I’m going to do a short form for the benefit of people getting the RSS feed, followed by a longer, more detailed version for everyone else.
Short Version: I’m editing the Spring 2006 edition of Subterranean Magazine (it’s new), seeking fiction and non-fiction submissions on the theme of Science Fiction Clichés. SF only (no fantasy). First world serial rights, 5-7 cents (US)/word. Up to 5,000 words for fiction, up to 3,000 words for non-fiction (some leeway for longer but not much). Submit full fiction, query non-fiction. Electronic Submissions ONLY, plain text e-mail(NOT html, no attachments), to “email@example.com.” Submissions/queries will be accepted ONLY between 10/1/05 and 11/1/05. Will respond by 12/31/05. If you’re reading this short version, PLEASE read longer version before submitting: http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/003471.html .
And now, the longer version:
Subterranean Press, the publisher which will be releasing the limited hardcover version of Agent to the Stars in July, is also launching a quarterly magazine, called (naturally enough) Subterranean Magazine, the first issue of which should be out in reasonably short order (you can order it here, if you like). Bill Schafer, who is the publisher, asked me if I might be interested in taking the editorial reins for the Spring 2006 issue.
I was, for at least three reasons. One, I enjoy editing; I did it before when I worked for AOL (I edited a humor section there) and I was interested in trying it in the field of science fiction. Two, I know that my earlier stint as an editor made me a better writer, because I’d been on the other side of the blue pencil; gaining experience as an editor in science fiction could only help make my own science fiction writing better. Three, I’d recently been mulling over shopping the idea of me editing an SF anthology around a particular theme — and here was a chance to do just that, in magazine form. It all clicked together. I said yes, Bill gave me a budget, and here we are.
So, now that I’ve found someone insane — uh, make that, inspired — enough to let me take control of an entire magazine issue, let me tell you what I want to make the issue about:
Big Honkin’ Science Fiction Clichés.
Rocketships and orinthopters, Little Green Men and Amazon Women on the Moon, master computers flummoxed by simple logic, worlds where everyone wears the same silver tunics, everyone eating meals made from pills, people named “Ted-35″ and “Jill QR7.” Yes. As writers we’re trained to run from them, because they’ve been done to death (or to unmarketability, which for stories is the same thing). Magazines quite rightly caution prospective writers from them. The Internet holds entire lists of them. Television shows have run for years doing nothing more than mocking them.
These are what I want to see, in brand-spankin’-new stories.
Why? Well, I guess mostly because we’re not supposed to play with clichés, and you know how people get when they’re told they can’t touch something. It makes them want to get their grimy little paws all over that thing. Also, of course, there’s a substantive difference between writing a story filled with clichés, that you think is something new and original, and going in knowing that you’re working with clichés, and being aware you’ll have to work to sell it to the reader (and also the editor).
There’s also the matter that right now there are some damn fine writers out there, and I’m personally itchin’ to see what some of them could do to overhaul a crappy old cliché and make it the heart of a clean-burning, page-turning tale.
To be clear, I don’t want see stories with clichéd elements that are merely obvious rehashes or lazy sardonic “send-ups” of the very stories that got these plot ideas banned to the hinterlands. I adore humor in SF and will be looking for it, but let’s face it: sardonically sending up SF clichés is its own cliché (Oh, the irony). Show me an Amazon Women on the Moon story full of snarky in-joke SF references, and you’ve just shown me what everyone else has done for the last 30 years, and why would I buy that? Show me an Amazon Women on the Moon story that gets me genuinely emotionally involved, and now we’re talking.
Now that I’ve gone over the general concept, let’s talk details. Here’s what I’ll be looking for:
Fiction: First off, science fiction only — no fantasy. Nothing against fantasy, I just want to focus on science fiction this time around. I’m ecumenical in regards to the SF clichés you can work with: take them from literature, TV or film (or video games, even) (One topic is already taken: The Singularity). Humor is good, but I sincerely hope not to be buying all humor. Stories in general should be no more than 5,000 words long — I may possibly buy longer works but I’ll be honest and say that as your story drifts further from the 5K limit, your likelihood of a sale decreases on an exponential scale. Don’t feel that you have to make the story 5,000 words; rather make it the right length for what you’re trying to tell. Submit the entire piece.
Non-fiction: Essays, critical pieces, humor, commentary and interviews, all relating to the theme of science fiction clichés. 3,000 words is a good max length here. Query first — Don’t send completed pieces. Send information about your non-fiction publishing experience and links to up to three non-fiction pieces online. Previously-published non-fiction writers strongly preferred.
No poetry or artwork.
What We’re Buying: First World Serial Rights (meaning we present the story first worldwide, including in electronic form). You keep everything else. Simple.
What We’re Paying: 5 to 7 cents(US) a word. Payment on or by 12/31/05.
How to Submit: Electronic submissions only, to “firstname.lastname@example.org.” Please do ALL of the following:
1. Plain text e-mail vastly preferred to html e-mail. If you don’t know how not to send html-enabled e-mail, fine, but try not to.
2. No attachments. Submissions with attachments will be deleted unread.
3. For submissions, make your subject lines as follows:
FICTION SUBMISSION — [Name of Story] by [Name of Author]
NON-FICTION QUERY — [Name of Piece] by [Name of Author]
Submissions with subject headers not in this format are likely to find themselves filtered into the trash along with the inevitable spam this e-mail address will accrue.
4. No simultaneous submissions.
5. One submission per category, please (i.e., one fiction and one non-fiction).
When to Submit: All submissions need to be submitted between October 1, 2005 and November 1, 2005. Submissions before that date will be deleted unread; submissions after that date likewise. We’re doing it this way for two reasons: one, because we want to give you all time to write something without worrying that the magazine is being filled up before you can submit; two, because until then I have other projects I’ll be working on.
Those with non-fiction queries are strongly encouraged to query by October 5, 2005; writers whose queries are approved will have to submit full articles six weeks after approval of query.
Will respond by: December 31, 2005. Happy new year!
That’s the long form. If you have any questions, go ahead and drop them in the comment thread — I’ll be happy to answer them. And to answer one I’m sure I’ll get: Yes, I’ll post reminders the closer we get to submission time. Thanks!