31 January 2017

Creating Something from Nothing

In these shall we say, interesting, times I am trying to remain positive. Thus...
We are starting to put together the fabulous February issue of Electric Spec. Right now we're in the process of choosing stories and art for the issue. This is, frankly, the most difficult part of the whole process. We get so many great stories submitted it's disappointing we can't publish all of them.

My hat's off to all authors and artists who have the gumption, the imagination, the will to create something amazing out of ...nothing. Think about it. Before you created your story, your world, your characters, your images there was literally nothing there. Possibly this feat--creating something out of nothing--is one of humanity's greatest abilities. It is amazing.
Bottom line: even if we don't pick your story or image you should still be proud of your creativity. You rock!

I want to send a shout out to the person who came up for the idea of Electric Spec twelve years ago: David E. Hughes. Because of your vision an ezine has existed for twelve years where before there was nothing. Of course we couldn't continue to do it without our awesome editors Grayson Towler, Nikki Baird, Minta Monroe, Cani Cooper-Towler, Chris Devlin. You are also creating something out of nothing. Kudos!

Next week: behind the scenes at the production meeting.

24 January 2017

Notes from the slush pile

We are deep, deep in the slush pile. (Thanks for sending in your stories!) Sadly, we don't have the resources to critique the hundreds of stories we get for each issue. So here are one editor's subjective notes:
  • Carefully choose pov (point-of-view). Generally, you want your main character to be the most interesting character in the story, with the most relevant skills/abilities and the most to lose.
  • Watch out for a lot of set-up in the beginning of the story. Probably the most common edits we make in stories is to suggest they start later. Do you really need that page of description in the opening?
  • Watch out for lectures. I admit there is a long SF tradition of explaining the science to the supporting cast but I say: do this very sparingly. I think the era of long scientific monologues is over.
  • Watch out for telling. If your story consists of one character telling the reader what happened--with no showing, it's not appropriate for our market. IMHO, save your telling for sitting around a campfire under the stars.
  • Please don't send us stories with super-common plots. One we see a lot: the protagonist--who seems like a human--is really something else, like an alien, a zombie, etc, etc. Surprise! (Not.) We also see a lot of men murdering women, girl friends, wives, neighbors, etc. (Should I be concerned about the welfare of writers' significant others?) Murder in and of itself isn't really enough of a story. I had one grumpy creative writing teacher who always said you had to earn your murders.
  • Consider an unusual story element such as a nonlinear chronology, unreliable narrator, or a multiple-first-person (we) pov. Sophistication catches our notice.
Good luck with your writing!

17 January 2017

Remembering Butler

I can't resist mentioning a super interesting article by Scott Timberg over at Salon.com about awesome writers Junot Diaz and Octavia Butler. It's called Remembering Octavia Butler: "This country views people like Butler and like Oscar as aliens and treats people like us like we're from another planet". Diaz discusses Butler's significance, his favorite Butler stories, and puts it all in the context of our current societal issues. Among other things Diaz says "Butler was a model of artistic courage." Check out the article!

What are your favorite Butler stories?
I must admit Parable of the Sower really speaks to me. The dystopian aspects are chilling. The environmental collapse seems prescient.

What do you think Butler's influence has been on our culture?
IMHO: huge! Furthermore, her work, her life and her courage speak to readers more and mroe every year.

In other news we've closed for subs for the fabulous February 2017 issue. We're deep in the slush pile...

10 January 2017

art vs. entertainment

Somehow our next submission deadline has crept up: January 15, 2017! Get those stories in to be considered for the fabulous February 28, 2017 issue of Electric Spec! We're starting our twelfth year of publication!
Of course, after that we'll consider your story for our marvelous May 31, 2017 issue.

Over the holidays I actually went to a couple movies, in actual movie-theaters! It made me think about the eternal dichotomy artists--including authors--must face: art versus entertainment. Art is difficult to define. It includes a diverse range of activities which are intended to evoke some response in the viewer. Entertainment might be defined as an activity that holds the interest and attention of the viewer, often giving pleasure. Hhm. If you think these seem very similar I agree with you. (Maybe my definitions could be better?)
In my subjective opinion, a movie in which everyone dies in the end might be considered more art-y. Thus possibly the divide between art and entertainment is pleasure. If something is more pleasurable it's more entertaining? If something is less pleasurable it's more artistic? I need to ponder this some more.

At any rate different fiction markets have a different balance of art vs. entertainment. Before you submit a story you should peruse previous issue of a 'zine. Luckily, we have all the issues of Electric Spec still available! And they're free! Wow!
Here at Electric Spec we're probably a little bit more on the entertainment side of the divide...

Send us your stories!
And stay tuned for an exciting new issue at the end of February!