

    Of course, we would love to get your story here at Electric Spec. :)

Good luck!

01 March 2016


Huzzah! The February 29, 2016 issue of Electric Spec is live!

Thank you very much Authors Kate Sheeran Swed, Patricia Russo, Nina Shepardson, Tiffany Michelle Brown, and Daniel Brock.

Thank you very much Artist Ron Sanders.

Thank you very much Associate Editors Minta Monroe, Candi Cooper-Towler and Chris Devlin.
I don't know if it's strictly kosher, but I'm also going to thank Editors Nikki Baird and Grayson Towler.

Finally, thank you very much readers!

Huzzah for all of you! We couldn't have done it without you.

28 February 2016


Huzzah! We're Live!
Check out the new issue of Electric Spec!

23 February 2016

new issue next week!

We are getting close now! We'll publish a new issue of Electric Spec next week: February 29, 2016! We've already mentioned "Catch and Release" by Tiffany Michelle Brown and "Posthumous" by Daniel Brock. In addition to these we'll have "Where everybody Knows Your Name" by Kate Swed, "The Wish of a Child of Wishes" by Patricia Russo" and "Gifts from a Newlywed Husband to his Wife" by Nina Shepardson.

"Where Everybody Knows Your Name" is a unique and fun take on a more traditional fairy tale--with a nod to a famous TV show. "The Wish of a Child of Wishes" is a unique fantasy tale involving a very empathetic child and her accomplishments. "Gifts from a Newlywed Husband to His Wife" is a haunting and lyrical romance. Read them!

In addition, we'll have an extremely helpful article "Story Endings, How They Torture Me" from newly-promoted Editor Nikki Baird. She's been working in the trenches for quite a while and has a lot of expertise. Check out her article which includes the basics, sizzling recommendations, and a very helpful checklist.

I strongly recommend you check out everything in the issue on February 29! You won't want to miss it. :)

16 February 2016

from Author Brown

We're excited to publish the story "Catch and Release" by Tiffany Michelle Brown in our February 29, 2016 issue of Electric Spec. Here's what Author Brown has to say about her story:

The show Lost Girl, my proximity to water (I live in San Diego, California), and my lifelong love of Greek and Roman mythology are what inspired me to write "Catch and Release."

You know how some people go gaga over vampires? That’s how I feel about sirens. But you don’t see too many contemporary stories about them (or am I simply not looking hard enough?), so I challenged myself to create my own interpretation of the classical siren. In modern times. In a bar in Florida. Out on the hunt. Because sirens need to eat, too, and why should vampires and werewolves have all the fun meddling in the human world?

During this particular hunting trip, Theron, my protagonist, doesn’t enjoy his usual routine—walk into a bar, find a snack, go home to Persephone. Unexpectedly, he meets another mythological creature. One to be reckoned with. And that’s when the fun begins.

When I wrote "Catch and Release" last year, it was an anomaly. At the time, I was writing a lot of straight-up horror. In lieu of gore and ghosts and creepy campfires, I embraced sensuality, folklore, and different kind of tension than fear. "Catch and Release" started out as a challenge, a writing exercise, and it progressed into something I’m rather proud of.

"Catch and Release" was a gateway drug, because since, I’ve been writing a lot more in the fantasy/magical realism vein. A few weeks ago, I finished a story about Death personified, but instead of the customary black robe and a scythe, Death shows up wearing the likeness of a past love (and isn’t a terrifying presence—friendly and comforting, in fact). I just finished a happily never after story inspired by The Frog Prince, which features a talking pigeon and sexual addiction (separately, I promise!). And now I’m working on a Japanese folk story adaptation that involves aliens, bamboo, and interplanetary love.

With fantasy and speculative literature, there are no limitations. You can be sexy or funny or absurd. You can create new creatures and species. You can play with gender tropes and social norms and inhuman emotions. Anything goes.

Even darkly attractive sirens in well-tailored suits who sip fruity cocktails at beach bars.

I hope you enjoy "Catch and Release."

Thanks, Tiffany!

