31 July 2018

behind-the-scenes rankings

We are working hard behind-the-scenes on the awesome August 2018 issue of Electric Spec. I believe at this point every story that made it in before the issue deadline has been read and all authors have been sent a first email. For many this is a Thanks, but no thanks.. For a select few it's a Thanks, we're going to hold this for voting. In general, we end up with twenty-ish stories each quarter in hold-for-voting. Keep in mind we get hundreds of submissions! And I'm not quite sure why, but we don't seem to get any bad subs. <--This is a bit of mystery to me.

Please note the submission period for this issue was April 16 through July 15, 2018. If you sent us a story before this and you didn't hear anything back--something went awry. Please resubmit. If you sent us a story after July 15, it is being considered for the notable November 2018 issue. Stay tuned for more info later in the year.

Which brings us to rankings. I'm not sure how other 'zines do it, but at Electric Spec all the editors read all the hold-for-voting stories and rank them from number one (best) to number whatever (depends on how many stories made it into hold-for-voting). I try to be very objective when picking stories to go into the hold-for-voting pile. However, when it comes to rankings, I tend to be very subjective. I look for that wow factor. This can be an amazing world, voice, plot, you-name-it. Interestingly, sometimes the other editors agree with these subjective rankings and sometimes they do not.

I compile all the individual rankings into one big ranking list. The smallest number of points possible is 3--from three number one picks. I don't think we've ever had that. The greatest number of points possible would be 3 times the number of stories in hold-for-voting, so, typically sixty-ish. Stories at the top of the rankings list are all discussed and often the top ranked stories are in. Stories in the middle may or may not get discussed. Stories at the bottom are generally rejected.

What would such a discussion entail? We do try to be objective. Does the story have a complete plot, with a good setup and resolution? Does the story have characters that change? Is the story original, or does in contain tropes or cliches we've seen before? You get the idea...

Next time: I'll give a report on our Production Meeting.

24 July 2018

awesome world-building

As you may know, we're working hard behind the scenes on the awesome August 2018 issue of Electric Spec. We have been reading a lot of slush...
I've read some stories with absolutely awesome world-building. I've read some stories in which the world seemed to be ordinary contemporary Earth. Guess which of these is more likely to get selected for our issue?

I believe every work of fiction involves world-building. The key is to make your world internally consistent and believable. I've said before there are no rules of writing, but one could approach world-building in the following manner:

  • Begin at the beginning. Ideally when you start your story (or at the beginning of your second draft) you know what your story is about. Pick the most important world-building element of the story and really develop it.
  • Look at all the other elements of your story. Are they consistent with this nascent world? For example, look at language including curses, metaphors and similes.
  • If you enjoy research, ask questions about your world. For example, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has a handy list of questions here. These include pretty much anything and everything you can imagine.
  • Once you've developed all this, don't info-dump.
If you've got a good world-building tip, feel free to comment.

Good luck with your world-building!

17 July 2018

experimental fiction

The submission deadline for the awesome August 2018 issue of Electric Spec has passed--but we're taking subs for the notable November 2018 issue. :)
We've started working hard behind the scenes, reading a lot of slush. FYI-Some editors read slush all along as it comes in, some editors tend to read their pieces in the month before production starts, i.e. in this case, July, i.e. now. So, keep an eye on your inbox if you haven't heard anything from us yet.

I did read a couple very experimental pieces of fiction this time. What is experimental fiction? There are many definitions. One definition might involve the subjects/topics of the fiction not depicting reality. Experimental fiction can radically challenge the predominant norms of realism. One could say it's fiction that seeks to unsettle the reader, make them feel liberated or uncomfortable, or something else usual. I would say all this is speculative fiction.

In the cases I'm referring to, experimental fiction is fiction that does not obey the traditional rules of prose such as sentences and paragraphs. Language may not conform to standard rules of syntax, meaning, punctuation. There might be unusual typography. Possibly it does not even contain a narrative.
In my opinion, there is absolutely a place for this kind of experimental fiction in human artistic expression. I love creativity! It is very likely it is entirely appropriate for the realm of speculative fiction.
However, if the editor can't tell what the heck is going on... It's a pass.

Anyone care to comment on experimental fiction that they loved? That they hated?

10 July 2018

research -- love it or hate it

We are working hard on the slush pile. Thanks for sending us your stories!
The submission deadline for the awesome August 2018 issue is July 15, 2018!

I was recently interviewed about my research process. As some of you may know, my day job is scientist. So, while I do write sometimes-technical science fiction, I rarely do any research. This is because I get my fill of scientific research every week for 40+ hours.

At the opposite extreme, I recently interacted with an author who was building a huge fantasy mythology based on science. He'd been working on this world-building for a long time. I find this very impressive but...
I have had writer friends in the past who have spent all their writing time on research and then never managed to write anything. Caveat scriptor!

How about you? Do you do research? Do you love it? Hate it?
Whatever the case: good luck!

03 July 2018

make stuff happen

We are slowly working our way through the Electric Spec slush. Never fear, if you submitted, from us, you will hear!

I read a story the other day which started off strong. The first para was interesting... I was excited to read more. Cut to 4 pages later and we were basically in the exact same situation. Hhm. Nothing was happening. I did keep reading. Eventually, I got to the end and I thought Is this really the end? I still had a lot of unresolved questions. Basically, this author set up a lot of neat stuff but never followed through. Nothing actually happened. Don't do this.

Thus, my advice to you is: make stuff happen in your story. This is a little market-dependent. Our market likes happening stuff. Your results may vary with other markets.

Of course, the 'make stuff happen' mantra works in other aspects of a writing career. Write stories! Write novels! Submit to editors! Publish! Make a website! Build your brand! And on, and on...

Good luck making all kinds of stuff happen!