31 May 2019

from Author Rodenhausen

On May 31, 2019 we will be featuring Evan Rodenhausen's excellent story "A Mouthful of Mushies." Here's what he has to say about it:

Let’s talk about how lazy I am.

Every day, without fail, I think about writing. I think about it while I’m at work, I think about it while I’m going for a run, I think about it while I’m reading. I think about it with the same fear and reverence that I imagine inhabits the minds of the devoutly religious. It is, in a sense, a religion for me.

And yet, I come to it with reluctance. Writing is a daily habit for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy or even compulsive. Not so much the act of writing itself—once I’m in the zone, fuggedabout it—but the commitment to sitting down for one or two or three hours and putting words on a page and banging out a story. I have to hype myself up, give myself space, build up the mentality like I’m laying the foundation of a house. Maybe it’s fear of failure, or a sense of incompetence, or just a side-effect of my constantly restless mind.

But I like to think it’s laziness.

It’s the same thing before I go for a run, or write a paper, or meet someone for dinner. I find all of these things fulfilling and enjoyable—but why do them when I could nothing! And so we come to this story, “A Mouthful of Mushies”, which the editors at ElectricSpec have so graciously agreed to publish. Change is hard. Laziness can creep into your life under the guise of habit or routine—I like to run the same five-mile loop four days a week, go for dinner at the same three or four places, and write about the same sorts of people (men) in the same sorts of situations (despair).

See where I’m going with this? You can be active, you can be social, you can go through the routine and the self-hype and sit down and write for two hours every day and still be lazy. If you’re not growing, I feel, you’re being lazy.

And that’s fine. Sometimes you want to be lazy, sometimes it’s good for you to be lazy. But when I handed a friend another story of mine about another dude in another bummer of a situation filled with vague supernatural elements he said, “It’s fine, but why don’t you try something different?”

“What do you mean?” I said.

“I don’t know. Write about women. Something different.”

Ok then. I don’t think “A Mouthful of Mushies” is a great story by any means, but I do think it’s solid. More than that, I’m proud of it. It forced me to try something new, put me in a foreign land, and made me grow. Writing, as much as any other formative influence in my life, has shaped who I am today. But like your parents or your hometown or your life experiences, they shouldn’t limit you. You should grow with them, learn from them.

This story is for Ryan Flynn, who made me a better writer without even realizing it.

Very interesting! Thanks, Evan!
Check out "A Mouthful of Mushies" and the other stories now!
Electric Spec.

We're Live!

The marvelous May 31, 2019 issue of Electric Spec is live! Woo hoo!

Thanks so much to all the authors!

Thanks so much to all the Electric Spec staff.

And, especially, thanks so much to all the readers!

Woo hoo!

30 May 2019

from Author Johnston

On May 31, 2019 we will be featuring Andrew Johnston's excellent story "Kill Screen." Here's what he has to say about it:

The Twilight Zone is perhaps my favorite show of all time, and time has only magnified my appreciation for it. There's a simplicity in the show that's often absent in comparable genre anthology shows, including its own revivals. Absent the effects and production values of movies (or for that matter, modern prestige TV), The Twilight Zone sold itself on the fundamentals of live visual storytelling, especially writing and acting.

A great example of this dynamic - and one of my personal favorite episodes - is "A Game of Pool," starring Jack Klugman and Jonathan Winters in, to quote Rod Serling, "the story of the best pool player living and the best pool player dead." This is a thirty minute program with few distractions - two actors, one simple set, a plot that's laid out in its entirety within the opening minutes. From that point on, everything is presented through dialogue and camera angles, and the creators needed nothing else.

If you're going to steal, steal from the best. "Kill Screen" is one of several stories I've written that are based on Twilight Zone episodes, and is one of my favorites. It is not a direct one-to-one adaptation, nor is it meant to be. The aesthetics of an arcade are very different than those of a pool hall, and they attract very different crowds. "A Game of Pool" was a quiet, isolated match between two men with that isolation adding to the suspense, whereas "Kill Screen" uses the growing crowd and chaos to generate a different sort of tension.

"Kill Screen" is also one of my longer stories, mainly because as I wrote it I found myself bringing more and more outside references. Aside from being a Twilight Zone homage, it is also a love letter to retro video games. Some of those references are obvious - the cabinet itself, with its deadly legacy, is a reference to the 1980 game Berzerk, and the antagonist bears more than a slight resemblance to recently disgraced arcade icon Billy Mitchell. As I wrote it, though, I had a hell of a lot of fun dreaming up colorful figures for Jimmy's list of victims, who constitute a Cavalcade of People Who Take Video Games Too Seriously (a list that includes Jimmy himself, though he's too egotistical to acknowledge that).

Very interesting! Thanks, Andrew!
Check out "Kill Screen" and the other stories on May 31, 2019!

28 May 2019

from Author McKeever

On May 31, 2019 we will be featuring Tim McKeever's excellent story "Pride Goeth before a Fall." Here's what he has to say about it:

I don't know about you, but I find that there are few things more pedantic than reading an author's description about his own composition, inspiration and intent. You often end up with a self-congratulatory piece that is more about revisionist history than the true creative process. I offer Poe’s The Philosophy of Composition as a case in point. In an effort to avoid pomposity -- which I've already failed to do by using the word pomposity -- I generally shrug off questions about the creative process. Why be a jerk when you don’t have to?

And yet here we are.

I tried to explain Pride Goeth before a Fall to a colleague at work. I've done similar things in the past, and it always goes the same way. I start by explaining the tenants of hardboiled crime and what writers were doing in the 40s with detective fiction. People are generally interested and might even be familiar with The Maltese Falcon or The Big Sleep. I tell them that I like the style and borrow from it. By way of explanation I might explain the scene of the story, in this case an upper class brothel hidden in an ordinary suburb. This may elicit a few questions or comments, and the conversation progresses. After some further niceties, I casually mention that my main character is a demon. Moments later I'm alone at the water cooler.