Check out the issue on February 29, 2016!

09 February 2016

from Author Brock

We're excited to publish an SF tale from Author Daniel Brock in our February 29, 2016 issue. Here's what he has to say about his story "Posthumous":

"For me, ideas come and go so fast I can barely keep up with them, let alone remember how they came about. Most of them begin as small, fickle things, little more than a vague notion of something I think would be cool, that slip away unless I capture them in ink first. Posthumous, on the other hand, was one of those ideas that slipped away and just kept coming back. I’d get excited thinking about it, then lose faith and put it on the backburner. It was a bit of a struggle, but because of this, it is one of the few stories I can say for sure where the idea came from and how it evolved.

At first it was just the title. Posthumous, meaning awarded or occurring after death, always made me think of Grammys awarded after death, so the musician coming back from the dead was always a part of the story. That was the “coolness,” but for the longest I couldn't decide how to make it an actual story. Eventually, I thought the best thing to do was address the two main characters and let them drive the plot. I think for this version, that was the right thing. The inspiration for the characters came from my own music idols. Though the explosion of publicity Michael Jackson’s music received after he died played a big role in the early days of “Posthumous,” Billy Strat and his story were heavily inspired by my newfound love of Alice in Chains and my wish that Layne Staley could still be singing now. His voice alone influenced this story more than anything.

So that, in a Nutshell (ha! :D), is how I came up with “Posthumous.” One more thing, before I go. I submitted this story exactly one week before David Bowie passed away. I worked on it during Lemmy Kilmister’s last days, and was toying with the idea when they found Scott Weiland. Though I didn’t witness any of these men in their prime, the mark they left on music and entertainment has probably influenced me in ways I don't even know. This story isn’t about them, but for some reason I feel it should be, so I’ve dedicated this story to these three men and all the others we’ve lost. It’s the least I can do.

May they continue to Rock in Paradise."

Thanks Daniel!

02 February 2016

first 2016 production meeting

We are well on our way to producing the first issue of 2016! Woohoo! Thank you, authors for sending in your stories. We appreciate it. I believe all authors should have heard back from us one way or another if you submitted before the Jan 15 deadline. If you didn't hear from us (and you submitted before Jan 15), please submit again. We do want your story! I did disable the auto-reply for the submissions email--it was causing trouble.

The discussion amongst editors was very spirited. Grayson, Nikki and I had fun discussing the latest spec fic books, TV shows, movies and the Broncos (we like them! Go Broncos!). The story discussion for the issue itself was surprisingly agreeable. We pretty much agreed about everything, but it was spirited because we like the stories a lot! :)

For Editor's Corner Nikki's going to give us all some tips on writing endings. Yay! Unusual fact: we didn't get much SF this time. In terms of food and drink, nothing too weird except my dish...I got 'Breakfast Nachos.' Have you ever heard of this before? I hadn't. Let's just say it was an adventure in itself!

Hopefully, we'll have some blog entries from our authors the rest of the month. Stay tuned.
Look for the new issue February 29, 2016!

26 January 2016

tips 2

Here's the second set of tips for 2016. Last time ended up being a bit negative with all the "don't's" so here are some "do's." What do all these "do's" have in common? Uniqueness. Good luck creating your unique story!

Next time I'll blog about the first production meeting with the new editors. Should be interesting!

