Seeking Submissions For SF Magazine — Please Read The Whole Entry

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 “submissions@scalzi.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 “submissions@scalzi.com.” 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]
or
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!

88 thoughts on “Seeking Submissions For SF Magazine — Please Read The Whole Entry

  1. The payment scale is in line (their minimum is five cents/word), and by that time Subterranean magazine will have been in publication for about a year. So: Maybe. SFWA will have to make that determination.

  2. John said:
    Three, I’d recently been mulling over shopping the idea of me editing an SF anthology around a particular theme

    Do you have a theme you were interested in? Because if you’re looking for a theme, I think the world is about ready for a new Dangerous Visions anthology. You might have to fight Harlan Ellison for it, but a Scalzi-edited book of dangerous visions would be well worth a little blood. Plus, you’re politically central enough that we wouldn’t have to worry about getting an entire book of liberal (or conservative) screeds.

    Just an idea.

    K

  3. Well, the theme I was looking to do an anthology on is the one I’m doing this issue on: Science Fiction cliches. If this experience goes well I’d not be opposed to doing an actual anthology in book form, and I’ve got a couple of themes I’d consider. But all that is for another time.

  4. Well, the theme I was looking to do an anthology on is the one I’m doing this issue on: Science Fiction cliches. If this experience goes well I’d not be opposed to doing an actual anthology in book form, and I’ve got a couple of themes I’d consider. But all that is for another time.

  5. It’s a shot in the dark but what if I have the “science” of my Science Fiction is infact a form of magic supressing all other forms? That’s a cliche…but strays (very) close to fantasy (a genre you have indicated to be not applicable to what you are trying to create).

  6. John Scalzi Seeking Submissions For SF Magazine

    John Scalzi is seeking submission for an SF Magazine: 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. Jon Hansen linked to a post of…

  7. John Scalzi Seeking Submissions For SF Magazine

    John Scalzi is seeking submission for an SF Magazine: 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. Jon Hansen linked to a post of…

  8. John Scalzi Seeking Submissions For SF Magazine

    John Scalzi is seeking submission for an SF Magazine: 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. Jon Hansen linked to a post of…

  9. Nope. No questions. I was curious as to how to play these cliches, toward humor or serious, and you answered that.

    Let me make an assumption for you to shoot down or not: the cliches all don’t have to be from the Golden Age, eh? Cyberpunk has been around long enough that it seems another go at it can be attempted.

    And thanks for the long lead time: that’s perfect for my schedule.

  10. I wish I could write a story for submission but I’ve come to the conclusion that although I love to read science fiction, I do not think I have the appropriate skills to write (good) science fiction and so I do not expect to be submitting a story. However, I am definitely looking forward to being able to read this anthology.

    By the way, regarding people named “Ted-35” and “Jill QR7 — this just shows that Hugo Gernsback was not just an editor (Amazing) or a writer (Ralph 124C 41+) or a handy name to use for an award, he was prescient enought to predict Internet handles and e-mail addresses.

  11. Bill Peschel writes:

    “the cliches all don’t have to be from the Golden Age, eh? Cyberpunk has been around long enough that it seems another go at it can be attempted.”

    Yeah, Cyberpunk is ripe for this, and no, it’s not limited to the Golden Age. As I noted, “The Singularity” has already been carved off for nefarious purposes that will go unrevealed for now — but since it is being considered, one should feel free to approach just about any cliche.

  12. So, are we going to see an annoucement from Subterranean Press soon about the general guidelines for the Magazine?

  13. So, are we going to see an annoucement from Subterranean Press soon about the general guidelines for the Magazine?

  14. You’ll have to ask Bill — I don’t know how he operates the magazine independent of this particular issue.

  15. You’ll have to ask Bill — I don’t know how he operates the magazine independent of this particular issue.

  16. John, I have a small question. You mention that all submissions should be sent within a pair of very clear dates. You also mention that non-fiction queries should be sent by October 5. Just to be clear–you don’t want to receive queries before that? I’m unclear on the shift in terms from “submission” to “query,” and am essentially asking if it is okay to query earlier.

    Thank you.
    Yours,
    Greg Beatty

  17. Greg: No submissions before 10/1/05, fiction or non-fiction. Non-fiction queries should be submitted between 10/1/05 and 10/5/05 — I will consider non-fiction queries after that date but I will likely assign the majority of non-fiction work from queries received in that timeframe.

    The reason I strongly suggest non-fiction writers query on or before 10/5/05 is that I will then assign non-fiction work based on the queries, and then those assigned articles must be written and sent in within six weeks. This is opposed to fiction, in which the stories are already written. Basically, it will give the non-fiction writers time to write their articles, and me time to edit them before my drop-dead publication deadline.

    Although this is a short window in which to query for non-fiction writers, it is seven months away, which should be enough time to prepare.

