Lyn Perry is the founding editor of Residential Aliens, an online and print magazine, as well as the publisher of ResAliens Press -- a micropublishing venture that specializes in "spiritually infused speculative fiction."
"Combining spec fic and spirituality, and wanting to contribute to the faith-informed genre fiction, ResAliens Press offers fans of science fiction, fantasy, and supernatural thriller a quality venue in which to share their passion."
Lyn Perry writes:
Although the zine came first (in the form of a blog in 2007), I decided to start a "one man show" small press with the goal of turning this part time hobby into a regular small business. In addition to Residential Aliens magazine, I also edit Fear & Trembling magazine -- an outlet for "spiritual horror" but without the sex, gore, and celebratory evil that one often finds within this genre. My goal as a publisher is to provide free content via these two sites as well as publish various anthologies and single author collections of short stories by some of our recurring authors. Learn more here.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a story and why?
LP: I consider myself a traditionalist when it comes to what I look for in a story: solid plot, intriguing characters, engaging writing. I teach Middle School Language Arts and have to admit I like the basic narrative structure we're all familiar with: inciting incident, rising action, crisis-climax, and denouement. I would say, though, that since truly original plots are few and far between, I place a bit more weight on characterization and the voice of the writer. These two elements, in my opinion, distinguish good stories from poor. If someone sends me an experimental/psychedelic piece because they want to offer something other than a traditionally plotted tale, it'll have a tough time avoiding the delete button.
SQF: When reading a story, what clues tell you the story was written by a novice author?
LP: Based on the above, then, if the plot doesn't go anywhere and the characters are flat and the writing is boring, then these are clues, to me, that the writer needs to brush up on the basics. I don't mind "derivative" works (stories that follow the common tropes we all love or love to hate) as long as there is at least some new slant on the storyline and/or strong characterization. That being said, the more common the plot or scenario, the sharper the writing has to be to make it interesting.
SQF: What other common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a story?
LP: If a story is ultimately nihilistic, I won't accept it. I admit that I enjoy moral/happy endings. Not that every story has to end with the hero kissing the horse, but there should be some indication of hope, transformation, or resolution for me to find a story fulfilling. Again, this doesn't mean that "everything works out" but I want to be left with the feeling that one day it might. This is what I mean when I say I want to publish "spiritually infused" spec fic -- not every story has to be spiritual, but it should touch on themes of truth and eternality.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a story?
LP: I do. I try to make it clear, however, that I’m just one editor with a biased opinion, lol. What doesn’t work for me may work for another editor and venue. I’ll even try to point the author in the direction of a market that may be a better fit for them. I also have a couple of submission editors that will sometimes comment a bit more in depth on what worked and didn’t work for them in the story. I’ll send those anonymous comments to the author if appropriate. The goal is for all of us to become better at the craft, right? So we all need feedback every now and then.
SQF: What do you consider to be the primary responsibilities of an editor?
LP: I feel my primary role as an editor/publisher is to provide a quality venue for readers and writers of spec fic to share their passion. To help accomplish this, I’ll work with brand new writers to hone their skills and help edit their submissions. What’s fun is that up to about 25% of the fiction I publish are “you’re the first magazine to accept me” stories, which is really gratifying! I want to meet new writers and leave them with a positive submission experience.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
LP: Maybe this question: What new stories/themes/genres would you like to see submitted to Residential Aliens this year?
I enjoy such a wide variety of speculative fiction that I really want a cross section of themes and genres in each issue. One reason I became the editor of Fear & Trembling was because so many people were sending me horror stories, which I didn't think fit my vision at Residential Aliens -- so I found a different outlet for them. So other than horror, ResAliens is open to just about anything (keeping in mind the PGish guideline that I'm shooting for). I'm not necessarily looking for "religious" stories -- for me "spiritually infused" spec fic is broader than that. I like Westerns, so a cross-genre story will definitely get my attention.
Thank you, Lyn. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 8/15--Six Questions for Sarah Lynn Knowles, Curator, Storychord