Posts Tagged ‘strange horizons’

Aidan Doyle is a Clarion South 2009 survivor. Quotes for which he will be remembered are: “Bears are my unicorns”, “The zombies didn’t work for me from a programming perspective”, and “Needs more monkeys”. He is a traveller, writer, computer programmer and is publishing new stories at a rate of knots and working on a novel. I suspect an army of super monkey slaves. 

His work has been published in Fantasy Magazine, Weird Tales, Strange Horizons, Borderlands, Aurealis … and more!

1. If I wasn’t a writer, I would be …
In my high school careers class we had to compile a list of five jobs we thought might be interesting. I chose: computer games programmer, writer, actor, board games designer and security guard. I worked for a few years as a computer games programmer before moving into web site programming.  I don’t know why I listed security guard –
perhaps I was envisioning a life of foiling supervillains rather than patrolling cold warehouses.

I’ve visited several countries where for the purposes of filling in immigration forms, I am most definitely not a writer.  In those cases I list my occupation as pixel-pushing monkey wrangler.

2. Does every story really need 32% more monkeys?
Scholars have long debated the percentage of monkeys needed to provide a rich and satisfying tale.  Personally I think that adding 20% more monkeys after the first draft is the secret to crafting a literary masterpiece.  This excludes cases where you have zero monkeys in the first draft (20% of zero is still zero).  But if you were serious about writing, why would you have a zero monkey draft in the first place?

3. You get to be invisible for one day – where do you go, what do you do?
When I lived in Japan, I visited a ninja master who was training an army of monkey assassins in the art of stealth.  But the monkeys ended up just using their power of invisibility to play pranks on each other.  I suspect I would behave in a similar way to the monkeys.

4. My Snoopy Dance sale was …
When I was 17, I sold an article to my favorite magazine at the time – Dragon, the American role-playing magazine.  That was my first sale.

5. Donuts or danishes?
Donuts.  Is there anything they can’t do?

His revolution is here, but will not be anthologised … merely blogged.


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Amal El-Mohtar is joint Queen of Goblin Fruit. She’s a poet, writer, and PhD student in Cornwall (a small envious voice in my head screams “Tintagel” every time I think of that, accurately or not). Her short fiction and poetry have been published in places are varied as Shimmer, Cabinet des Fées, Strange Horizons, Sybil’s Garage and Ideomancer. She won the 2009 Rhysling Award with “Song for an Ancient City“, and she’s in her first year of eligibility for the John W Campbell Award. He collection, The Honey Month, is available from Papavaria Press. And she is also the woman responsible for this line:

“See how swift and clever are their feet, how their lips are sewn with tiny golden bells, how their very breath chimes and shines, the better to spell out the hours of the day in brilliance worthy of the Sun!” (“And Their Lips Rang with the Sun”)

1. You’re being held at gunpoint and forced to choose: poetry or prose?
I’d furiously declaim such a combination of Shakespeare’s plays, Keats’ letters, and Catherynne Valente’s everything that the gun-holder would be forced to stagger back beneath the weight of my refusal to acknowledge hard differences. Then I’d knee him in the nads.

2. Do you ever hate being a writer?
No – but I frequently hate being a lazy writer, or a procrastinating writer, or an inadequate writer.

3. You get to be any fictional character you want for a day, with no consequences who do you choose and where do you go?
The Doctor – and I’d go everywhen and where, leaving silly messages in the past that show up as doorstops or graffiti in my friends’ haunts, en lieu of postcards.

4. You first decided to be a writer when …
… I was seven. I wrote a poem to the moon that rhymed “light” with “plight” and haven’t looked back since.

5. Donuts or danishes?
Donuts if they have a jelly filling; otherwise, danishes, unless the only filling available is lemon. Basically, give unto me the red and purple jams.

She blogeth here.

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A wondrous-strange story by Elizabeth Carroll (of my Clarion South 09 class) is now out in the world. Go. Look.

After I opened my eyes they dressed me in silk. A bone-white gown slipped over my head and I raised my arms for it like a child. With my hair undone, I must have looked like a bride. I was nothing of the kind.