  18. Greg: No submissions before 10/1/05, fiction or non-fiction. Non-fiction queries should be submitted between 10/1/05 and 10/5/05 — I will consider non-fiction queries after that date but I will likely assign the majority of non-fiction work from queries received in that timeframe.

    The reason I strongly suggest non-fiction writers query on or before 10/5/05 is that I will then assign non-fiction work based on the queries, and then those assigned articles must be written and sent in within six weeks. This is opposed to fiction, in which the stories are already written. Basically, it will give the non-fiction writers time to write their articles, and me time to edit them before my drop-dead publication deadline.

    Although this is a short window in which to query for non-fiction writers, it is seven months away, which should be enough time to prepare.

  19. Thanks John. Perfectly clear now. I’ll prep my cover credits and have them ready, and let the non-fiction ideas percolate until 10/1, then shoot the proposal(s) off to you.

    Thanks for the prompt reply.
    Greg

  20. Wanted: SF Cliches

    This is my first post here. Thanks, Jinnderella, for allowing me onto the playground. Without further ado: SF Author John Scalzi is editing an upcoming (Spring 2006) issue of a new magazine entitled Subterranean. He is seeking fiction and non-fiction…

  21. John Scalzi Wants Your SF Cliches

    John Scalzi wants to read your fiction and non-fiction stories on the theme of SF Cliches. More details here. (And my first entry at GNXP…

  22. Hey John, when you say “The Singularity”, are you referring to the Vernor Vinge cover of the Book of Revelations? Or perhaps how a singularity is a portal to some terrifying dimension, as in the Disney movie “The Black Hole”? Or some seedy bar somewhere, no doubt a wretched hive of scum and villany? What cliche are you going for?

  23. I’m referring to the Vingian “Rapture of the Geeks” Singularity. That’s the one already off the table. All other version of singularity are fair game.

  24. I’m referring to the Vingian “Rapture of the Geeks” Singularity. That’s the one already off the table. All other version of singularity are fair game.

  25. Sorry, Dawn, but Subterranean is a closed market, with the exception of this one Scalzi-edited issue. With only a two-man staff, and releasing 25-30 books a year, we just don’t have time to read unsolicited submissions for the mag.

  26. Beats the other sort of idea, there, Dean.

    D’oh. I should learn to edit, shouldn’t I? I meant that the idea of structuring an entire issue around
    Scifi (SciFi? Sci-Fi?) cliches is interesting.

    I’ll find out along about November whether my idea is (sufficiently) interesting.

  27. Beats the other sort of idea, there, Dean.

    D’oh. I should learn to edit, shouldn’t I? I meant that the idea of structuring an entire issue around
    Scifi (SciFi? Sci-Fi?) cliches is interesting.

    I’ll find out along about November whether my idea is (sufficiently) interesting.

  28. Since I haven’t seen it mentioned, I assume this is a non-issue, but I have to ask anyway: are submissions limited to U.S. citizens? I’m not American but I would like to submit something.

  29. Giampaolo:

    Anyone in the world may submit a story. Payment, however, will be in US currency.

  30. Giampaolo:

    Anyone in the world may submit a story. Payment, however, will be in US currency.

  31. Hello John… I fell upon your site and got excited about the prospect of writing a sci-fi story filled with cliche’s and I had to turn around and tell a few friends of mine. I think this will be fun!

  32. I found out about your call for submissions from the Astounding Tales forum, and I think it’s great that there’s a new magazine out there. I’ll have to check it out.

    Hmmmm…. methinks I might have a fun little cliche riddled sci-fi adventure somewhere in my files…

    Oh well, good luck with it and I hope you find some great material.

  33. How do you feel about submitting a fiction and a non-fiction piece for your magazine? I realize it says no simultaneous submissions above, but I wanted to make sure that applied all around and not just to double submissions within fiction/nonfiction. I have ideas in the works for both, but can easily revert to one or the other. Unless you say otherwise I will assume it is one submission only per person. Thanks!

    -Beth

  34. And of course as I reread your page once again I can answer my own question. Sorry for the unnecessary query! Seems my memory or close reading skills left me destitute for a moment! Thanks for your time, sorry for the confusion.

  35. And of course as I reread your page once again I can answer my own question. Sorry for the unnecessary query! Seems my memory or close reading skills left me destitute for a moment! Thanks for your time, sorry for the confusion.

  36. Hi John;

    Regarding… “What We’re Buying: First World Serial Rights (meaning we present the story first worldwide, including in electronic form). You keep everything else. Simple.”

    The story I am writing for submission is one I would like to expand upon and create something bigger (ie novel, trilogy). Will this be a problem in regards to the magazine purchasing First World Serial Rights?

    Thank you.

  37. Jill:

    No. We’d only be concerned if the novel upon which is it based was published first. But it sounds as if you’re writing the short story first and then expanding it for later sale. Given response times for SF publishing in general, I don’t see this as much of a problem.