19 January 2016

the first tips of 2016

As you're reading this, the submission deadline for the first 2016 issue of Electric Spec has passed. I hope you got your story in! (If not, don't fear: we are accepting submissions for the second issue of 2016.) We are hard at work on the new issue.
Here are some tips which may or may not pertain to your particular story:
  • Do obey the submissions format guidelines:
    • Submit an rtf file, not a doc file (or anything else).
    • Use the subject line: SUBMISSION: Story Title by Author's Name (Word Count). The word SUBMISSION is particularly important so it gets through our spam filter.
    • Do stay within the 250 to 7000 word limit.
    • Don't do any unusual formatting, such as unusual fonts, headers, pictures, etc.
  • While we're on the topic of guidelines...
    • Please don't query us on the status of your story.
    • Please don't ask us to join your LinkedIn network or anything similar.
    • Please don't send a query about submitting your story. Just send the story.
    • Please send one story at a time.
    • Since we have a variety of editors reading slush, you can address your submission letter to "Dear Editors." But, be aware, this can annoy editors at other markets.
  • Know your market! By this I mean be aware of what stories we have published in the past at Electric Spec. Every zine is different. Some tips for us, which may not be relevant for other zines include:
    • Show us the story! Very generally, narrative is telling. To me, telling reads as a summary of a story rather than as a story. Your story should probably have some dialogue--notice this is showing.
    • I understand creative folks might not be aware of very common tropes, plots, openings, so for your convenience, consider avoiding vanilla versions of the following:
      • The protagonist wakes up in the first scene.
      • The (male) protagonist kills his wife/girlfriend/random woman.
      • The protagonist is revealed as some kind of nonhuman at the end. Surprise! (Not.)
      • The epic male protagonist kills the monster and wins the female.
    • Your story must have a clear speculative element. It is popular in mainstream fiction to write stories which might have a speculative element. See, for example, The Best American Short Stories, 2014. We don't want ambiguity about this.
  • Probably, the biggest tip I can give for stories in general: start your piece at the beginning of the story. We often see stories that contain a lot of setup and filler in the first paragraphs. Look carefully at your story. Ask yourself what it's about, and where does your piece start addressing this?
This is getting a bit long, so I'll end it here.
Thanks for sending us your stories! We appreciate it!

12 January 2016


For the last month or so and continuing for the next month or so, I've been writing one short story a week. It's an interesting exercise. With limited time I really have to think about the story before I begin writing. Some elements I consider:
  • Who is the main character? What is his/her/its external and internal problem initially?
  • What does he/she/it do to solve the problem(s)?
  • What is the external plot resolution?
  • What is the internal plot resolution? What is the emotional oomph of the story?
  • What is the theme, setting, world, time, big-picture of the story?
I do this all mentally; I don't write anything down until I know the general answers to these questions. IMHO, once you start writing, you've committed/trapped yourself into something. Then, when I finish the first draft I ask What is this story really about? Usually I can't answer this last question until I've finished the first draft. Often I have to edit the second draft to make it fit in a little better with this really about answer. So, at the end I'm left with what I think is a decent story.

And then...

When I submit a story to my critique group every time they raise good questions. Every time! Like "Why does the protagonist do this? It's not motivated." or "This plot point is unecessary." or just "This part is confusing."

I relate all this to illustrate the crucial importance of feedback. IMHO every writer needs to get some other eyes on their work. Every writer! Writer friends are ideal for this. Significant others, BFFs, parents, kids, neighbors also work.

At Electric Spec we really wish we had the resources to give feedback on every submission, but we don't. Here on the blog, we will give some general feedback (based on slush) for the rest of the month.

05 January 2016

Emotional Complexity

I've been pondering what makes a story great. Yes, I have pondered this before. About this time last year, I blogged about genre versus literary fiction. The editors I quoted there have some significant insights.

Of course, you can't go wrong in reading what awesome authors say about the issue. I quoted Norman Spinrad in true literature. I quoted Ursula K. Le Guin on Fiction.

Back in the beginning of 2011 I also considered a great story?. And in 2006 I considered Short story first lines. A great first line does hook the reader. You can't show off your great story if no one ever reads it.

Here and now in 2016 I think the one thing that makes any story great is emotional complexity. This works for short stories, and for 'TV' shows and movies as well. For example, in a recent movie a protagonist has to chose between love and personal safety. The creators of this work successfully created a character, a person, that has a whole host of emotions. Personal safety would be the safer, and probably easier, choice. What does the character do? He does what he has to do.

As you write your stories, consider: do they have emotional complexity? Does your character have to chose between options he/she/it has strong feelings about? If not, work on it. Good luck!

The deadline for our first 2016 issue is Jan 15, midnight (US Moutain time). Get those stories in!