My gown hung on me like a sugar bag. I stood in scraps and patches of fabric. I bound ribbon around my waist, and crossed it over and over between breast and hip. I would be presentable if nothing else.

I was barely minutes old.


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An excellent interview from the master of the Super-Sekrit Clubhouse, Marshall Payne, with Amal El-Mohtar:

Amal El-Mohtar is an admired poet, fiction writer, and editor of the online poetry ‘zine Goblin Fruit. She recently won the Rhysling Award for her poem “Song for an Ancient City.” She describes herself as a Canadian-born child of the Mediterranean, and is currently pursuing a PhD in English Literature at the Cornwall campus of the University of Exeter. Her story “And Their Lips Rang with the Sun” appeared in Strange Horizons on October 5th of this year, and the focus of this interview will examine this very fine piece. She blogs on LiveJournal under the username [info]tithenai.

Read the restery here http://marshallpayne1.livejournal.com/90708.html

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come feast with usAmal El-Mohtar (she of a cool name, Goblin Fruit http://www.goblinfruit.net/ and much writing loveliness) is responsible for the below story at Strange Horizons. Her writing frequently sings … in short, awesome sauce.

And Their Lips Rang with the Sun

Look at them! Are they not beautiful? Had cinnamon been ground and rubbed into their skin, they could not have been more brown, more fragrant, more beloved of the wine-bright sky.

Come, stranger, come, admire the wealth of our nation, the pride of our city, the joy of our people’s eyes. These girls, these women with their slender necks and sloping shoulders, they heft their spears high into the air as they sing the morning up, clash shaft against head in a dawn dance that scatters clouds and rains light on the city below. Hours from now they will lower their weapons and murmur evening down, they will twine forearms and elbows and draw close to each other, brush lash against cheek and embrace before slipping apart to find their seats on the rooftops, curl fists under chins and wait for the morning again. They form a splendid alphabet, do they not? See how swift and clever are their feet, how their lips are sewn with tiny golden bells, how their very breath chimes and shines, the better to spell out the hours of the day in brilliance worthy of the Sun!

It takes a great deal to be worthy of the office.

Read the rest here http://www.strangehorizons.com/2009/20091005/sun-f.shtml

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My review of Alex Bell’s second novel, Jasmyn lives here http://www.strangehorizons.com/reviews/2009/08/jasmyn_by_alex_.shtml.

Jasmyn cover

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I’ve had quite a few people with queries about the how of submitting stories to magazines and journals in the last couple of weeks. So I thought I’d pull out the ole soapbox again and take up some real estate at Speaker’s Corner. I know I’ve banged on about submission guidelines before, so some of this will be well-trodden ground. Some may be something new from me at least – who can say?  

Submitting is Not a Science
There’s no formula I can give you that will infallibly lead to a story being accepted. When I tell you that two parts of hydrogen mixed with one part of oxygen will give you water, then we’re on pretty safe ground[i]. I wish I could tell you with equal certainty that one part story plus one part magazine with an open submission period equals a guaranteed publication. Alas, I cannot. I can, however, give you some guidelines that will help your chances. No guarantees, but this will assist you to make the most of the opportunities that are out there. Hmmm? What’s that question from the back? Well, kind of like an extreme makeover for your publishing opportunities, if you want to put it that way. No, there will be no whiter, brighter, straighter teeth, nor will any noses be made smaller and perkier.

Research Your Markets
Where to find a market in the first place? There are several sources. Online you’ve got the wonderful www.ralan.com and the equally wonderful www.duotrope.com. These are regularly updated and easily searchable databases of spec-fic markets. They are your friends and want to help you, so please use them wisely. Hard copy sources include The Australian Writer’s Marketplace (for Australia and New Zealand); the Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market in the US; The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and The Writer’s Handbook in the UK; and there’s a variety of other handbooks and magazines and journals scattered conveniently across the world[ii]. These are useful tools in your arsenal and remember that knowledge is power. There is also the source that comes under the heading of Professional Contacts – as you move forward in your career you’ll make more and more professional contacts with other writers, editors, publishers. You meet these people by attending cons, joining writers’ centres or writers’ groups, going to book signings at book stores, etc[iii].  Find the right kinds of people and they will pass on info: “So-and-so is doing an anthology on zombie goldfish and I remembered you had that story on zombie goldfish! You should send it to her/him and tell her/him I sent you.” That’s the nicest sort of reference of all – well, except for “I’m doing an anthology for Tor and I want your story on zombie goldfish”. One can dream.