  38. Jill:

    No. We’d only be concerned if the novel upon which is it based was published first. But it sounds as if you’re writing the short story first and then expanding it for later sale. Given response times for SF publishing in general, I don’t see this as much of a problem.

  39. Friends, Romans, Countrymen!

    John Scalzi is looking for SF cliches. Oh, be still my beating heart! I can’t help it, I still love spaceflight and Amazon women on the moon. Heh. *ponders story ideas*…

  40. Just checking back and noticed no one has commented since the last time I visited… so… being the curious cat that I am; I’m just making sure this is still scheduled for October 1 – November 1, 2005.

    Thanks!

  41. I have a completed manuscript entitled JOVITA URRICAN. Double spaced it is about 115 pages in length. I can send you sample chapters if you wish. Money is tight for me being one of my present major concerns. Thank you for your time.

  42. 115 double-spaced pages is rather substantially more than 5,000 words. So thanks, I’ll pass.

  43. 115 double-spaced pages is rather substantially more than 5,000 words. So thanks, I’ll pass.

  44. Putting some finishing touches on a story (unfortunately, a bit too long — though not over 100 pages; I wonder what the exponent is). Was wondering if you have a preferred format for the story.

    My story is currently with no indentation and a line between paragraphs (e-mail format). I used underscores at start and end for underlining (meaning italics — is that confusing or what?). Is that okay, or would you like something else? (Hmmm, just noticed that Kevin asked this too.)

  45. Putting some finishing touches on a story (unfortunately, a bit too long — though not over 100 pages; I wonder what the exponent is). Was wondering if you have a preferred format for the story.

    My story is currently with no indentation and a line between paragraphs (e-mail format). I used underscores at start and end for underlining (meaning italics — is that confusing or what?). Is that okay, or would you like something else? (Hmmm, just noticed that Kevin asked this too.)

  46. Friends, Romans, Countrymen!

    John Scalzi is looking for SF clichés. Oh, be still my beating heart! I can’t help it, I still love spaceflight and Amazon women on the moon; I suspect anyone who read SF of a certain period at a certain…

  47. Have a story I would like to submit — but, while I call it sf, it DOES contain a mermaid, a unicorn, and Merlin. But it IS sf and, has some light humor in it. And moments of drama. I could just submit it, but I thot I would ask beforehand. Even with those mentioned, it takes place in the future.

    Shelby Vick

  48. Have a story I would like to submit — but, while I call it sf, it DOES contain a mermaid, a unicorn, and Merlin. But it IS sf and, has some light humor in it. And moments of drama. I could just submit it, but I thot I would ask beforehand. Even with those mentioned, it takes place in the future.

    Shelby Vick

  49. If our story is one of those chosen, do we lose the rights to it?

    For example, if I wanted to turn that short story into a book later on, would I be legally allowed to do that, or is it now out of my hands?

  50. If our story is one of those chosen, do we lose the rights to it?

    For example, if I wanted to turn that short story into a book later on, would I be legally allowed to do that, or is it now out of my hands?

  51. Paul:

    No. After the story gets printed (and for a relatively breif time afterward), neither I nor Subterranean will get in your way of making money off it in any other way you see fit, including expanding it into a novel. We’re buying first publication rights, not all rights.

  52. Are you still looking at submissions? Perhaps I misunderstood–I was reading the weblog of a writer who said that she sent you a story last night and you accepted it this morning. While rejoicing for her, I mourned for myself, as I have a perfectly cliched SF story that Harlan Ellison himself tore apart in a workshop (and that I fixed, I think) that I could have sent you. But the guidelines say that the deadline was the first of this month. Did that change? Or maybe I misunderstood. Oh, well . . . my luck.

  53. See? It IS a Writer’s Paradise

    Hugemongous congratulations to Daveamongus! Yes, Dave Klecha, the big brother of one of my three psychic brain twins (er, triplets?) (who shall remain nameless to protect them from the shame of being my psychic brain twin (quadruplet?))… er, Dave has…

  54. See? It IS a Writer’s Paradise

    Hugemongous congratulations to Daveamongus! Yes, Dave Klecha, the big brother of one of my three psychic brain twins (er, triplets?) (who shall remain nameless to protect them from the shame of being my psychic brain twin (quadruplet?))… er, Dave has…

  55. See? It IS a Writer’s Paradise

    Hugemongous congratulations to Daveamongus! Yes, Dave Klecha, the big brother of one of my three psychic brain twins (er, triplets?) (who shall remain nameless to protect them from the shame of being my psychic brain twin (quadruplet?))… er, Dave has…

  56. See? It IS a Writer’s Paradise

    Hugemongous congratulations to Daveamongus! Yes, Dave Klecha, the big brother of one of my three psychic brain twins (er, triplets?) (who shall remain nameless to protect them from the shame of being my psychic brain twin (quadruplet?))… er, Dave has…

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