Belial as a main character in a hardboiled story sounds ridiculous when you say it out loud. I get that, but stick with me. The heroes of hardboiled crime are men and women that do the right thing in an uncaring world that doesn't acknowledge their efforts. This style of storytelling avoids simple solutions of clear morality, looking instead at the complexity of the human condition. The best outcome may not always be a fairy tale ending, but it’s better than the alternatives presented by the narrative. Hardboiled heroes are real people with real problems. They fight their personal demons, but try to do what’s right. Who better to tell that story than a demon himself?

The rest fell into place with the usual sort of influences: TV, film, books, media, popular culture. If you have a character you like, build the rest of the story from your own interests. It really is that simple. If it connects with you, it will connect with someone else. Beg, borrow and steal to create something unique. Poe would like you to think it's more complicated than that, but take a look at his personal history. Is there any wonder he wrote the works that he did? If a literary great couldn't escape his influences, what hope do the rest of us have? In the end, my message is a simple one that doesn't require a rambling essay with a shot of self-aggrandizement.

Put simply: shut up and write.

Very interesting! Thanks, Tim!
Check out "Pride Goeth before a Fall" and the other stories on May 31, 2019!

21 May 2019

from Author Foster

One of the excellent stories we'll be featuring on May 31, 2019 is "Krarg the Barbarian vs. the Afterlife" by Luke Foster. Luke sent us some thoughts...

Comedy is a funny thing, no pun intended.

I've written and drawn comic strips and comic books for almost 11 years now, and most of them were comedies. Comedy and comics have gone hand-in-hand for almost a century, and they will continue to do so as long as comics are made.

But writing prose comedy is a much different beast. Instead of relying on visuals to help sell (or, in some cases, be) the joke, you need to work with the reader's imagination and really have a knack for language to make the laughs come to life. Writers like Douglas Adams, P. G. Wodehouse, and even Robert B. Parker had a real aptitude for writing and comedic timing, and not only were they gifted with those skills, but they made it look effortless, too. That, in many ways, takes just as much talent.

As much as I love comedy, this is actually the first humorous prose piece I've written. When I'm working in this medium, I tend to lean towards crime, horror, and other, darker genres. This story, though, just had to be a comedy. The moment I was given the challenge "write a story about death that isn't negative or grim" was the moment Krarg the Barbarian was born. I may not be Adams, Wodehouse, or Parker, but I hope you get as many laughs reading this story as I did writing it.

Very interesting! Thanks, Luke!
Be sure to check out this story and all the others on May 31, 2019.

14 May 2019

from Author Knighton

We're pleased to feature the excellent story "Zhai Chengda's Wife" by Andrew Knighton in the may 31, 2019 issue of Electric Spec. Andrew tells us...

The Inspiration Behind Zhai Chengda's Wife:

One of the toughest things we can do for something we love is to acknowledge its faults. Whether it's tolerating your partner's snoring or recognising that eating a whole cheesecake will expand your waistline, it's tough to accept that there's bad mixed in with the good. But when it comes to writing fiction, acknowledging those problems gives us a chance to grow.

I love steampunk fiction, and I'm terribly aware of one of its biggest problems - that it's very Eurocentric. As a genre, it's usually focused on the achievements of the western world, particularly Britain, to the exclusion of other societies. There's nothing wrong with stories set in London, Paris, or for the more adventurous the Wild West. But steampunk can be so much more, and thinking about that inspired me to reach further afield for a setting.

Historically, China has been responsible for many of the world's great inventions, from gunpowder to the printing press, and that makes it a natural location for a steampunk story. Inspired by the industrial achievements of Song Dynasty China, I created a world in which the Chinese Empire has made great leaps forward, including airships and rocketry, and is dominating its neighbours. Not everyone wants to bow down before a great power, and a nation on the borders is intent on resistance. But when your opponent is a military giant, more subtle forms of resistance are needed, and so a tale of spies and diplomacy begins. This is the story of Zhai Chengda’s Wife.

Many details in this story are extrapolated from real life. From the military manuals to the political conflict, everything has its roots in something from our world. This isn't a story about the world as it was, but perhaps it's a world as it could have been. And if it adds to the variety of those steampunk unrealities, then I'll consider my work well done.

Thanks, Andrew! Very interesting!
Be sure to check out this story and the others May 31, 2019!

07 May 2019

May 2019 Production Meeting

We, the Editors of Electric Spec, had our in-person Production Meeting recently. Yes, in the Star Wars Day/Cinco de Mayo/Kentucky Derby/Game of Thrones/Avengers craziness we still managed to get together. At a cidery, no less! At least this time we didn't have to contend with hundreds of golden retrievers.

Meeting face-to-face goes back to when the 'zine first started fifteen (!) years ago. We fight it out in person, each promoting our favorite stories submitted for the issue. There were an unusual number of finalists this time. We feel blessed to have so many writers share their art with us. Thank you for sending us your stories!

By now, hopefully, everyone who made it into hold-for-voting will have heard back from us with either a 'Yay!' or a 'Nay!' We're all writers so we know it is annoying/depressing to receive a rejection. If you received a reject from us: Sorry! But you can take heart that your story is publishable. Yay authors need to send back the contract and paypal info to get the editing process going.

I'm hesitant to say it, because something could go wrong, but it looks like we will be publishing six spec fic stories in the marvelous May 31, 2019 issue!

So, stay tuned right here for info from featured authors in the coming weeks.
Woo hoo!