So, you’ve found a market, now research that market. Go to the magazine/journal’s website and check the following (these are merely the highlights):

(a)    Is the market you’re looking at appropriate for your story? Will your erotic ghost story do very well at a magazine aimed at children in the 5 to 10 age bracket? If the answer is ‘no’, then please move along.

(b)   Is the market actually open? The fact of the matter is that editors are quite busy enough thank you very much and they don’t need to waste their time emailing people who’ve sent them stories out of season. In most case, they simply won’t do it – they will delete or shred your submission automatically and you will not know its awful fate until you email the editor some months later and receive a rather curt email about the agony of delete. And! If it’s a magazine or journal with paper submissions, try to establish before you send off your sub (and the self-addressed envelope and the international reply coupon) if it is still a going concern – if the magazine had closed down completely then trees have died in vain. Equally important is checking when or if there is a closing date – no point crafting a masterpiece if you send it in three days (or months) late.

(c)    Is your formatting correct for the particular market? Most places go with the industry standard (see Bill Shunn’s most excellent info here http://www.shunn.net/format/story.html), but some (particularly the ones that take emailed submissions) may well have different requirements. Some online magazines want single spaced, courier new, no indents, a double return between paragraphs, italics instead of underlines, and a partridge in a pear tree. These places are not inclined to re-format your submission when they receive it, so please make sure you provide them with the formatting for which they have asked.

(d)   Is your submission of the correct length? Are you above or under the word limit? Will the editor get grumpy if you send a 9000 word story to a magazine with a 4000 word upper limit? Yes. Will they read your sub on the off-chance you happen to be the next Ted Chiang? No. Probably not.

(e)   Will you get paid for your story? Is it important to you personally to get paid? The answer should be ‘yes’, because if you want to become a professional writer, then dammit, you should get paid for it. What you do has value. So, check the pay rate. Early in your career, you may well settle for less; as you get more published stories under your belt and as your work improves, then hopefully, the rate of pay will improve.

Follow the Guidelines
This follows on from researching the market and I’ve written about this before, so go to A Note on Submission Guidelines from March of this year by following this link (if I can make it work – I R Baboon when it comes to technical things) https://angelaslatter.wordpress.com/2009/03/11/a-note-on-submission-guidelines/

Write an Appropriate Cover Letter
You should always (unless instructed otherwise) include a cover letter. This cover letter should be succinct and relevant. Editors don’t need to know that you own a cat – not all writers own cats. Not that there’s anything wrong with owning a cat, but the editor does not necessarily need to know that. They don’t need to know how many children you have, or whether your neighbour annoys you by playing the trumpet late into the night. They don’t need to know what inspired your story (if they buy it, then you can put that in your bio). Tell them: 

  1. Who you are as a writer = one sentence, maybe two
  2. Title of your story and length = one sentence
  3. Previous publishing credits = if you don’t have many then list them all; if you have a lot then list the most relevant given the market; or the most recent; or the most prestigious; or a combination of those.
  4. Thank them for their time.

Here’s one I prepared earlier: 

Dear Editors,

I am a Brisbane-based writer of speculative fiction. Please find enclosed my story for consideration, “Blood and Breath”, approximately 4500 words in length.

My previous publishing credits include:

  • “Sister, Sister”, to appear in Tartarus Press’ Strange Tales III Anthology late in 2009.
  • “Light as Mist, Heavy as Hope”, to appear in a to-be-announced Drollerie Press anthology.
  • “The Piece of Ice in Miss Windermere’s Heart”, New Ceres Nights anthology edited by Tehani Wessely and Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press), April 2009.
  • “The Jacaranda Wife”, Dreaming Again edited by Jack Dann (HarperCollins), 2008.
  • “I Love You Like Water”, 2012 anthology edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Ben Payne (Twelfth Planet Press), February 2008. 
  • “The Nun’s Tale”, Canterbury 2100, edited by Dirk Flinthart (Agog! Press), October 2008.

