Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Six Questions for Wendy S. Delmater, Editor, Abyss & Apex Magazine of Speculative Fiction

Per the website: "Abyss & Apex publishes the finest in speculative and imaginative fiction and poetry. We are are looking for character-driven stories that remain with us long after the first reading. Short stories up to 10,000 words and flash fiction with fewer than 1,500 words are accepted. There is no length limitation on poetry." Read the complete guidelines here.

WD: Very hard sells: fairytale retellings, vampires, and sword and sorcery (especially of the generic extruded European fantasy variety. Elves! Argh!) We publish them so very, very, very rarely that you are better off sending such stories elsewhere.

I love your story / Please send more soon. But only / ones without vampires

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

WD: Plot, characterization and novelty. Let me expand on each one.

* Plot: slice of life just does not cut it. The person has to change, and/or the situation.

* Characterization: Let me get inside that character's world and feel their peril, pain or pleasure as my own. I like characters our readers can identify with. Character is king.

It was a nice try / But your characters are weak / I am not their crutch

* Novelty: We like things that are new and different. For that reason I am especially leery of the constant raft of open anthology rejects. Believe me, I know what antho just closed, and I received about 20 other stories that were written for it when I got yours. This is not the road to uniqueness, people.

Seen this before and / expect my readers have too / many, many times

BONUS! If you have lyrical prose on top of the above, you're golden. Especially if there is nice thematic structure, layering and circularity.

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

* As Strunk and White would say, "Omit useless words." Wordiness, especially descriptive wordiness, can ruin the flow of a tale and throw me out of the story.

* And for Pete's sake please do not send us novel excerpts with unfinished plot threads . . .

* . . .or thinly disguised fanfic for popular TV shows.

We can’t touch Star Trek/with a ten-foot legal pole/Read the guidelines, twit

For that matter please, please, please do not take that wonderful storyline from your role-playing game and try to publish it: we can tell, trust me, and it won't fly any better than a lead glider with us!

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

* Showing instead of telling

* Gratuitous violence or sex

* Slow start -- no hook in the opening paragraph. (If that's all that is wrong I may ask for a rewrite, but usually it is a harbinger of things to come.)

Story has no hook / Fell asleep on second page / Please excuse the drool

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

WD: * I like to but...not always. Time constraints, you know.

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?

WD: I only blacklist those who make simultaneous submissions. I don't mind a little thanks that I spent time on a helpful comment, but I'd rather not become an author's pen pal. As for the rude and nasty writers, they usually shoot themselves in the foot with no help at all from me.

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

WD: How do you feel about submission guidelines?

Guidelines. We has 'em. Why don't people read them? For example, A&A very clearly states that we have four reading periods. We get submissions outside of our reading periods all the time. We also get non-genre stories when all we publish is science fiction and fantasy.

We have guidelines up / How many times must we ask? / Read them at our site

Please consider making a donation to Abyss & Apex here.

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

NEXT POST: 2/5/10—Six Questions for Six Questions for Rick Rofihe, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief, Anderbo

1 comment:

  1. Actually, Strunk and White said "Omit needless words."