25 September 2018

Happy Ending?

We're pretty deep into the slush for the notable November issue of Electric Spec. I've been reading stories and was reminded of some feedback I got from a creative writing professor once. Basically, he told me to consider not including a happy ending in my story.

What is a happy ending, anyway? There's not an accepted definition. This is especially true when you consider different temporal eras, cultures, countries. Some would say as long as the protagonist is alive at the end of the story, it's a happy ending.

I think the whole happy ending issue exemplifies the art versus entertainment dichotomy in fiction. In art, anything can happen. In entertainment, people want to be entertained; often this means they want and expect a happy ending. Fiction falls somewhere along this spectrum. I would say literary fiction is closer to the art end of the scale. Genre fiction, including speculative fiction, tends to fall closer to the entertainment end of the scale.

Where do the Electric Spec Editors fall in terms of their preferences? There are certain conventions in a particular culture and we editors are subject to them along with everyone else. As convention says all characters must be fully fleshed out now, more ambiguous endings are considered more sophisticated, better.

But you're in luck. To decipher what we really think (rather than what we claim) you can check out thirteen years of endings for yourself at Electric Spec.

What's your preference?

18 September 2018

Avoid Cliche

We are starting to work on the next issue of Electric Spec--which means reading slush. Last time, I said stories should grab editors. This time, I'm saying stories should surprise editors. I didn't entitle this 'Surprise Me' because authors do need to lay the groundwork for their story endings. The end of the story should be the perfect complement to the beginning of the story. That being said, we see a lot of the same type of story endings...

Avoid these story cliches:

  • the mysterious protagonist is actually an alien, robot, AI, elf, ghost, monster, insert_your_favorite_creature_here
    and closely related: the seemingly normal protagonist is actually an evil murderer/torturer
  • the mysterious seemingly-not-human protagonist is actually a human
    and the closely-related: mysterious planet is actually Earth
  • nonhumans act exactly the same as humans.
  • the protagonist discovers he/she/it is the special chosen one
  • brave knight saving the damsel in distress and/or killing the dragon/beast
  • the powerful magic-object/wizard/AI/etc. saves the day
  • scientists/science are/is evil
I'm sure you can come up with some yourself.
Subverting cliches, on the other hand, can work great...

Good luck avoiding cliches!

11 September 2018

Grab Me

While we are still reveling in the awesome August 2018 issue of Electric Spec, we are also starting to think about the notable November 2018 issue...

How does an author get their work published? By grabbing the editor. Why is this relevant? Because editors want the stories to grab readers. They are myriad ways to grab an editor, but in general it does need to be done on the first page of a manuscript.

Here are some grab-worthy sentences you might recognize:

  • Penelope was fading fast, but I agreed to meet her nonetheless.
  • After my installation in Gloria, I am silent.
  • He returns on a Thursday after the full moon.
  • But there were no hummingbirds.
  • "Will you put that bloody thing down and talk to me?"
These pique one's curiosity. How was Penelope fading? And why meet her? How the heck does someone/thing get installed in a person? Why be silent? Where does he return from? And who is he? What's with the hummingbirds? What is the bloody thing and why does it interfere with conversation?
The methods differ significantly but the result is the same: I'm grabbed.

Good luck with your grabbing!

04 September 2018

Awesome August Issue!

We're still enjoying the awesome August 2018 issue of Electric Spec. If you haven't checked it out yet, here's what you're missing:

Perhaps the greatest gift of speculative fiction is that you never stop encountering startling and creative new perspectives. In this issue, we were amazed by the imaginative paths our writers took to tell their stories--including riveting explorations of relativity and quantum uncertainty, a moving story from a machine's perspective, an unexpectedly chilling choice for a menacing monster.

  • "Hummingbird" by Kathryn Yelinek: One woman will learn to fear the buzzing of tiny wings...
  • "Twist" by Michael J. Nicholson: In a mad race to beat the world record for Rubik's cube, one competitor is about to take it a twist too far.
  • "Brother" by Subodhana Wijeyeratne: When a brother returns from deployment in space, we find relativity can be hell on relatives.
  • "There Is a Beauty in This Condition" by Neil James Hudson: What would you do if someone you loved was literally fading away?
  • "G10ria" by Michael Milne: An AI healing module implanted in a dying woman shows us a new perspective on the human experience.
  • In Editor's Corner editor Nikki Baird shares her discussion with editor Angie Hodapp about how to create an anthology.
  • Also in our Editor's Corner, editor Grayson Towler shares "Honor Dog," a story of a young boy's dangerous quest to preserve his father's legacy--and save the life of his best friend.
Which story is your favorite?