Also please find enclose a self-addressed envelope and an international reply coupon for advice of rejection or acceptance. [or Please use the email address at the top of the page to advise me of rejection or acceptance.]

Many thanks for your kind consideration of my work.

Best regards.

Angela Slatter

Don’t be overly familiar with an editor and do not assume that humour in your letter will get you lifted out of the slush pile any faster. Equally, don’t assume that the editor will know who you are because you met four years ago at a con or because you’ve had 3 stories published elsewhere. And do not, oh, please do not, assume that the editor is a male. “Dear Mr Susan B Anthony” will not go down well at all. If you’re not sure, then go with something gender-neutral or do a little Googling – it’s amazing what you can find out. If your cover letter goes over one page, then go back and start again. So, succinct, relevant and professional.

Use the VanderMeer Stratagem
There’s also what I like to think of as the VanderMeer Stratagem – mainly coz Jeff VanderMeer told it to me. Pick your markets and go “top-down”. No, not an exhortation to remove one’s shirt, but rather start by sending your submission to the best market first: the one that has the highest prestige, the biggest circulation, the highest rate of pay. If you get rejected from there, then go to the next best market and so forth. You have nothing to lose in doing it this way. If your story does happen to be brilliant, then chances are it will be accepted pretty quickly – isn’t it best to have the top market pick it rather than the lowest ranking one? Because the lower-paying market will probably be able to pick up that this is a fabulous story just as well as the better markets. And before you accuse me of market-elitism, know this: not all markets are created equal. Deal with it.

There’s a variation I like to add to the above and that is this: you can mess with the VanderMeer Stratagem by sending first to the markets that take electronic submissions. Why? Because oftentimes they have a much faster turnaround time than the paper-based markets. You need to weigh up how long you’re willing to have a story out in one place against the advantages of going top-down. Of course, if the top market also happens to be one that takes electronic subs and has a fast turnaround time (and let’s face it, who doesn’t want faster rejections?) then you’re laughing.

When to Query
How long is a piece of string? Well, generally, it’s about 3 months long. Most places will state very clearly in their submission guidelines when you can query the status of your submission. Strange Horizons says very clearly 10 weeks. Fantasy Magazine and Clarkesworld (both have online submission processes) have a nifty little status’o’metre that you can look at online to see how your story is faring – and both of them tend to turn stories around in a week or so (we loves them, Precious!). Shimmer says its process takes about 3 weeks. Fantasy & Science Fiction, even though a paper market, turns submission around in a laudable and consistent 8 weeks. Just check when your particular market allows queries – if it doesn’t say, then go with the three month rule – and mark the date on your calendar. Do not, repeat do not, query before that date. Don’t make an editor (or a poor unfortunate slush-pile reader) angry – you wouldn’t like them when they’re angry.

In summary: find a market; research a market; select a market using the VanderMeer Stratagem; follow the submission guidelines; write a succinct and relevant cover letter; don’t query too soon; and, above all, behave like a professional.

As always, these are just my stray thoughts and are open to dispute, discussion or expansion.

I think my brain is empty now. Interestingly enough, there’s a school of thought that thinks my brain is empty most of the time. Oh well. Now I’m going to go and edit a crime novel for someone.


[i] Of course, chances are I will also tell you to mix that water with two fingers of Jameson whisky and that will lead to happiness. That is incontrovertible proof that I should only be listened to for so long.

[ii] Just note that because I’m listing these here does not mean I’m endorsing them – you need to go and do the research and test-runs for yourself before you make a decision to purchase/beg/borrow/steal a copy (and no, I’m not endorsing stealing, either).

[iii] See the post on Networking for more on this https://angelaslatter.wordpress.com/2009/06/10/networking-%e2%80%93-not-a-dirty-word-it-just-feels-that-way-sometimes/.

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