Monday, February 8, 2010

Six Questions for Kaolin Fire, Founding Editor, GUD

GUD publishes fiction in any genre, artwork, factual articles, and interviews. According to the website, the editors, "read a lot and have seen it all before." They want works that challenge their sense of reality and assumptions about life. GUD ranked #8 in the 2010 Preditors and Editors Poll. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a story and why?

KF: Something new—as above, while we haven't read even close to "everything," and each of us has our own particular niches we've read most deeply in, we have seen a lot. Chances are whatever the story's context, we've read a dozen similar—so there has to be something new, something innovative about it that makes it stand above the crowd.

Solid writing—the authors should be more than competent with their choice of words, the flow from sentence to sentence. Not every piece should be lyrical, but it should be intentional. The authors should know what they're doing with their words, and do it well.

Something remarkable—literally something that will cause me to remark on a piece in a positive manner, make me share it with my fellow editors. This is the je ne sais quoi that I always wish I had a better answer for. Some of it is, of course, the "something new," and _particularly_ solid writing will also get a nod.

SQF: What are the top three reasons a story is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to question one and why?

KF: If it's got all of the above, including the je ne sais quoi, it's very unlikely to be rejected. I suppose the worst, though, are the stories that build up predicated on something the reader does not know—and fail to pull that off with an ending that ties it all together. This isn't just "a bad ending"—which could possibly be tweaked—but rather the disbelief you've been suspending suddenly collapsing under its own weight because the Emperor convinced himself there was a foundation when there wasn't.

We get a fair number of, "It's beautiful, but so what?" submissions; where not enough changes to make a plot, or the character/setting isn't deep enough, complex enough, visceral enough to make a vignette.

SQF: What common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a story?

KF: Most often the mistakes fall under the category of "the writing isn't solid enough." I'd direct folks to #gudslush on twitter for more specific advice, but the search doesn't go back far enough for a good sampling. We do have them in a widget on our submissions page ~—and we probably should collect those ourselves and turn them into a blogpost.

SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a story?

KF: Very infrequently. Sometimes I just don't have any suggestions that I think would be worthwhile, or taken well, but mostly when I'm slushing I'm just trying to get through the 400+ submissions a month and find the possible gems. There's a wealth of writers' workshops where folks can get critiques.

While I'd love to provide feedback to everyone, it's just not feasible to do that, especially with the landmine of folks responding very poorly to honest suggestions. I've been down that road with another magazine, and the burn-out it produces on top of just reading through slush is not sustainable for us.

SQF: I read a comment by one editor who said she keeps a blacklist of authors who respond to a rejection in a less than professional manner. I'm sure you know what I mean. What do you want authors to know about the stories you reject and how authors should respond? Along this same idea, do you mind if authors reply with polite questions about the comments they receive?

KF: Polite questions are fine, and we'll try to answer them. One rude response will probably get a laugh, but not result in any sort of black-listing. Folks who are the rudest tend to be pretty poor writers, so that's not much of an issue. Likely they don't take well to criticism on any front, and as such don't improve.

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

KF: Not this one. ;) I'm horrible with this one.

For the sake of promotion, I'll say: "What other magazines do you read and/or recommend?"

I'd like to give a shout out to Shock Totem, Weird Tales, Strange Horizons, Crossed Genres, and Murky Depths. Shock Totem is closest to my heart in terms of what I like to read (outside of GUD), and I really hope to crack them some day; but all of the above are on my hit list. The only one I've broken so far is Strange Horizons.

Murky Depths gets a special nod for pushing boundaries by mixing artwork and fiction (shortform graphic novels, but I wouldn't call them comics unless you knew comics--then you'd know what I meant). GUD's trying to do that to a smaller extent and is very excited to be publishing two shorts in Issue 5.

The small press scene needs "your" support. All of us do, in order to keep publishing. If you're more interested in getting published than supporting publications, maybe you can share us with "one of your reader friends".

Thank you, Kaolin. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 2/10—Six Questions for Katherine A. Patterson, Senior Editor, AlienSkin Magazine

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